Tag Archives: MUCC

album review–Karma (MUCC)

This post is dedicated to the good people at the FedEx local office. Thank you for finally answering a simple query after 7 days, 5 phone calls, 3 different customer service representatives each saying different things and 4 emails, the last one of which I sent to every possible address related to your office that I could find. Because of your excellent red tape coupled with the fact that customs charged me an unprecedented and downright ridiculous taxes and duties, I presently have in my hands the most expensive pair of cds ever.

Now that we have the rant out of the way, I give you my much delayed review of MUCC’s Karma.

One thing MUCC can never be accused of is being one-note. With each release they give us a different facet, another proof of their versatility. But what’s more admirable is that while other bands tend to get the flak whenever they change styles (did someone just say girugamesh?), MUCC is relatively scot free. In their latest release, MUCC achieves to own a more upbeat and dare I say it, radio-friendly sound. Can they get away with it? Let’s check out each song to find out.

After a techno-esque intro, Karma kicks off with FALLING DOWN Organic Edition. This version adopts a more rocking sound than the single (click here for my review of falling down single). The guitars are more pronounced and whilst the original ends with Tatsurou doing falsetto, in the organic version he lets out a big growl as the rest of the band goes on hyperdrive. FALLING DOWN Organic Edition then makes a clean transition to the energetic Zeroshiki. One of the more fast-paced songs in the album, Zeroshiki is regrettably short, clocking in at only 2 minutes and 53 seconds. As for Chemical Parade Blueday, there’s a nice guitar solo midway and the “wo-oh-oh” parts are amusing. The beat tends to be repetitive though. Still, the song has a unique charm.

A. is the first slow song to make it to the track list and it is nothing spectacular, just your run of the mill acoustic rock ballad. I Am Computer, on the other hand, is a surprise. With a title like that, I kinda expected it to be another electronic dance track or a synth-pop concoction but on the contrary, it is a slightly mid-tempo song with a very catchy rhythm. The title track Karma is another surprise. It joins the intro Chemical Parade as instrumentals that the album can truly do without.

MUCC afterwards dishes out a 3-song sweep that gives justice to the myriad of influences that the band has experimented with: jazz for Corruption, brass band for Circus and finally, orchestral for Polaris. Piano-driven and with all-English lyrics sung with commendable coherence and emotion, Corruption is seductively sexy while Circus has a groovy vibe going on that got me thinking of Austin Powers. The inclusion of trumpets and the general big brass band sound are welcomed innovations and gave the song a lot of character. Finally, Polaris paints a pretty atmosphere with its soothing mix of string instruments.

Then Lion makes its entrance and all the prettiness is gone. The air thickens and the mood takes a dramatic turn. The dark and gritty MUCC of yesteryears is back. At least for a few precious minutes. Lion is without a doubt, the heaviest song in the album and the only one who would not be out of place during the pre-neo MUCC era. There’s plenty to love in the guitar rifts and the drums take a more prominent role than in any of the other songs in Karma. Tatsurou even throws in a few growls for old times sake. If I’m to summarize my impression of this song into one word it would only be: nostalgic.

Lion may be the heaviest, but it is Feather that takes the cake for being the sappiest song in Karma. It is also the most lifeless of the 14 tracks. True to its name, Feather is a flimsy ballad that is too melodramatic for its own good. The succeeding track is Yakusoku (Original Lyric Version) and it’s very similar to the single (click here for my review of the Yakusoku single).

Winding down the album is Freesia (Karma edit). I have a certain weakness for the Electro Mix that was featured in the Yakusoku maxi-single but the Karma edit edges it out big time. MUCC tinkered with the song so much that it resulted to a half-spoken/half sung track rife with emotion. The chorus is especially intense and the vocals remind me so much of Kuchiki no Tou. This, despite the fact that the two songs are as similar as night and day. Freesia runs for more than 6 minutes and the atmosphere is charged all throughout – from the industrial sounding intro up to the show-stopping finale.

So going back now to our earlier question: Can MUCC get away with their “new” sound? The answer is yes. Karma is actually a good album – it has variety yet the songs complement each other very well. In fact, a major plus point for this album is how the track list was arranged. As mentioned in my comment on FALLING DOWN and Zeroshiki, there is a clean transition between songs and the same could be said for the whole album. It is as if the final notes of one song naturally flows into the intro of another. The end result is a really, really long medley that captures the high and the lows – both musically and emotionally.

