Year in Review 2013: Life, the Universe, and Everything

So, at last we come to the end of the gloriously monotonous year that was 2013. In this post I'll strip away the pretty facade of idoldom and lay bare the ugly truth: 42.

Anyway, randomness aside. This year has seen some idol success, some idol failures, and lots of cracks in the veneer that makes up the whole wota/idol symbiosis. As I haven't the time, inclination or beer to do my usual "review fucking everything then give out awards" year in review, I'll just do the awards and then flame everyone in the meantime. So here we go again, remember to have your mouse handy to hover over the text so you can click on links.

Biggest Twat of 2013

I mean, seriously. Morning Musume '14? Get off your drugs, put some clothes on and get back in your study and work on some not shitty music. Okay, Momusu and C-ute had some decent stuff this year. Berryz and S/mileage sucked like usual. And Juice=Juice went all sexy saxman saxogram on us, but it can still be a shitload better. Now get to work.

Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing Award

Babymetal continued to ruin me this year. Megitsune was weird, heavy, and actually pretty damn win. It even inspired me to write a song about Moa tormenting Su-metal for all eternity, sacrificing Yui to Satan and becoming Empress of the Universe. Because she's fucking brutal. And so is this song.

Best Photobook of 2013

My first instinct for this award was to give it to Kojima Fujiko, one of my favourite actresses and seemingly an utterly indolent wastrel at heart. Her photobook FUJIKO was full of amazing shots and Fujiko herself doing some things a lot of young actresses wouldn't do. However, this plan was scotched when I realised the release date was the 15th of December. Last year. Well, bollocks, I thought. My second instinct was to jointly award it to two idols, who both had acceptable photobooks released this year, namely Shimazaki Haruka (whose tedious existence doesn't cause quite as much suffering in photographic form as it does in video) and Ishida Ayumi. However, Paruru, Komaru had a fair share of frankly cheap production, and Ayumi's eponymous release, whilst showing off her deliciousness quite well, suffered from the same lighting problems as most H!P photobooks and a disturbing bit of plagiarism. In which case the title falls to Tokyo Girls' Style's Eien. Shot with much the same subdued style as their music videos, it was well-lit, well-exposed, well-metered and in general pretty. Proving that one doesn't need to be in a bikini to make a good photobook. As for photospam, I have none. It's damn hard to find online (in fact impossible), so I'll leave it up to your wallet or imagination.

Biggest Letdown of 2013

I'm torn, as there were several. The Meads of Asphodel's 2010 album The Murder of Jesus the Jew was amazing. Their followup Sonderkommando, set in concentration camps, was not amazing. It was pretty dreary actually. It wasn't terrible but there weren't a great amount of standout moments of pure genius. Another letdown was Momoclo. Their second album wasn't terrible by any means, but considering the first album and the singles from the second album it should have been a lot better than it was. Thirdly, Ayreon's new album, whilst actually pretty good, still wasn't fucking out-of-this-world amazing, which, from Arjen, you sort of expect by default. So yes, musically not a terrible year, but my hopes ended up being higher than the material that eventually arrived.

Comeback of 2013

Nacchan! After getting fired for a scandal at the beginning of last year, they announced this year that the election would be open for graduates as well. She entered, became the only one of the former members to rank (at #62), and then has kept her G+ open since. She's also been a part of the WH7 get togethers of late (considering Komori retired) and now they've announced a WH7 final concert, which I imagine she'll be a part of. Not bad considering the cloud she graduated under.

Top Music Videos of 2013:

This one is a bitch to decide. Unlike the last two years, nothing really jumps out at me and punches me in the face. I've narrowed it down to two, neither from idols. I'll let you decide after explaining why each is in the frame.

This video is fucking beautiful, as I'd really expect as it's the same guy who directed last year's winner, Solstafir's Fjara. However, unlike the Solstafir video, where the video matched the pace and tone of the music, this really doesn't. With the theme of the video (a recreation of a Norse saga revolving around a brother and sister falling afoul of Loki's not-so-very-charming children [which include Fenrir, Hel and Jormungandr]) being very dark, the bouncy folkiness of the song on top is a little jarring. Still, the sexy cinematography is worth it. I swear if I ever want a video done for my band I'm going straight to Bowen Staines.

