X, re-mastered and re-united: “Jealousy”/”Blue Blood”

X / Jealousy (Special Edition) / February 14, 2007
♫ 03. Miscast / 07. Stab Me in the Back
04. Voiceless Screaming (Instrumental)

X Japan is pretty much the reason I invested so heavily into Japanese rock and pop music in the first place. In fact, Jealousy was the very first Japanese CD I ever bought, way back in 1999. Up until that point, I had heard plenty about the band from online mailing lists and the like, but I had never heard one song by them except “Crucify My Love” which was a dangerous starting point, considering the genre culminating the bulk of their discography. I was quite startled to find their CD in a downtown, independent music store that I frequented and absolutely loved until it closed down. I left the store without purchasing it, as I found the $40 too much to spend on ten songs but the CD stayed on my mind all day until I decided to buy it on the way back home.

I popped the CD into my player and proceeded to hear the opening strains of a quiet piano solo. It was quite beautiful, or something like it. The next song started up and again, a haunting piano melody came up and I thought, Dear Lord, the whole CD better not be all piano and then boom! the drums kicked in and a saucy little guitar riff and the next 7 minutes and 15 seconds rocked my little world. The next song started up, even better than the one before it. “Miscast” entered with pounding drums accompanied by sweet guitar solos and plenty of nonsensical calls (“Game is over! Game is over! Miscast! You are fired!“) and is probably the best rock song on the album, infact, despite its understated praise. “Desperate Angel,” track number four, was just as good, with an extra 80s glam-band drum intro. “White Wind From Mr. Martin ~Pata’s Nap” was probably the only track I found myself skipping, a listless acoustic guitar solo from the rhythm guitarist du jour of X Japan, the curly haired Pata. “Voiceless Screaming,” another acoustic number, this time with vocals, was also a rather dull listen at first, but the power and intensity of Toshi’s vocals coupled with the understanding of a rather polished Engrish language had me attached to the song in no time.

With track number seven, “Stab Me in the Back,” the whole album proceeded to finish with dizzying triumph. “Stab Me in the Back,” a hide composition, was a short and bad-ass speed metal number worthy of the most nonsensical Engrish lyrics, but coupled with drive, melody, and screaming, lots of screaming, the angst of Toshi all coupled in the repeated shouts of “Stab me in the back!” before the electric guitar came in for more aural assault; definitely a track I overplayed plenty of times in my perceived angst-ridden childhood. “Love Replica,” however, was the song that captured me the most. Another hide composition, it was a simple, eerie, carnivalesque number with a French-speaking female elaborating on the mysticism of mirrors and butterflies and God knows what else. And at the very end of the ten track epic stood “Say Anything,” the only Yoshiki ballad on the entire disc, wrapping up the gift with shiny bells and pretty bows and a beautiful, tear-jerking finish.

Needless to say, I played this album obsessively for the better part of the last stretch of grade school. Without it, I probably would not have gotten into hide’s solo work as much, my greatest gateway drug to other Japanese visual kei artists. Just as T.M.Revolution and Two-Mix bourgeoned my interest in Japanese pop music (Ayumi Hamasaki, Rina Aiuchi, move, etc.), X Japan brought my attention to Dir en grey, Luna Sea, etc. All because of a little album released in 1991.

X / Blue Blood (Special Edition) / February 14, 2007
♫ 05. X / 04. Endless Rain (Instrumental)

