AKB48 - Koko ni Ita Koto review

So, once again it is review time. AKB's "first" album, Koko ni Ita Koto. I put "first" in quotation marks because, well, shit. Setlist, Kamikyokutachi, Setlist rerelease, plus 12 stage albums (I think, were H1 and H2 released as CDs?)... etc. Not to mention each single is basically an EP once you've got all the songs from them.


Preamble: Well, the covers and booklet and photobook and such were done by Ninagawa Mika, the crazy woman who did the Heavy Rotation PV. The massively vivid colours are the order of the day. On the other hand, the circus theme is a bit odd. Case of do not know if want.

Onwards to the music then.

1. 少女たちよ. From the start it sounds like a 20008/2009 AKB single. Could put it next to Oogoe, 10nen, Iiwake etc without noticing much in the way of difference. Same energy, same timbre, same general gist. So on one hand, I do sort of applaud their return to the days of growing popularity for the opening track on their "first" album, but on the other hand it does already sound pretty dated. I like it, but I want to hear something that at least has a twist on that timeperiod. The string-section solo is an interesting idea. Vocals are decent. 7/10

2. Overtake. So next we come to the Team A song. Intro riff is pretty decent. Doesn't particularly sound very Team A-ish though. From them I usually expect something interesting or aggressive in some way, whether musically or lyrically. But this is falling a bit flat. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it lacks power, especially in the chorus. Lyrics are too introspective. Mid-8 tries something different and sounds nice. I think most of the problems are mix-related though. Push up the bass drum and bass a bit, and you'd have a song capable of firing up audiences and the girls themselves. Unfortunately it just fails to deliver. 6/10

3. 僕にできること. Team K's song. Starts off decently enough. Verse starts well, buildup is good. Vocally... well, it's Team K. Chorus is good. Call and response on the vocals, some good lead guitar lines, bass and drums pumping away nicely. This is quite good actually. Second verse buildup is also interesting in its variation from the first. Guitar solo is pretty damn cool. Buildup chorus is pulled off well. I like the bass volume launch there. Bassline is actually pretty good. Generally follows chord progression, but has some interesting little riffs here and there which prop the song up. 9/10

4. 恋愛サーカス. The first Team B song on the album. From the get go sounds nothing like Team B, and I'm preparing for something dark and interesting. Then it gets all major key and pacey with the same instrument presets. Pretty interesting ska beats. Happy and very Team B. Vocally not great, but Team B isn't known for its vocal prowess (a few members excluded). It's a bit of a silly one, and the bloke voices really do put me in the frame of mind that Tsunku probably wrote it. On the other hand, if he did it's the most fun and good amusing thing he's written in years. Solo is cool. Good use of harmonisation. It's just too damn catchy. 9/10

5. 風の行方. Starts out nicely, could have a good ballad on my hands. Syncopated guitar chords work well for adding nice layers in the music. Verse is good. Chorus isn't bad. The choirs give it a wall-of-sound feel, which I find oddly nice. Usually wall-of-sound is used to disurb the listener, but in this case it's almost reassuring. Wouldn't actually hesistate to call this song "beautiful". But I'm a sucker for ballads anyway. The solo fits the song, is well performed. Fade-in is yay. Generally, everything works. 10/10

6. わがままコレクション. The title alone gives me shivers thinking of the abomination that was Momusu's Seishun Collection. The drumroll sounds epic until it jumps into what I can only label a Watarirouka Hashiritai castoff. Fortunately it isn't quite as bad as most WH songs. Quite as bad. It still sucks. The focus is on "cuteness" over any form of musical interest whatsoever. Amuses me that in a song focusing on cuteness Jurina appears though. She herself compares herself to Takamina and Sayaka as the "blokish" type, so to have her alongside Mayu, Lovetan and the other "moemoe" members is odd. The lyrics are pissing me off. "Oniichan collection"? What is this, reverse Sister Princess? Oddly the solo fits and doesn't suck too much. If the aim was to make wota jizz their pants at "little sisters" then I'd say it succeeds. Unfortunately, it's a shit song. Somehow salvages a whole point in the last 20 seconds by harmonies and interesting outro. 4/10

7. 人魚のバカンス. Oh shit a Hawaiian summer song mixed with 90s pop chord progressions and bassline. Boring, boring, and boring. Not even Yuka can lift this song up. Can't even think of anything else to say. Think Manoeri. That type of utter blandness. A complete nonexistence. The ultimate in vanilla. 2/10

8. 君と僕の関係. So, Acchan and Tomochin. Two of my least favourite frontgirls. Oddly, this doesn't sound too bad. Sort of, interesting mix between happy pop music and hardcore dance. I would moan about autotune, but it probably sounds better with it, in all honesty. Melodies are interesting. Syncopated bass synth is good. Synth strings are a bit weedy. They need better VSTs. The rap... "I wanna see you all gay?" Not quite sure what the hell that was about. But yea. Not amazing, but not bad. Room for improvement, but then, it's an interesting mashup. Further exploration in this is needed, maybe next time will hit a proper winner. Ending is way too immediate. 6/10