Ah, Chthonic. Who else would invade a KMT/Nazi party and assassinate everyone? Stylishly done, and the choreography makes a nicely weird change from the usual metal fare. The fight choreo is well done too, far more realistic-looking than in their Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace video from the same album (which looked more like a Zhang Yimou wuxia film than a music video). Perfectly sums up violence, which is their theme for the Bu-Tik album.

Which is better? You tell me.

Best "Holy Shit I Just Jizzed in My Pants" Four Chord Progression of 2013:

That opening... chills every time. (So, the album was from 2012 but the PV was uploaded in January so it counts.)

Best Metal Scream of 2013:

If you haven't figured it out yet, I fucking love Fuki's voice.

Best "When Did Herman Li Start Moonlighting for Japanese Producers?" Guitar Solo In An Idol Song of 2013:

As I sat on a cold train platform in Basingstoke in early November this year, I remembered thinking to myself, "I've had this Afilia Saga album for ages now but haven't actually listened to it yet. I guess I shall." What followed on the first track was pretty bogstandard, even the beginning of the solo. Then suddenly tapping and sweeping and wtf. Unfortunately the rest of the album wasn't amazing either, to the extent I didn't even bother to review it.

 Best Genre Crash of 2013:

Depagumi Inc. are always delightfully nuts, but never moreso than when they fuck around genres even more than Momoclo and come up with crazy shit like this that make me happy for some really peculiar reason.

Best "When Did Arjen Lucassen and Yasutaka Nakata Start Collaborating?" Song of 2013:

9nine, I love you and all, but this is really quite intriguing. That riff is more Ayreon than anything even from the new album (except maybe the title-subtrack), and it reminds me in places of Perfume-ish technopop, so I guess it's secretly a collaboration.

Best "I Think Spraying White Fluid From A Head Situated In Your Crotch May Require Medical Attention" PV of 2013:

Ah, BiS. Never change.

Best "I Thought Metal Idols Were Supposed To At Least Be Interesting" Fail of 2013:

Fruitpochette are a sister group of Himekyun Fruitscan. They're supposedly metal. They've got the heavy guitars, but this is less metal than Passpo, simply because this is metalcore. I suppose it had to happen eventually. Infiltrating even this far. Damn them.

 Best "Why Hello Vivaldi, Since When Did You Start Writing Idol Songs?" Song of 2013:

Cheeky Parade doing their take on Vivaldi's Winter. Really quite weird, but quite nice also. I quite like Cheeky Parade for some reason.

Best "So Byron Roberts Decided To Write An AKB Song Title?" Song Title of 2013:

"Suzukake no Ki no Michi de 'Kimi no Hohoemi o Yume ni Miru' to Itte Shimattara Bokutachi no Kankei wa Dō Kawatte Shimau no ka, Bokunari ni Nan-nichi ka Kangaeta Ue de no Yaya Kihazukashii Ketsuron no Yō na Mono" makes "The Dark Liege of Chaos is Unleashed at the Ensorcelled Shrine of A'Zura-Kai (The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire Part II)" look short. Still, The Meads of Asphodel's "The Mussulmans Wander Through The Infernal Whirling Fires Amongst Silent Shadows To Be Fed Into The Thirsting Jaws Of A Godless Death Machine To Cough Up Their Souls To The Nazi Moloch Who Sits Within A Ring Of Smoking Infant Skulls" still wins.

Best "So Passpo Aren't Even Trying To Hide Their Rock Ambitions Anymore?" Song of 2013:

It's just an extended guitar solo. Also a very good one. Fuck sake Passpo why you so win?

Best "If You're Going To Rip Off Yes, At Least Pick One Of Their Good Songs" Song of 2013:

Silly 9nine.

Commie Idol of 2013:

Uesaka Sumire, speaks Russian, loves Russian culture, and her PV is full of shit like that. After metal idols, commie idols? There's a non sequitur if I ever saw one.

Mindfuck PV of 2013:

Miyu's my TGS oshi, but this just breaks my mind. And somehow I like it. 

Top Albums of 2013 from 10-6:

Once again I've got something planned for Beat Laments the World, so I'm leaving my top 5 for now. It might not be out until after new year, but I'm sure people can wait. It's not like I blog frequently anyway.