Blue Blood captivated my interest slightly less, although considerably more than Vanishing Vision, the X Japan album I’m least interested in (probably the second album I’m most interested in is DAHLIA). Blue Blood contains “Week End,” a slightly less hurried song that culminated in an ecstatic live version during the DAHLIA TOUR 1995. But most importantly, it contains “X” the quintessential X Japan-anthem, as Toshi screams “X!,” a triumphant exclamation that renders fans during the lives completely servile to the jump-up-and-make-an-X-with-your-hands dance. The second most stand out track to me was “Orgasm,” a frenzied four-minute combination of Yoshiki’s unmistakable lightening paced drums and hide’s hurried, erratic guitar screeching, reminiscent of the typical X Japan rock number, morphed into a twenty-four minute live event during the DAHLIA TOUR as the band members jumped around, screamed, riled the crowd up, and Yoshiki pranced through the crowd with a fire extinguisher as fans grappled to savor a mere touch of him; probably the best twenty-four minute “Orgasm” you will ever have. The rest of Blue Blood…meh. Sure, I like it (“Endless Rain,” “Rose of Pain,” “Kurenai””), but Jealousy has always ranked above it, perhaps because of the nostalgia and credit I owe to it.

However, because of their early production, Jealousy being released in 1991 and Blue Blood 1989, the quality was always slightly questionable. However, as of February 2007, you can purchase the re-mastered editions for a limited time; sales stop May 2007. jrocknyc spoke of the lackluster quality brought to the reworked edition, although there is at least a noticeable volume increase and slightly more distinct sound, but altogether nothing amazing. However, there are still other bonuses you can enjoy from the CDs: each comes with an extra disc containing instrumental versions of the songs; good for those karaoke fiends and allowing for a closer inspection of the instrumental masterpieces created by Japan’s most popular rock band pretty much ever.

In other news, on February 11, Toshi, lead vocalist, guy who broke up the band, joined a cult, and shunned his former rock-star life, announced that X Japan would be reuniting to mark the band’s 25th anniversary. I’m still not quite sure how to react to this news. I mean, the dude renounced his former life and ruined a good portion, if not all, of Yoshiki’s musical career (I know since X Japan he has managed to gain a minimal amount of press for Eternal Melody II, Violet UK, (the Chinese Democracy of Japan), and various other small projects, but he has not managed to produce anything of much startling significance because I guess the false promises is how he rolls). Not to mention that, umm, he broke up the band. Sure, sure, they were all pursuing various solo careers, blah blah blah. Choose to believe what you will, the group is reuniting, sans the lead guitarist hide. Because he’s, you know, like…dead and stuff.

Official Site
Buy Special Edition Blue Blood / Jealousy

RIZE’s “PINK SPIDER”

RIZE / PINK SPIDER / November 22, 2006
♫ 01. PINK SPIDER / 02. GHOST

If hide’s stint as the lead guitarist of the most popular Japanese rock band, X Japan (now defunct), didn’t earn him a name in his home country of Japan, than his death most certainly did. It’s an old cliche that one can earn more money as a rock star if dead, and while that has certainly proven true for many before, the question is, does this apply to hide? And what does any of this have to do with RIZE? RIZE was brought to my attention during one of my more bored moments of deciding to browse hide’s official site, now less than a shred of what it used to be. The site had plenty of banners advertising yet another re-release (the best albums, the box collections, they’re all getting a bit redundant at this point; and consequently, money grubbing on the part of the record company), this time of his single PINK SPIDER. “PINK SPIDER” is a song riddled in controversy, mostly because of its supine connotations of involvement in hide’s suicide. Without going into too much detail (you can always Wiki it), one of the largest ongoing debates among fans surrounding the iconic Japanese punk rocker is the meaning behind his ill-fated suicide: was it intentional or merely an accident? To this day, the question remains unanswered, the realm where it will most likely stay buried forever.

So what does “PINK SPIDER” have to do with any of that? When fans are split amongst themselves on the debate, the side in favor of arguing the utmost intention behind hide’s act point out both the lyrics and video for “PINK SPIDER,” both which discuss and depict themes of suicide. Claiming this was a “suicide letter” of sorts, the song has become one of the most popular in hide’s discography, particularly due to its official release and subsequent pre-recorded television performances aired just days after his funeral. As such, “PINK SPIDER” is arguably his most cherished and legendary pieces of work alongside “ever free,” another post-suicide release.