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maxi-single review – falling down (MUCC)

radioactive lollipops for the win!

falling down spits on Yakusuko, stomps on it then throws it out the back door. While this song is still far a cry from MUCC’s rocking old sound, it exceeds their previous effort Yakusuko both in aesthetic and production merits.  At the very least, it doesn’t sound like a happy pill overdose. I first heard it during their Jack in the Box performance and even then, I have already noted the song’s irresistible sound. Trying to ward off falling down’s invitation to madness is a futile attempt. If the song is unable to entice you to bop your head to it, at any rate your feet would still be tapping along. And as mentioned, the production is good as it allows full appreciation of the different elements that make up the song.

Dulcet notes launch Tsukino yoru and immediately MUCC whisks off the listener to a better place. A jazz inspired number, the song produces a very calming effect with its use of the piano and if I’m not mistaken, the cello. While it won’t be a surprise to hear this type of song in the downtown pub, some guitar shredding midsong reminds you that MUCC is still first and foremost a jrock band.

Rounding off the track list is a remix of Yakusuko curiously named Yakusuko Warehouse Flavored Mix. Must say I like this version better as it infused the song with electronics beats and orchestral sound.

(On the regular edition the b-side is Hotaru. The bass is excellent and complements the semi-staccato drumbeats effectively. The song certainly has a groovy feel to it while still retaining the rocking vibe that has done wonders for older MUCC songs like, say Sora to ito.)

The tracks in this single couldn’t be any different from each other yet together they present a solid evidence to MUCC’s versatility. That and the radioactive lollipops in the cover artwork earn falling down a spot in my on repeat playlist.

we are coming to you live (via streaming)!

As I start writing this piece, the stage is being set up for MUCC’s performance at this year’s Jack in the Box. They’re the final act of the night and the crowd’s energy is palpitating like mad. Then suddenly the stage lights up. MUCC appears and the familiar strains of their hit FUZZ is heard. The crowd goes wild. And I got to savor it all – in real time, at the comfort of my own home about 2,966 km away.

Welcome to the wonders of live streaming.

Jack in the Box 2010

Thanks to the emergence of sites like myspace and ustream, fans like me from other countries could now attend jrock concerts albeit in the virtual sense. In fact, Jack in the Box is just the latest to join a rapidly increasing list of events being broadcasted live via the internet.  Two days ago, I was rocking with Miyavi in ustream for his Screaming Out from Tokyo tour. About a month before that, I joined a legion of hyperventilating fangirls who were singing along with VAMPS in their free live at Roponggi.

What makes the experience different from watching the performance in say, a YouTube upload, is that since it’s live, you get to enjoy it untainted by comments/reviews from fans who were fortunate enough to attend the actual concert. And as I’ve mentioned a while back, you get to savor the moment together with those who are in the venue itself. You get to be one with them in anticipating for the next act or the next song, share their slight annoyance over technical difficulties and their amusement over an epic blooper that no DVD offshoot could give justice to. Via live streaming, the excitement is not just contained in the club or stadium alone but is spread out across the globe.

Live streamings hold even greater significance for us fans from countries that have slim chances of being included in a world tour itinerary. It’s our only chance to wholly experience the visual in visual kei. It won’t be an audacity to think then that I’m not the only one that’s extremely grateful for the opportunity. I’m sure nothing beats experiencing a live in the venue itself but for now, this would do. And besides, at least we don’t have to worry about our feet being stomped on or someone’s elbow hitting us in the face. Our biggest concern is the speed of our internet connection but that’s another story already 🙂

maxi-single review – Yakusoku (MUCC)

A few posts ago I was waxing poetic on how haunting the songs from Kyuutai was. Now MUCC releases its 22nd single to date, Yakusoku and in the process brings out another testament to this band’s versatility.

Though not as danceable as Anjelier and FUZZ, Yakusoku still ranks among MUCC’s more upbeat tracks. The overall vibe is reassuring – it’s as if MUCC was trying to infect the world with a good dose of positivity thru Yakusoku (which actually translates  to “promise”). It is, without a doubt, a very joyful song, the type the could entice anyone to nod their heads in tune to beat. A very enjoyable track indeed.