9. イイカゲンのススメ. Piano intro is fucking win. Guitar and strings buildup nicely. Then, verse hits and slight lack of epic is annoying. But Nyan's voice is good. Chorus is interesting. Am enjoying the palm muted guitar in major key. Sae should stop trying to sing high. It's annoying. Overall I like it though. Would prefer a more interesting beat. Sounds like a spiritual successor to Chance no Junban but a bit heavier. I like. 8/10

10. High school days. Kenkyuusei time. Beginning made me think I was in a 50s Sci-Fi movie, then HOLY FUCK BASS. Downtuned or something. That is one heavy bass. Music is good. Some yay chugging on guitar. Vocals are pretty good. Chorus is good. Vocal melody perhaps doesn't have enough range. Luckily the rest of the music is interesting enough to not make it that important. Solo is too short. Final buildup chorus is the best yet on this album. Pretty good. Better than Anti and Ougon no Centre. Hopefully Team 4 take some of their cues from this. Looking forward to it. 8/10

11. チームB推し. Well, this song is fucking awesome. Surprised they haven't taken Maachan out and replaced with Shihori, they've had enough fucking time. But oh well. Maachan's awesome anyway. Song is still fucking crazy, weird, amusing as all shit, and energetic beyond human ken. If only one could bottle the energy and put it to use, would be very rich. The main thing I like about this song is the structure. Most Jpop songs, and idol ones in particular, are like this:

Intro > Verse > Prechorus > Chorus > Verse > Prechorus > Chorus > Mid-8/Guitar Solo > Buildup Chorus > Final chorus > (Possible return to intro phrase for outro).

Team B Oshi has something more like this:

Chorus > Interlude > Verse > Prechorus > Chorus > Completely Different Interlude > Verse > Prechorus > Chorus > Interlude > Prechorus > Chorus > Ending Epicness > Outro

This structure difference, plus an increasingly more rapid pace as the song progresses ends up with that by the end of it you're thoroughly happy. Thus, it's fucking amazing. 10/10

12. チャンスの順番. Said before, I do like this song. It's not as outright happy as some of their more recent ones, but it is good. The bassdrum pounding insistently every fucking crotchet for most of the song helps. Musically it's interesting, nice and pretty enough. The story behind it is equally compelling. Vocally it's not immense, but having Mayuchi and Nyan at the front helps keep that end up. Not perfect, but definitely a good enough song to have introduced a hell of a lot of perennial theatre girls into the major leagues. 8/10

13. Beginner. Yes. That. Now, for all its glorious evil and pounding rhythms and dark electro soundscapes and surprisingly good vocals, there's one problem.

Acchan's screaming is missing.

Would be epic if that was in it. But yea, when one's problem is that it's not got some screaming, it's already pretty damn good. It certainly hit the "dark dance track" motif better than River did. It's wonderfully evil, even without the video. Not much dark electro is better at being evil than this. I do want moar. Soon. 10/10

14. ポニーテールとシュシュ. Ponytail is a good, happy song. I appreciate it more after Kachuusha. The piano intro is fucking win (especially when Sakiko plays it). The brass section has happy energy, unlike Kachuusha's nagging urgency. The varying dynamics and rhythms between the different sections make it cool. Certainly sounds more summery and way better than the horrid piece of shit that was Ningyo no Vacances. Seriously, who the fuck needs ukuleles? The call and response is cool, the refrain is good, the buildup chorus is good, even the "lalalalala" is good. 8/10

15. ヘビーローテーション. Ah glorious glorious days. Really too much fun. Call and response taken to its logical conclusion. Riffs are good, bass tone is good. Chord progressions are good. Beat is good. Lyrics are good, cute, funny and vocals are well delivered. Yuko is definitely much better as centre for this than Acchan. She pulls off that dirty old bloke grin so much better. Refrain is epic. Is just a damn win song. 9/10

16. ここにいたこと. There are like 200 voices on this track. Therefore it should be much more epic than it is. I like ballads, but this is too... tame. Piano, minimal strings, and a pretty annoying cello. Call and response also good, but some pace or percussion or something a bit more interesting would help this song go from good to fucking amazing. Must say I like the little choirs high notes in the second verse. Unison is annoying. Some harmonies would be nice. Dunno what that fucking trumpet is on. This isn't a Beatles album. Still, good enough song to close it out. 7/10

Overall: So, for a "first" album, not bad. High points and low points, but the low points outnumbered by the high ones. It's certainly not the best I've ever reviewed. Not even the best this year. But the singles and Team B Oshi helped it jump up nearly a point. Even so, without them it averages pretty well. It's a nice album, and while it doesn't quite explore every interesting facet that AKB have to offer, it does give a general overview and could potentially lead to more casuals getting into the stages.


Comparison ratings:

Buono! - We Are Buono! - 9.7
Morning Musume. - 4th Ikimasshoi - 9.2
C-ute - Chou Wonderful 6 - 9
C-ute - 4 Akogare My Star - 8.5
Ogawa Mana - Teenage Blues - 8
Buono! - Buono! 2 - 7.5
Berryz Koubou - 6th Otakebi Album - 7
Berryz Koubou - 7 Berryz Times - 6.5
Morning Musume. - Platinum 9 Disc - 6.5
Morning Musume. - 10 My Me - 5.5
C-ute - Shocking 5 - 4
Morning Musume. - Fantasy Juuichi - 3.5

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