So you can imagine the shoes RIZE has to fill, which does nothing but confuse me as to why they thought they could release a cover of the classic. Aside from the official tribute CD to hide, arranged by former band mate Yoshiki and comprised of bands close to hide in his career (OBLIVION DUST, Luna Sea, to name two), nobody has really come close in attempt to covering his songs officially (I am not counting remixes or those piano and guitar solo compilations). As expected, RIZE lives up to none of the standards set up for them. Their cover of “PINK SPIDER” is nothing but a mediocre guitar jam, serving no purpose than to once again allow the record company to re-release hide’s official single in conjunction and bring some dirty promotion to the band themselves, whose own songs on the single are as equally in need of fixing. Admittedly their songs are something like hide’s own solo work; rock with a tinge of ska thrown in and some punk rock influence. Maybe even the lead singer shares some similar nasal quality that reflected hide’s own distinct vocals, but ultimately, this is a terrible let down and further endorses the truth behind a pretty sad sentiment; maybe he is acheiving more popularity and money after his death, or at least some businessmen certainly are.

Official Site
Buy PINK SPIDER

Tommy heavenly6’s “I♥Xmas”

 

Tommy heavenly6 / I♥Xmas / December 06, 2006
♫ 01. I♥Xmas / 02. THE CASE

I was really getting concerned about Tommy heavenly6 for a bit there. Her last single was a holiday themed track of epic length with an accompanying promotional video that rivaled even the cheesiest music videos (can’t think of any off the top of my head, though “Thriller” comes to mind). Straight off the heels of that debacle, I was expecting something a bit more irritatingly cheerful and…Christmas-ey with this single. Perhaps jingle bells or those salt shaker sounds. Instead, Tommy surprised us once again and instead, kept it simple by penning a standard pop rock track, no holly jolly cheer involved (save for the PV, of course), and for that, I thank her. That being said, it really is just a regular, everyday pop rock song; no innovation, no frills. The c/w track, “THE CASE,” is even less innovative, if that’s possible. Even Tommy’s vocals remain void of emotion, leaving the song blase and somewhat droll.

This is not one of Tommy’s better singles. Without even another cool bonus acoustic version like she did with her previous two singles, the disc leaves one wondering where the angry, rocker grrrl we love went. Things are looking bleak for her upcoming album; girl needs to come up with a new gimmick.

 

I♥Xmas PV ░ [ YouTube ]

New Aya song “OVER NIGHT”

OVER NIGHT 

It’s a shame that not much activity seemed to be coming from Aya since she released Baghdad Sky in June of 2004. After Ayumi Hamasaki started turning towards pop music again, I needed someone to fill the female pop rock void I had missing and Aya was doing a pretty good job of filling it. In fact, she surpassed most of my expectations. The result of composing all of her own music (with the help of a trip to Seattle and several veterans, Adam Kasper, Krist Novoselic, Matt Cameron, Kim Thayil, John McBain, and Glenn Slater), managing to keep her vocals serenely sweet against riffs and grunge resonances and playing amazing guitar, is one hell of a girl that can rock with no grrrl rocking stereotypes attached.

Since her last phenomenal album, Aya has mostly been content to play local clubs around her native Japan and work on perfecting her English, which comes in handy with her first release since 2004. Instead of releasing “OVER NIGHT” as a single, Aya decided to allow it to be used as an exclusive on the Chevalier soundtrack, released November 22.

In my last post about The Shanghai Restoration Project, I lamented on my growing inclination towards American/European electronic groups. However, this song has inspired in me a newfound rock phase that I can feel creeping up faster and faster as I listen to more Placebo, +/-, and The Butterfly Effect. Unlike most of my favorite songs by Aya, the song is slow and more subdued. It uses plenty of guitars, both acoustic and electric, as the backdrop to the breathiest vocals Aya has ever incorporated in her style. The song is entirely in English and in two years, it’s apparent how much better her pronunciation has gotten, which finally adds to the experience rather than detracts from it. Overall, one of the best songs released in 2006. Highly recommended!