10. Gloryhammer - Tales from the Kingdom of Fife

Song pick: The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder

What a ridiculous concept for an album. But hell, it's Chris Bowes, the guy who creates a new musical project for nearly every random idea he has. Sometimes they get popular (Alestorm), sometimes they toil in obscurity, producing amazing (though random) stuff but never obtaining recognition (Splen), and some just end up fusing together as asdfgfa. With Gloryhammer, they've set about creating a new fantasy counterpart to the real area of Fife, Perth and Angus in Scotland. With, you know, magic dragons, unicorn invasions and a hefty dose of utter ridiculousness. But hell, all power metal is cheesy, this just doesn't bother hiding it and just blows you away with better power metal than many more "serious" bands of the genre would love to have written. The riffs are cool, the melodies are catchy as hell, and it's all brought together by Bowes himself, a veritable keyboard wizard focusing far more on the orchestral elements here than he does in Alestorm. It does at points remind me (Magic Dragon) of an incredibly talented Japanese doujin band that I discovered by accident at Comiket in 2008. The guy had his stuff set up on a Cradle of Filth towel so I decided to buy his album. Good choice, their name was Dragon Guardian and they're awesome. Anyway, Gloryhammer make me remember Turisas, Rhapsody (of Fire) and pretty much every epic power metal band, mixed up with the silliest and most awesome lyrics ever. So you should like it too.

8= Tokyo Girls' Style - Yakusoku

Song pick: LolitA☆Strawberry in summer

Finally they managed to win me over. The fact that the songpick for this album is a cover of an old SweetS song is by no means saying that it's inferior. Actually the opposite, they've improved the song so vastly it's amazing. There are other amazing songs on this album, such as the glorious Sigh tribute Bad Flower, but those acoustic guitars get LolitA the win. The album is mostly funk, with enough nods to previous stuff to keep old fans happy, but the progression in it is phenomenal. The melody writer regained his groove, the mixer wasn't fucked off his head on drugs, and the arranger managed to get nearly everything to sound just right. For an idol album, this is brilliant. For a regular artist, this would be very, very good. As such it's up here.

8= Kvelertak - Meir

Song pick: Bruane Brenn

Ah, Kvelertak. Longtime darlings of the Norwegian underground scene, they bust out large with their self-titled debut album in 2010. Fast-forward three years and they released the follow-up, the aptly titled Meir ("More" in Norwegian). Growing out of Norway's mid-to-late 2000s recreation of black metal into NWOBHM and crust punk (see Scum, I, Chrome Division and Darkthrone for more examples), they mix the heavy party-rock anthemic choruses of Turbonegro, the black metal screams of Emperor, the triple-guitar craziness of Iron Maiden, the "Vikings are we shtick" of Bathory, and mix it all up with mead. Because mead is awesome. My main gripe with the first album was that there was an immense lack of Suck My Glock (the coolest song from their demo Westcoast Holocaust). My main gripe with Meir is exactly the same thing. Though at least this time they've included Snilepisk, probably the third best song on the demo after Suck My Glock and Mjød. It's still a fun, raucous crazy partytime.

7. Kawaguchi Senri - À La Mode

Song pick: Spanish Pirates

There's something amazingly compelling about young Japanese musicians. However, they rarely obtain the fame available to Senri at such a young age. Releasing her first album at the age of 16, featuring a mesmerising mix of talented jazz and rock musicians (Yamamoto Kyoji from Bow Wow being the most famous to readers of this blog, probably; but it also features Brian Bromberg and Suganuma Kozo), and performing so tightly that you'd think it was an experienced jazz drummer three times her age. Released back in January, it almost instantly commanded attention for a possible place on this list. It's amazingly complex (as is most jazz), and features songs like the one I picked that also give a damn good showing for prog fans. Senri also piqued my attention in the wider world of Japanese jazz, which led me to this blog that houses a huge variety of old jazz. Still, I'd advise checking out Senri. She has another new album out in January with the keyboardist Otaka Kiyomi under the name KIYO*SEN. I'm gonna be paying much attention.

6. Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

Song pick: As there's only four songs, each over 20 minutes, broken into 42 subsections, it's almost impossible to pick one.

