HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR / HOT LIMIT / June 25, 2008

One of the strangest music videos I have ever seen in my life is for T.M.Revolution’s “HOT LIMIT.” Released ten years ago, the video features Takanori Nishikawa on an orange star-shaped platform in the middle of the ocean, belting out his vibrato-drenched lyrics in nothing but strips of black cloth. Never one for subtlety, Nishikawa’s determination to be androgynous was almost more apparent than the skin on his body as he shimmied and vogued his way into what can only be described as the most interesting screenshots of 1998. Perhaps more intriguing than his outfit is, however, the concept of the video itself, which is more like a video within a video; not only is this creation filmed as it’s filmed, but the viewer is constantly reminded of the deeper, and perhaps, scarier level of self-awareness. For within all of the dramatics of his “feminine” poses is a performance artist completely aware of how bizarre the entire premise of entertainment can reach in order to grab attention (my favorite part is when one of the glass sheets making up the star platform come unhinged). Or so we hope.

Where HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR fail in their interpretation of the single (and for all purposes, I was more than a little bewildered when I queued up the track and realized what it was) is the sheer uninhibited spirit with which Nishikawa always throws himself into during songs, particularly this one. The songs better suited to him are power ballads and the edgier or fast paced rock numbers (which is where the abingdon boys school project works so brilliantly: it’s a band that has finally cornered its vocalist into the perfect niche) where his elan for sheer volume compliments rather than compromises the songs. Maki, the vocalist of HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR, is simply devoid of passion, leaving the lyrics crooned in a sort of light, feminine tone that leaves me disappointed (although I applaud her attempt to mimic the crazy couture [and even some of the dance moves] in both the video and on the cover of the single). The greatest difference between the two is Maki’s apparent use of her sex which kills both the curiosity and sheer bizzarenes of the original (it’s no surprise Nishikawa cited Prince as his biggest influence), eschewing questions regarding sex and gender politics within both the context of the song and its representation in the music video; the outfit is now a skirt, not shorts and there is nothing closeted in her coy smiles, the stereotypical (of her culture) wide-eyed pout, and straddling of a motorcycle. The other band members confuse me as to the direction of the song, never making it quite clear if they’re going for an interpretation or a reinterpretation (the rap at mid-point indicates the latter). Either way, the organic instruments that compose the bulk of the tracking removes another aspect of the synth pop that made up the original; only a song built completely upon plastic can have the audacity to accompany such lyrics as “Fairies make summer come to life” and “My hot lust is like a tornado.”

The rest of the single is barely worth skimming, as HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR have seized bringing anything new to the table since 2005’s PRIDE (and even then it was HAL’s remix I preferred); “KIRAKIRA Summer” and “MIRROR” don’t even meet their own personal aggressive standard. So far, I’m oh for ten as far as Japanese summer singles go (the disappointments range from Zwei’s DISTANCE to GLAY’s VERB – even T.M.Revolution’s Resonance was an unwelcome break from his school boy alterego). But as Nishikawa managed to find his niche eventually, I suppose HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR might one day realize they’ve already fulfilled theirs.

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