Catch-up: Tommy heavenly6

Tommy heavenly6 / Lollipop Candy♥BAD♥girl / October 11, 2006
02. Lollipop Candy♥BAD♥girl (short version)

Just in time for Halloween, Tommy heavenly6 comes prepared with a Halloween anthem for the ages. Sort of. Even though the “Pray” PV left us with lifted hope as heavenly questionningly picks up february’s microphone, we are instead, treated to this child-like epic rock(ish) number that leaves much to be desired from the punk rock alter ego that is Tomoko Kawase. With not even a B-side (instead, it’s c/w cop out shorter version of the song…which is probably the only version you will be able to stomach), the single is expendable and barely scrapes the barrel of useful. Unfortunately, heavenly will be returning this December for another seasoned song, this time centered around the most useless and commercially driven holiday; Christmas. That’s fucked up, yo. Instead of singing pumpkins in the PV, will we have dancing holly? I shudder to think.

Official Site
Buy Lollipop Candy♥BAD♥girl

miyavi’s “MYV☆POPS”

miyavi / MYV POPS / August 02, 2006
05. Dear My Friend -Tegami wo Kakuyou-
06. Itoshii Hito (Beta de Suman.) -2006 ver.- / 10. Oretachi Dake no Fighting Song

There comes a moment during every music lovers life when they come across an artist with a song so moving, so compelling, so unbelievably great, they can hardly believe their luck. Last year, at the beginning of July, this happened to me when I heard miyavi’s major label debut album -miyavizm-. I didn’t really know too much about miyavi except that he had a killer mohawk and a quirky sneer that sort of reminded me of hide, which in turn, sort of reminded me of Sid Vicious. Oh, and that he was once part of the visual kei band Due’le Quartz and like all Japanese punk rockers, could be mistaken for a) a woman and/or b) very gay. The song was “Papa Mama ~Nozomarenu Baby~” and why I chose to listen to this particular song first, I have no idea, but it was love at first listen. This song is so powerful and so bad ass that I immediately began playing it over and over again, ever unable to render the tune overplayed. To this day, I herald this as miyavi’s greatest, if not only, good song. Because with the exception of “Pop ‘n Roll Koshien (Baseball),” the rest of the album was simply mediocre to me. I wanted more “Mo-ee-oh“s and marching band drum entrances. I failed to receive them.

When I heard that miyavi was releasing a second album, another summer release, I was excited because I was hoping I could find another “Papa Mama ~Nozomarenu Baby~.” No wait, I was excited because I demanded it.The album is overall, more acoustic and pop driven. Unlike -miyavism-, which combined metal and grunge with the typical visual kei sound, the music is softer, though miyavi’s vocals remain at the usual 75% growl, 15% rap, 10% lyrical. I think he needs to take it easy on the vibrato, too (you are not Kyo, you are not Kyo, repeat ad infinitum). However, unlike last year’s release, I like MYV☆POPS a lot more. The album has a strong continuity and the singles blend well with the original album songs, a feat usually taken for granted in the American world, but savored in the Japanese music market, where singles are written and released among the course of a year before the artist steps into a studio for longer than a few days to record the rest of the album, at which point they may have decided they do not, in fact, like post-hardcore but would like to delve deeper into the world of ambient jazz-synth.

The songs have a distinctive upbeat rock vibe (“Dear My Friend -Tegami wo Kakuyou-,” a LUNKHEAD-look-alike) with a classy jazz feel (“We Love You ~Sekai wa Kimi wo Aishiteru~”), and a grunge acoustic sound mirroring American Top 40 (“Oretachi Dake no Fighting Song”). My personal favorite is “Itoshii Hito (Beta de Suman.) -2006 ver.-,” which begins like a serene ballad led by a simple piano and string arrangement, but eventually gathers various contemporary instruments along the way and bleeds into more mid-tempo range (not a ballad anymore, per se, but slower than the usual fare).

