Unlike most American “future pop” though, which relies on minimalism coupled with the occasional satellite radio shout-out, Hiroshima electro-pop trio Perfume go full cyborg and spare no artificial flourishes. The music this J-Pop group (or, more accurately, noted J-Pop producer Yasutaka Nakata) creates sounds completely robotic, all traces of humanity buried under layers of drum machines and Vocoder. But who needs organic signs when Perfume puts out such danceable blasts of techno-pop?
“Love The World,” lead single from their 2009 album Triangle, caught my attention most immediately. Compared to most of the electro J-Pop I’ve been exposed to, which half-ass it, Perfume’s decision to not skimp on the technology works wonders for them – “Love The World” is a piece of enjoyable pop that I could also see being a smash in a club. The song never slows down (even during the build-up to the finale it keeps chugging along) and never feels anything less than absolutely giddy. Admittedly, my favorite part of “Love The World” comes right near the beginning and end when those big ’80s drums snap in, but the tune as a whole comes off sounding like a fun pop hit that could light up a club.
The all-out computer assault production style doesn’t always work out for Perfume on Triangle. A handful of tracks don’t focus the electronics into anything worthwhile and the rush of noises just sound like they are hiding a lack of ideas. And I won’t waste many words on the eight-minute long Ed Banger-ish dance remix four tracks into this album, but how could anyone think that wouldn’t end up damaging the pacing of this album? Even with a few missteps, Triangle is an above-average electro-pop album. Cuts like “Dream Fighter,” “Night Flight” and “One Room Disco” (above) never quite reach the techno-pop bliss of “Love The World,” but do an enjoyable imitation. Only the sweet-sounding bounce of “The Best Thing” matches the lead single, the chorus being the absolute standout on an album. Also worth mentioning is “Speed of Sound,” the most mortal Perfume track I’ve heard yet – the electronics get turned down a tad and the group goes disco to surprisingly good results.
This review of Triangle (by one of the best Japanese music bloggers going) knocks Perfume for not showing any personality, not having “originality” or “complexity,” and for just generally being boring. The last points purely taste – dude finds it boring, the dude finds it boring. The rest of his critique seems a bit off though. I’ll give him the fact Perfume’s production snuffs out any of the individual singers personality…but why does that matter? Call me a skeptic, but the majority of pop-stars “personalities” are less natural and more the work of a top notch PR team. The second point just seems misguided…not every record has to be Person Pitch. Perfume makes danceable, fun and overall enjoyable electro-pop…Triangle isn’t coming anywhere near my Top 50 of 2009 list but it’s still a nice little album. And the implication someone who likes stuff like this somehow rejects more original and complex music, well, I won’t even touch that.
(One more thing: the implication that computer software allowing anyone to become a pop star being a bad thing blows my mind. Would you rather the pop-landscape be completely dictated by major labels? Regardless of what you think of their actual music, the likes of Little Boots and Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s DIY rise to fame should be celebrated as ways of circumventing the majors.)
Perfume aren’t going to record the next Revolver anytime soon but they know how to make (program?) a great dance-pop track. Sometimes, all you can ask for from a pop group are songs that tear the club up.