So, Ayreon is back. The world of prog rejoiced, the world of metal rejoiced, and I decided to find problems with it. Granted, 01011001 was bloated, had too much filler, and could have been improved vastly by simply cutting out the "everyday on earth" bits, but the underlying themes and music were still amazing, as was the vocal talent on offer. However, 01011001 happened to end the story, leaving Arjen with rather too much time on his hands, as seen by Guilt Machine's moody atmospheres, Star One's amazing metal adventure through the stars, and Lost in the New Real. So, rather than start (another) new project, he went back to Ayreon with a new story. However, the story is rather rubbish. Plus, I can't see him making a multi-album opera cycle out of it like he did with his first storyline. The vocal talent on offer is good, but not at the level of 01011001 or even the Human Equation. I can understand him wanting to work with only new people, but Tommy Karevik is lacking, Sara Squadrani is weak, and John Wetton just sort of blends into the background after a while. On the other hand, Michael Mills and JB are phenomenal. The riffs and songs themselves sound like Ayreon. They're not at the level of Electric Castle or Human Equation, but just ahead of 01011001. If it was music alone, it'd get an amazing score, but the dreary vocalist choices and uninspired plot and lyrics just leave me dragging. Shame it wasn't a perfect comeback, still, hoping for something mindblowing next time.

So, keep an eye on Beats for the top 5, which will probably be a collab with wu in which we also review each other's top 5. Could get interesting. So, have an enjoyable new year, and I'll probably see you next month for my idol list.


Sakura Gakuin - 2012 Nendo ~My Generation~ review

So, Sakura Gakuin. I've always liked their rock style and their ability to stick to their beliefs (in their case, their belief that even high schoolers are too damn old), which unfortunately means that this is the final album for my Sakugaku oshi, Nakamoto Suzuka. I've sort of been following her since the Karen Girl's days, so it's disappointing on one hand, but on the other, she's still in Babymetal, still got an amazing voice and is now even collaborating with other bands, so I guess it's all good. This leaves me with a predicament, namely, who to pick as my new oshi? On the one hand, Marina's been my backup oshi since I got into Sakugaku and is still insanely cute and awesome. On the other hand, she'll graduate in spring and thus I'll have to pick again anyway, so I could also go for Moa, who's also awesome, is more metal than Corpsegrinder and would probably sacrifice me to Satan if I didn't pick her.

Preamble: Leave off on the crayons. A less art-attack inspired cover may have been preferable.

1. WONDERFUL JOURNEY. Well, it certainly can't be described as un-Sakugaku. Guitars, rock sound and then a bit of culture in the verse, with some French street music when they're talking about France, and suchlike. The melodies are nice, as Sakugaku melodies usually are. It's cute and inoffensive, could do with a little more in terms of chord progressions, but I suppose it's not the worst they've done. Reggae in second verse adds some fun. Also Indian instruments. A bit more exploratory than they usually are. Suzuka still shines the most vocally. The mid8 has a bunch of random languages saying hello and thank you, for some reason. No real solo, just a bit of guitar whining. The buildup chorus is cute. So yea, decent opener. 7/10

2. スリープワンダー. Bit of a more pop rock sound this time, quite modern Jpop. Makes a change, it's quite nice. Somewhat of a more mature sound. The chord progressions have improved, though the vocal melodies remain consistent. Prechorus especially shows off some of the maturity. Could imagine several of those popular rock-ish Jpop acts pulling this off. One of them probably composed it, to be honest. It's quite nice that the mid-8 randomly has guitar shred and random dialogue over it, and crazy panning all over the place. It's interesting. 8/10

3. ヘドバンギャー!! /,,/ Fakjea. I love this song. The harpsichords. The brutality. The awe-inspiring vocals of SU-METAL. Still trying to tab the motherfucker. The guitars are grim. The music is, unsurprisingly, headbangable. If I were to redo my metal list, this would probably come in the top 3. Those tremolo picks in the prechorus so black metal. Then the chorus. Vocal melodies are perfect. Growls well placed. Still a shame Moa can't growl yet. I've a feeling the world will sort of create a black hole and implode when she does. Structure fuckery skips out second verse, has a solo, then buildup prechorus and suchlike. All perfection in metal form. /,,/ 10/10