Sadly, my expectations for another “Papa Mama ~Nozomarenu Baby~” were not met, but the album isn’t so bad. Judging by my reaction to the last album, it’s an improvement, but levying the comparisons aside, it’s simply a decent album, neither extraordinary nor particularly bland. Make of that what you will.

Official Site
Buy MYV POPS

Wrapping up the summer J releases

BoA / KEY OF HEART / August 08, 2006
01. KEY OF HEART

BoA shouldn’t need an introduction so I’ll keep this one brief and in helpful snippets. Mega-huge Korean pop star who churns out albums at alarming speeds. Criss crosses between singing in Korean and Japanese, as has also gained huge popularity in Japan. Also sings in Chinese (Mandarin? Cantonese? I stupie and not know) and English. Released new single for the summer, KEY OF HEART.

Infused with summer flavor, the synth spectacle of the title track edges in during the last weeks of summer, barely scrimping on the deadline. With the recent influx of hippy poppy dancey synthy numbers released in the world of Jpop for the past three months, I’m losing my tolerance. I’m all popped out. After changing my mind and deciding AFI’s CD was pretty much a victory lap for Sing the Sorrow, and already overplaying the best on Kill Hannah’s latest, I ask myself…where did the rock go? I’m totally sidetracking, but thank God Dir en grey released Ryoujoku no Ame before I commited metal suicide. Or nu metal suicide. Or visual kei, or whatever the kiddies are calling them now. What I’m trying to say is, I wasn’t expecting rock or anything near it from BoA. But I can say, thank you but this is totally useless considering Ayumi Hamasaki, Morning Musume, and Koda Kumi have already released their summer singles. Among the three dozen or so others.

Ai Otsuka / Yumekui / August 02, 2006
01. Yumekui

Last year, I remember being thrilled with Japan’s summer releases. Namie Amuro’s Queen of Hip-Pop nestled in among Ai Otsuka’s Natsu Sora, Hamasaki’s fairyland, and Zwei’s Dragon. I was actually sad to see the summer go; now I’m pushing it out the door. After being nothing but disappointed by Otsuka’s last release in the Spring, I was hoping to be amazed by some sort of abrupt turnaround this summer. Instead, I got Yumekui which is what Aerosmith is to their last two albums. I’m at a loss for words and seldom does this occur unless I am dealing with complete crap (see: the last review I did of F.I.R.’s Flight Tribe which is more a brief history and final statements than an actual review).

Nami Tamaki / Speciality / July 12, 2006
02. Result / 07. No Way Back / 11. MY WAY

On that note, I planned on writing a separate feature review of Nami Tamaki’s new album Speciality, but than I actually heard it and realized I would have absolutely nothing to write about. Mostly because I think I worded myself out nicely six years ago when Two-Mix already released all of Tamaki’s CDs, except with less guitar and catchier. The songs “No Way Back” and “Reach for the Rainbow” are the only songs I could find relief in, but using “Ready Steady Go!” to conclude just broke my heart because what sort of moron decides to leave a lasting impression on the listener with a song that doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the album…in a bad way? I used to be of the persuasion that believed that the beginning and middle of the CDs were the only parts that really counted. But now that I’m not seven years old anymore and used to rewinding side A of a tape, I’m pretty sure that all parts of a CD matter. See, Nelly Furtado could get away with topping Loose with some extra filler songs because a) the good songs weren’t just good, they were phenomenal, b) it started out with a strong track and ended with a strong track (these things leave impressions), and c) the fillers were interspersed among the album and not just in one place, so they were just sort of that one song before the next three good ones.

