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A lot of red flags surround Osaka rock outfit SCANDAL. They wear schoolgirl outfits, for one – I needed to shower away the grimey feeling I had after downloading the album art you see above. More pertinent to the music, SCANDAL are only “rock” in the sense they hold guitars; much like Vampire Weekend’s Columbia degrees or Lady GaGa’s penis (?), the band’s instruments only exist in discussions about their music as a way to market them to a very specific audience that probably would have passed on them had they known the truth. The truth being, SCANDAL make straight J-Pop that sounds a little rougher because one of the members plays a bass. I won’t even dive into the fact the majority of blogs buzzing about this band happen to be the domain of anime otakus.

Boil all of these hard truths away best you can. SCANDAL make extremely catchy J-Pop anchored by a generally upbeat design and soaring singing spurred by the band’s decision to share vocal duties. SCANDAL BEST rounds up some of the group’s earlier releases and packages them all together as an entry into the band’s music. This best-of succeeds in its mission statement – BEST SCANDAL showcases everything great and bad (the former outweighing the latter by a good amount) about SCANDAL.

SCANDAL are just the latest skirt-clad model in a long line of very young “rock bands” putting out catchy pop. They owe a large debt to Hysteric Blue and Whiteberry, two bands who brand of always-in-motion power pop they’ve taken to heart (“Hitotsu Dake” sounds like a Hysteric Blue cut). Opener “SCANDAL BABY” sums up the SCANDAL sound in a nice five-minute package: uptempo verses skipping towards an even more catchy pre-chorus bit before leaping into the big all-together-now chorus. It’s a formula the group grinds down completely over the course of BEST, but one they have great control over.

A few songs do jump above the rest of the pile. “Shoujo S” is the only track here that sounds like it would suffer from the guitars being swapped out for keyboards or something, though “SAKURA Goodbye’s” fuzzy guitar bridges push that song into the highlight reel. The one new song on this disc, “Yume Miru Tsubasa,” sports one of its brightest melodies and the group’s best chorus. SCANDAL sound best, strangely enough, when they slow the show down slightly to forge a relaxed dance groove on “Koi Moyou.” By locking on to this one riff, the group ups the impact of the bounce-house chorus while also resulting in their most laid back track.

Regardless of how in control SCANDAL are in of their music, the predictability of these songs over the course of 50-some minutes stands out as one of BEST’s most glaring problems. When an elementary synth line pops up on “Hitotsu Dake,” it sounds like cause for a celebration. Still, SCANDAL make it clear they are much more comfortable working in the confines of a power-pop, as nearly every time they try something new, it backfires. “Space Ranger” adds all sorts of unnecessary sci-fi sound effects to an otherwise decent number, reducing it to some Josie And The Pussycats In Space novelty. “Maboroshi Night,” meanwhile, works in some Mission Impossible worthy noise that turns out as well as….MI:3.

Given their youth (still in high school, I feel so old), it’s completely possible SCANDAL could eventually expand beyond their current limitations and go off in all sorts of cooky directions (did someone say ambient disco???). But honestly, I could care less, and selfishly hope they stick to what they know because they do that so well. BEST SCANDAL spotlights a band who do one thing excellently – write catchy pop songs – and features very few skippable moments. They might have anime alter egos, but let one hook wedge itself in your brain and all will be forgiven.

“Koi Moyou”