4. ミラクル♪パティフル♪ハンバーガー. It's that cooking club again. With another bloody 8bit song. On the other hand, this is silly but win. The 8bit is a lot better, and the lyrics are fucking lulz. They really want a fucking burger. The vocal melodies are cute. The music is thin, but it all just hangs on you laughing and being moe'd to death by the lyrics. Which works. On the other hand, it leaves me with a dearth of things to talk about. Oh well. 7/10

5. すいみん不足. Oversleeping is bad. This is another stupidly cute song that has pathetic arrangement, but wins simply by the power of moe. Random tongue twisters in the mid-8 are cute. Still, only thing this has going for it is cuteness. Even the "solo" is weak. 5/10

6. スコアボードにラブがある. From Pastel Wind, the newest club. Quite a weird start, unusually interesting rhythmic patterns and then a weird chord progression. However, it then gets very normal. And thin as fuck on the arrangement again. The vocal melodies are pretty weak as well, so the intro is about the best thing on this track. The mid-8 is pointless. 5/10

7. サイエンスガール ▽ サイレンスボーイ. So much ambience it's like I've drowned in shoegaze and Faunts and a bunch of weirdness and ooh, science. Or should I say Go Science? Either way. The guitars in this are so awesome if I could I'd rub myself on them in a mildly disturbing way. Anyway, other than that, the vocal melodies are cute and the bass is brutal as a really brutal thing. The beats aren't too bad. The use of vocoding is pretty justified, due to the theme of the song. All pretty damn sweet. 10/10

8. デルタ. The second Logica song on here, it's got some weird crossrhythms at the very start, then a weird space funk vibe going on. Not quite as amazing at first listen as Science Girl Silence Boy, but still has some rather good melodies, and the spacey synths are damn fine. The flange-y guitars are also quite nice. The chorus needs a bit more punch. It's too weak. It's not bad, just lacking. The mid-8 is just the intro riff really. Weaker than it really has any right to be. 5/10

9. 桜色のアベニュー. Quite a retro vibe on this one, sounds like some 70s band. Melodies are good, and holy fuck vocal harmonies. Shocking. The piano throughout is nice, and the guitars are damn nice. Reminds me quite strongly of a Buono song. The chorus is so win it's not even funny. Melodies and chord progressions merge to form a song of pure beauty. Of course, it's Suzuka's solo song so it's not surprising it's a thing of pure beauty. Damn her. In a nice way. Second verse starts with just strings and it's sexy. Really hope Suzuka finds more in addition to Babymetal soon. Ooh, retrosolo. I like. Mid-8 is pure win, and then buildup with pianos and more layered harmonies... hnngh. Yes. Yes. Oh, and more yes. Need more Suzuka. 10/10

10. My Graduation Toss. Unfortunate naming aside, this is bad to Sakugaku at its rocking best. Pure speed and adrenaline. Chugging guitars, cute melodies, pretty damn odd chord progressions, and it's all rather nice. Prechorus has such clear melodies it's hard not to be impressed with some of their vocal progression. Chorus is standard Sakugaku fare, but still winning. The second time around is copy/paste, unfortunately, but I still enjoy. Mid-8 is like a 90s pop rock quote of everything ever. Buildup isn't bad. Structurally could be better. But still, the pace makes it cool. The final chorus lets the guitars just play less and becomes more effective. Damn fun. 9/10

11. マシュマロ色の君と. Again sounding like modern Jpop artists, with a more mature edge and some rock elements. Quite a nice one this. Guitar riffs are nice, the chord progressions not bad at all, and the melodies good. The chorus is also quite amazing, in a melodic way. Could do with less unison and some harmony, but it's win. The piano is also worthy of attention. The mid-8 is quite decent, and then a rather lacking guitar solo leads into a nice enough buildup chorus. Nice is the best descriptor of this song. 7/10

12. 旅立ちの日に ~J-MIX 2012~. Bloody remixes. The original was a perfectly acceptably amazing ballad. This takes that and leaves it exactly the same... at first. Then in comes uptempo beats, a quicker tempo, and the rape and ruin of the original's glorious call and response. It's still a nice enough song, but it's ruining the effect of the original. Why not just write a new song? Not that much effort. 7/10

Overall: A nice little album, as all Sakugaku albums are. A bit less rock this time, which is mildly disappointing, but with the same cute melodies and random subunits as ever. Speaking of subunits, this album really misses the presence of a Twinklestars song. Those things with that shibuya-kei piano-driven rock sound were epic. Even so, despite that, this gains a respectable rating. Still undecided on my oshi. Maybe I'll just joint-oshi Moa and Marina until Marina graduates. Hooray for being DD.