Dir en grey / Ryoujoku no Ame / July 26, 2006
01. Ryoujoku no Ame

Finally, I already mentioned Dir en grey, but I’d just like to extol some more to wrap it up. I was going to do a separate review of the single, too, but there’s basically only one song on it and it’s hard to review just one song for two paragraphs unless it’s absolutely the greatest thing since “Come Together.” And it’s not. Buuut…I do like it. A lot. It’s got melody and drive and hey, it’s Dir en grey (I’m not one for bands resting on the success of their past, but I’m biased; they’re like my dysfunctional younger brothers who wear makeup and love to spit blood on stage and who wouldn’t be proud of that?). Plus, Dir en grey went on the Family Values Tour and so I should congratulate them on that. However, the other three tracks on the single were all live recordings of previous released songs. We can do better than that.

Perfume / Perfume ~Complete Best~ / August 02, 2006
09. FOUNDATION

Other worthy mentions this summer? Perfume released a best of collection, aka, a single collection. If we’re going dance-pop/techno, this is of what I want to see more. “FOUNDATION” and “COMPUTER CITY” actually make me feel happy. This is rare. Even more than rare, I thought it was an extinct emotion I could only recall memories with by listening to “Hey Jude” or “Hot Stuff.” See, Perfume is a good example of not only the quality of Japanese indie groups, but an overall Jpop DO. Arashi’s ARASHIC is an example of a Jpop DON’T. See how that works? Let’s try that again. HINOI TEAM’s Now and Forever: Jpop DO. Mai Kuraki’s DIAMOND WAVE: Jpop DON’T. All together now.

There are still a few summer releases I have yet to formally review, but those will be wrapped up in the next week or two. And then I can finally, gleefully, bid summer adieu.

BoA Official Site / Buy KEY OF HEART
Ai Otsuka Official Site / Buy Yumekui
Nami Tamaki Official Site / Buy Speciality
Dir en grey Official Site / Buy Ryoujoku no Ame
Perfume Official Site / Buy Perfume ~Complete Best~

Tommy heavenly6′s “Pray”

 

Tommy heavenly6 / Pray / July 05, 2006
01. Pray / 02. ABOUT U
03. Lost my pieces (Melancholic Guitar Version)

Just one short month after Tomoko Kawase released I’m Gonna SCREAM+, she’s back with another catchy pop rock tune, set as the theme to the new anime series Gintama. Nothing about this single cries original to me and I’m barely finished with the grrl rocking on I’m Gonna SCREAM+, but any Tommy release is always welcome. “Pray” is a standard pop rock track, that employs a lot of tin can vocals set behind rhythm guitars and fast drum beats. It has a catchy melody but lacks tune sufficient enough to carry through.

The second original song, “ABOUT U,”” picks up where “Pray” leaves off. It has a slower, grungier vibe with a lazy beat. The song drags its feet in tempo and the melody leaves much to be desired, but for some reason, I am not all together put off from the song. If anything, the two song slump only makes “Lost my pieces (Melancholic Guitar Version)” that much better, though I’m still unsure if this is due to comparison or its own unique spin on the original, upbeat album version. Either way, like its Melancholic predecessor on the previous single, it surpasses the original beyond imagination. The haunting opening strains make way for a soothing drumbeat and…tambourine? I’m pretty sure this was a guitar version and all of the extra instruments are tarnishing the “Guitar” part of the title, but I’m not complaining because it works. And also because this song is beautifully serene in a way that the only applicable word is melancholic, in a pensive kind of way as Tomoko broods, “Where are my pieces?

The single is once again mediocre and follows closely in I’m Gonna SCREAM+‘s footsteps. However, though it does harbor one brilliant gem among the coals, I forfeit my plea for another. Tommy february6’s last single was released November 2005 so…more february please?