Still, I couldn’t help but note that with Yakusoku, MUCC seems to be holding itself back. The short guitar solo by the time the song reached its 3rd minute is a reminder that this is still the same band responsible for hard-hitting hits like Mikan no Kaiga and Ageha. But overall, the song felt alienating. Sure, the band has dabbled with “happy” songs before but with Yakusoku, it’s as if MUCC has indulged in the happy pill too much then managed to throw up some of it afterwards.

Thankfully MUCC managed to find its way back thru the second track Gareki no Tori. It starts off with a superb guitar solo then was coupled with aggressive drum beats. The main rift throughout the song is very affecting while the chorus part was very, very infectious. Needless to say, I prefer this song by a mile over the main track.

The third track Freesia~Electro Mix was a surprise. While the title do suggest that it is a remix, nothing could have prepared me for how blatantly addicting this song is. With hints of new wave and good ol’ disco flavor throw in, MUCC has truly let themselves loose on this track resulting to their own brand of dance music.

NOTE: In case you don’t know, the song Yakusoku is the intro to the anime series “Senko no Night Raid”. Two other versions of the single are available. The version reviewed here is the limited edition that comes with the DVD.

Below is a side by side comparison of the cover artwork for all versions (Limited edition with DVD, Limited pressing featuring TV edit and Karaoke version, Regular edition):

image

Album covers courtesy of CDJapan.

album review – Kyuutai (MUCC)

Kyuutai-TypeA  

It’s Maundy Thursday and I find myself listening to MUCC’s latest release Kyuutai. Quite odd considering that visual kei is not exactly what one should listen to during Holy Week. However,  Kyuutai turns out to be a soul-wrenching and reflective album. Proof of which is the haunting gem of a song Sanbika – reminiscent of good old-fashioned “pasyon” with even the “Ave Marias” and “Santa Marias” thrown in. When I heard that one, I literally got goosebumps all over.

The album as a whole is quite a good mix of ballads and heavier rock songs. The dark, pulsating visual kei sound is still present but is tempered by laid-back guitar strumming and soft-spoken vocals. In fact, guitar work pretty much dominates majority of the songs.  But what is so striking about Kyuutai is how much it differs from MUCC’s previous release, the techno-infused Shion. Then again, variety, I believe, is one of this band’s strengths.

Truth to tell, I have only listened to 3 of the many albums MUCC has released – Kuchiki no Tou, Shion and of course, Kyuutai. And the said albums are as similar as apples are to oranges. Kuchiki no Tou is definitely the darker of the 3 with its soaring vocals and dramatic solos. For example, the title track Kuchiki no Tou (the last song in the album, not to be confused with the instrumental intro) brings rock opera to mind.

Shion, on the other hand, veers away from all the angst of Kuchiki no Tou and has brought with it a refreshing and energizing vibe. A listen to FUZZ and Anjelier is sure to boost one’s spirit up. Given that one is listened to after the other, Shion provides the cathartic release from all the pent up emotions Kuchiki no Tou has exposed.

Then comes Kyuutai. The heavier songs like Ageha and Sora to Ito provides the expected turbulence. But the biggest draw of Kyuutai for me are songs that allow for quiet moments of reflection – Sanbika, hanabi, Aoi Tori and to some extent, even Youen. These are not necessarily ballads but they do brim up with emotions and Tatsurou’s voice really shines through. The fancy guitar work among the songs is also something to behold.

Hands down though, Sanbika alone is enough reason not to ignore this album. Yes, the intro is somehow akin to Hotel California for some weird reason but Sanbika – in all of its 7 minutes and 33 seconds glory – can definitely hold its own. Tatsurou’s falsettos are spine-tingling but come third verse, the effect turns to haunting. This is made more effective with the soprano vocals in the background. By the time the song reached its second “Santa Maria”, Sanbika has earned its place as one of the eeriest songs I have ever heard.

Overall, MUCC’s Kyuutai is a good listen. It has its own hits and misses but then, it also testifies to the band’s maturity as an artist. It also makes one anticipate the next worthy addition to this band’s growing repertoire.