December already? Well, let’s make the remaining bits of 2011 count by…listening to J-Pop together.
KAT-TUN seemed quiet for a while, yeah? Well, here they are again with something called “BIRTH” which an astute person would assume signals a change in style, a fresh start, an escape from the womb-like chambers of Johnny’s typical sounds. Being KAT-TUN, they botch the delivery. This group’s schtick has become something like this:
1. Tease a musical switch away from the typical pop slop Johnny’s specializes, maybe with a new keyboard or a guitar or something.
2. Have KAT-TUN start singing.
3. Erase whatever hopes point one fostered.
“BIRTH” starts with radio scramble and some low-key guitar and for a second you go “OK OK maybe they got something here!” Then KAT-TUN belt out that all-together now tripe and away we go, reaching for the eraser and shaking our heads for being suckered in again for several seconds. On the plus side, someone posted lyrics translations as the YouTube description! Here is my favorite part.
Light and shadow, it’s fate
I was born, a birth of sorrow
Even if I fall, I’ll get back up
In this never-ending world
Man, have you ever thought like, when we die, the world keeps on turning. Dude.
Koda Kumi “Love Me Back”
No can do, Ms. Kumi.
三代目J Soul Brothers “FIGHTERS”
In Cool As Ice, whack rapper Vanilla Ice plays the role of a James-Dean-like motorcyclist who wears hideous early 90’s clothes and says just the stupidest lines possible (a collection here, highlighted by Vanilla Ice saying “lose the zero, get with the hero”). At one point, a group of yuppie thugs terrorize one of Ice’s homeboy’s bike, leading to a dramatic fight scene (“HOMEBOY THIS”). What follows is Vanilla fucking Ice beating up four baseball-bat-wielding no goodknicks like he’s Bruce Lee. It is one of the most mind-shattering scenes in cinematic history, and a gross miscalculation of what Vanilla Ice was capable of as a…well, anything.
The video for 三代目 J Soul Brothers’ “FIGHTERS,” although not part of a feature film starring them as bike-ridin’ bad boys, treads similar ground, here placing the members of the EXILE-related group into some sort of grungy warehouse to fight dozens of extras wondering why they got into acting in the first place. Simultaneously a chance to show men how tough J Soul Brothers are (“look at ’em beat up dudes with a lead pipe, radical!”) and an opportunity to lure in female fans with the promise of six-pack abs, this brief clip finds the dudes beating the everlasting shit out of people, stopping only to mug for the camera or fist-bump one another. The “FIGHTERS” video does not take place within our world, as the constraints of physics are not present. Every punch, kick, roundhouse kick and synchronized dance kick connects like Megatron’s robo fists, shooting people through the air and knocking over gates. The actual music here does not matter, the only worthwhile commentary I can provide being “the dude who raps sounds like he might have a lung condition, check that out man!” The final scene finds the eight members of J Soul Brothers standing tall amongst a field of beaten-down bodies, until the last scene where a new wave of extras rush in and the members of the group get the stupidest grins on their faces. “Yes, more people to destroy, for we are J Soul Brothers, guys who sing about love and stuff, destroyers of worlds.”
Somewhere, a tear rolls down Vanilla Ice’s face. “I did it, I inspired those homeboys,” he says. He then goes back to planning his 2012 appearance at the Gathering Of The Juggalos.
JUJU “Lullaby Of Birdland
JUJU gives a relatively straightforward interpretation of the 1952 favorite “Lullaby Of Birdland,” a song sung by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Amy Winehouse. It’s jazzy and standard-ish and a nice break from most of the music appearing in this feature so personally I am pretty happy to hear this. Along with Shiina Ringo’s Disney-esque “Carnation,” this signals a recent retro rush by J-Pop stars. I am OK with this, at least for now!
Of course, my opinion comes with the huge caveat that I am a pretty basic jazz fan…in other words, I listen to Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and am like “this is very…good.” Jazz fans seem to hate this song in the comments (at least some) so hey, if you love jazz please tell me how JUJU is messing this up, I am curious!
So this week, Perfume performs a special medley, most likely of JPN songs in order to promote that fresh release. In that case, I am going to share my initial thoughts on JPN, an album that has actually been a bit divisive based on my (limited) Twitter observations. So far, I’ve listened to the whole thing four times, so these are all super early opinions.
– Overall…this is a very good album! Though, I probably could have told you that the moment the tracklist became available. Just click the “Perfume” tag at the bottom of this page and look over all the entries for the trio’s 2010/2011 singles – I mostly rave about them, and considering that almost everyone appears on JPN, this sorta was destined to be at the very least a great package collecting all the great stuff they’ve pumped out over the past two years.
– That said, I also feel slightly disappointed by JPN…because I hyped this album up way too much in my head. Blame that on “Glitter” and “Spice,” the most recent Perfume singles that stand among the best work the crew has ever done. The other completely new tracks, though, fail to match up with those two, ranging from “terrible” to “really really good.” Part of me thought this could be an album of the year contender and Perfume’s best if they really hit it out of the park. It’s not that good, initially looking like a release capable of landing on my personal year-end list (though, again, early) and probably a little better than Triangle.
– I’m really interested in what the criticism of JPN will be. Developing trend – I think people who really like Capsule’s World Of Fantasy won’t like JPN, because the latter plays it pop safe while the other one comes off as more “daring.” Personally, I don’t like World Of Fantasy much (actually, nearly at all) and love the pop-tastic production found on Perfume albums way more.
– “Spice” is the fucking jam. It initially comes off as real effortless, but listen closely and you discover all sorts of small details that make the whole thing even better. My favorite touch – the Space Invaders bloops deep in the mix, reminds me of The Avalanches.
Again, only four listens through, so expect more in the near future.
The one complaint about JPN I won’t take seriously is that it sounds “like everything else.” Nope, nothing on that album sounds like this damp diaper of a song.
Winner Of The Week – JUJU, because I can’t pick an album.