Official Site
Buy Pray

FAKE?’s “SONGS FROM BEELZEBUB”

FAKE? / SONGS FROM BEELZEBUB / May 24, 2006
03. AUTOMATIC / 07. MONEY MONEY

The first time I heard FAKE? was a life-changing experience, not the kind that persuades you over your better judgment to cut and style your hair in homage to the band’s lead singer, trash your entire wardrobe in lieu of newer purchases, or even hang a ridiculous amount of posters on your wall so your glassy-eyed stare can reflect from the luster of the pictures, forcing you to prop your elbows on the bed and lean your cheeks into your defiant fists as you dream of a world where you, yourself, are unabashedly belting out lyrics into that microphone. No, I can’t say it was one of those life-changing experiences, but rather an experience that grabbed me by the shoulders, closed my eyes, and demanded I simply open my ears just a little bit wider to grasp the full scope and enormity of that which comprised FAKE?.

The first song that took on these qualities was “NEW SKIN.” This was the first song I came across and it helped in fully realizing the lyrical genius of Ken Lloyd. All I could do was sing along and nod emphatically, answering the question Lloyd never asked but hinted at merely by putting himself out on the market. I agreed with him whole-heartedly: Got to get some. Got to get it and I’m never gonna’ give it back. When I listened to more of the songs, I was astounded by the poetry of both the music and the lyrics, the English expertise that Lloyd lent to a high portion of their lyrics, an expertise that put bands like Linkin Park to shame and makes Mike Shinoda’s rap look like kindergarten folly accompanied by Beinnington’s angry recess whining. FAKE? brought to me one of the first songs I can truly claim as being sexy, and if you’ve ever really sat down and blared “DRIP,” you would understand. On the flip side, they had the ability to skip from erotic wordplay to maniacally accusatory anger that shakes, rattles, and finishes with a bitter emptiness; All alone we are.

However, I can’t forget to mention INORAN, the other half of FAKE?. When you put him into the equation, it’s no wonder this band is good; we now have the lyrics and intensity that once comprised OBLIVION DUST and the skill, talent, and experience of now-defunct LUNA SEA, not to mention INORAN’s own solo work (“I wish I had never met you” still sends chills up and down my spine like no other bitter break-up song can).

So you can imagine my disappointment and dread when I learned that INORAN left the band. Here was a band I had just discovered, that I was on the verge of obsession with, and they were splitting up. Bravely, Lloyd has taken the reins and continues FAKE? as a solo career, but even so, I was worried what it would sound like without INORAN. I knew that SONGS FROM BEELZEBUB would basically be Lloyd letting go; everything he wanted to put on a CD that INORAN held him back from would be present; every instrument or experimentation or musical preference he wanted to divulge would be paraded about like a very uninhibited teenage girl who just discovered miniskirts. I was reluctant to buy the CD, I was reluctant to even listen to it, but eventually, curiosity and the need for new FAKE? material won out. Maybe I could learn to love miniskirts.

Then again, this miniskirt was festooned with so much stereotypical North American house, it’s basically the item that looks exclusively appropriate on the rack rather than the human body. As soon as “$500” began I feared for my life. Suddenly, my ears were assaulted with “Let’s rock, y’all. Don’t stop y’all.” No. Oh god no. Lloyd then proceeds to collaborate rap and rock and throw all grammatical decency out the window as he repeats ad nauseaum “Put your hands up, put your hands up, put your hands up and show me where you love is at.” The remainder of the disc spins at the same speed, in fact, fresh off of the previous lyrical aural rape of stereotypical hip hop catcalls, we are warmly greeted once again by “C’mon everybody, put your hands in the air.” Not only am I offended, but we’re only on the second song and my arms are already exhausted.

