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Review: Perfume’s “VOICE/575” Single

Perfume’s 2010 output has followed a pretty business-like pattern thus far. The girls tackle a typical Perfume-sounding song for side A, said single getting the majority of playtime and advertising push. Meanwhile, Yasutaka Nakata puts in overtime at the lab for the B-side, creating thrilling new pop-concoctions which push the trio into interesting new territory. Earlier this year, “Fushizen na Girl” blasted off using the same old formula while “Natural ni Koishite” chilled on the backside, just completely reinventing the pop pleasures Perfume aim for. The combo of “VOICE” and “575” follow the same template, the prior an especially bland batch of hyper-electropop, the latter one of the biggest stylistic shifts the outfit has ever dabbled with.


“VOICE” isn’t a particularly bad track…it features all the hallmarks that have made Perfume popular, after all. Problem is I liked this song better back in April when it was called “Fushizen na Girl.” And that song sounded a lot better when it appeared on every Perfume album before 2010. One thing Nakata does very well is striking gold using similar templates, but “VOICE” just comes off as phoned in. Despite not breaking any new ground, “Fushizen na Girl” at least featured plenty of enjoyable details (the little keyboard flourishes, the vocal segments connecting chorus to verse). “VOICE” screams “slapped together.”


Maybe Nakata just chose to devote more time to B-side “575,” because it absolutely shines. The producer continues feeding his circa-2010 fascination with silence, which he also explored on “Natural ni Koishite.” Whereas on “Natural” space served as a way to magnify a hulking candy-coated beat, “575” mostly just see the usual Perfume-clutter cleaned up. It most resembles “I Wish You” from Capsule’s Player with the glitchier aspects cleaned up for mainstream consumption. If “Natural” showed how the Perfume style could be tweaked into a streamline pop song, “575” explores the opposite end: what happens when you slow them down a bit and give them room. The only thing linking the two together are the slightly irksome commercial side…”575,” as seen in the video above, is part of a marketing campaign for a cell phone company. If the translated lyrics here are to be trusted, the song actually includes a lot about mobile phones.

Yet, just like “Natural,” those consumer concerns vanish when listening to the actual song. I’ll break one of the great unwritten rules for male music critics and say…Perfume have never sounded more sexy than they do here. Credit both the group’s more down-tempo singing -“575” puts Perfume the women front-and-center – and that neon-tinged bass line slinking into the track. It’s also one of Nakata’s most patient pieces of production, as he never rushes in anything (those ballad-worthy strings that pop up behind the chorus could have bogged “575” down in sappiness, but instead they just add drama when needed).

The one part of this song bound to raise an eyebrow is the post-chorus rap. Yes, rap. It’s jarring the first few times through, as it stampedes into “575” out of nowhere and sounds ripped from an entirely different track. Yet the more time I spent listening to this song, the more I like this twist…it takes guts to turn roller-coaster-like from slow jam to goofy rap breakdown, and it does keep the slower part fresh. It takes some time to get accustomed to…Freddie Gibbs they aren’t…but it’s one of the more pleasant surprises in the Perfume song book.

I’m not sure if adventures like “575” or even “Natural” will ever signal any drastic shift in style for Perfume – as “VOICE” shows, they make plenty of bank sticking to what they know. Yet even if “575” only rakes in some cell phone dough, it’s a nice reminder that Nakata and co. have the ability to push forward in a country quite pleased with the same old song.