And so Lloyd stumbles drunkenly in the dark to finish the album. There are repetitive shouts and words that betray everything I just waxed beautiful on in the introductory paragraphs. There is more synth than I can handle or would like to handle in FAKE?. “AUTOMATIC” is catchy but wears out its welcome. “BUS STOP #74” isn’t so much a song as it is a short story set to a beat and sound effects. “BABY BLUE AND THE TWO HEADED MONSTER” can be applauded for its attempt at innovation by taking on a distinctive doo-whop flavor reminiscent of pre-World War II romance, but falls flat when Lloyd’s voice sounds mixed, split, and served as a slow-motion cocktail; 2% genuine alcohol, 98% all filler flavor. And just when you think it couldn’t get worse, someone, presumably an engineer or producer working on the album, turns the dial, looking for something good. The result is a brief interlude into guitar, drum, and screamo chaos, which switches just as quickly back into the original slow tempo, leaving the listener wondering if they suffered a minor car accident with a bump to the head, or are merely going crazy. By the end of the album, you’re only too glad it’s finally “THE END.”

To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I am not only disappointed, I am left wishing that another album was not forthcoming in November because there are only so many head-on collisions you can suffer in one year. Lloyd left FAKE? and he took the genuine spark that fueled the music with him.

Official Site
Buy SONGS FROM BEEZLEBUB

Tommy heavenly6′s “I’m Gonna SCREAM+”

 

Tommy heavenly6 / I’m Gonna SCREAM+ / June 07, 2006
01. I’m Gonna SCREAM+ / 02. GOING 2 MY WAY !
03. +gothic Pink+ (Melancholic Guitar Version)

I could have been more excited for Tommy heavenly6’s new single, but I wasn’t. To be completely honest, I am more of a Tommy february6 fan. I love that cheesy, 80s synth pop revival, I love the squeaky clean image, the Sweet Valley High books she totes around in the music videos, the short dances…Tommy heavenly6, in comparison, is like an angry Avril Lavigne knock-off. Granted, I admitted in my article about Th6 that I liked that she was angry, and don’t get me wrong, I do, but I failed to find any longevity in her debut album besides a few catchy songs that I enjoyed merely for the fact that they happened to mirror my own sentiments at the time I listened to them. Since those few months have passed, I have barely allowed her disc to rotate anywhere near my CD player, let alone have a digital go in my iRiver.

However, all that has changed with I’m Gonna SCREAM+. The song begins quietly with a few strummed guitar licks before crashing into your general rock mayhem. But it works. Brilliantly. I love the melody, the use of her native Japanese interspersed with piles of English lyrics, and those short breaks of the guitar, that although seem out of place with the rest of the loud raucous of the song, also tie the song together and allow the listener to catch his or her breath before it’s time once again to break into the rock. It’s also worth noting that most of the time, Tomoko Kawase’s high-pitched vocals sabotage songs, holding her back from shedding that Avril Lavigne pseudo-punk image in what is still a mostly male-dominated genre (and for good reason). In this song, though, it kind of works because the song is so heavy, the light, feminine vocals help bring it down to a nicely balanced equilibrium.

“GOING 2 MY WAY !” is the first time I’ve heard Kawase use even a semi-swear word, and it was certainly semi-shocking. Enough that after she sang “ass” (actually, it was more like “ahzz”), that’s pretty much all I could think about for the next minute while the song played. Totally threw me off. Didn’t appreciate it. However, I do like the way the verse works in this song, almost more than the chorus which is actually pretty bland and shadows her earlier work. The guitar solo is much appreciated as it spices up the song a bit, but only for its few short seconds. Valiant try, though.

“+gothic Pink+ (Melancholic Guitar Version)” is an acoustic version of an earlier single. It doesn’t do much for Kawase’s vocals which fail to bring justice to the beautifully eerie melody, but said vibe created in the background of the song is marvelous. The only additional noise to the guitar is an array of soft bells, which add to the ominous atmosphere already provided by the likes of mostly English lyrics such as “Welcome to my dark side, why don’t you have a picnic there?” I don’t know, maybe because the way you sing it implies you might cut my head off and feed it to wolves?

The A side is fantastic, I could do without the B-side, the extra track all but makes up for it. This single is so good, I actually checked my sarcasm at the door, apparently next to my total hate for whiny girl vocals in rock music. Rocker grrrls. Ugh.

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