Bellring Shoujo Heart - Bed Head review

Bellring Shoujo Heart, or Bellheart for short (I guess just calling them Bellring had some interesting innuendo if you're into that sort of thing [NSFW, also don't click if you're squeamish]) are a very indie group. They caught my attention some time ago with the ridiculously bizarre PV for their song Circus and Renai Soudan, and then even more so when Tira and Mizuho randomly tied up a poor record shop assistant. They also recently added some more members, whose names I've not bothered to learn, and the aforementioned Tira, a Taiwanese girl with the same genetic malfunction as Michishige Sayumi (ie. looking way fucking younger than you are) is currently struggling with visa issues and isn't allowed to perform in Japan for the moment. So, just like any indie idols, they're in a flux-state at present but still managed to release an album.

Speaking of which, this is a bloody hard to buy album. It's not on iTunes or any of the usual net distributors. It wasn't on HMV, Yesasia or CDJapan when I wanted to buy it. Eventually I had to go to a Japanese distributor called Ototoy to get it, and even then my bank charged me for having the gall to actually buy something from abroad. But was it worth the effort? Time will tell.

Preamble: That font so 60s.

1. World World World. Speaking of the 60s, they just called. They want their music back. The music is amazing, sounds like it came straight out of some blissed out dream state the songwriter was having at the time. All the elements come together for the amazingness, including the completely out of tune singing. Somehow that just makes it even better. Would be a bit silly to talk about melodies, because they don't really follow conventional scales. Or even unconventional ones. They just break the whole idea of functional harmony. The buildup chorus with those analogue synths is amazing. I want them. The synths, not the idols. Though that might be nice too. Ending is chaotic and then the world explodes. 10/10

2. The Edge of Goodbye. Grunge-esque guitars, then shoegaze-esque guitars on top, then an indie riff. Already clusterfucked. But in a good way. The verse has a sexy guitar sound, the melodies are (this time) in a normal scale, and quite nice. Prechorus is pure sex, very nice ambiences with the vocals. The chorus has a cute vocal melody, but a much cuter little riff underneath. Probably the cutest sounding guitar ever, even in the lower strings. Mid8 isn't that amazing, but works. Then the buildup chorus does without vocals, and just has that cute riff and a bass and chugging and hnnngh. Jizzed a bit. This is an epic song. 10/10

3. D.S.P ~だいすぴッ~. Whenever I see DSP I associate it with "Drunken Skype Party", so that's what I'm calling this song. The intro has some really sexy sustained guitar. The verse has some nice bass, and little guitar patterns with a very nice vocal melody over it. Prechorus continues in the same vein, but the chorus just comes in and wham. You're fucked. Anthemic doesn't even begin to describe it. In a 60s, out of tune way, this could ruin stadiums. Amazing at everything. I think I'm being rather nice to this album. It's just so fucking 60s. Chorus again, jizzing. The guitar whining is just overpowered. The mid-8 is Ash-level in guitar-sex, and then some nice vocals and Hammonds. Hammonds. Everything is better with Hammonds. If I could have sex with any sound, it'd be the sound of Hammonds. Buildup chorus has some fucking Mellotron'd strings. Just how 60s/prog do you need to be? Love this shit so much. 10/10

4. ボクらのWednesday. And the 60s continue. And back to the tuneless vocals, which I love so much. Acoustic guitars are sexy. The chorus is just a clusterfuck of awesome. The melody is so weird it's creepy and awesome. The beat is just weird. And everything else is just 60s. It's like someone threw everything I love in a blender, which smooths out all the heavier edge of my likes and comes out with the most proggy shit ever. They even throw in some structure fuckery and forget to sing the second chorus and go into an extended prechorus instead. Then we get a xylophone solo. Fakjea. Buildup chorus is the creepiest thing I've ever fucking heard. Then random "nyan"s to end. 10/10

5. Shout!!! Sexy acoustic guitars at the beginning, reminds me of an indie band I used to collab with the songwriter from, called french kiss-off. Then we get quite a cool 70s-ish hard rock song. It has some melody and structure, but it's all good. Chord progs and melodies are good, beats are good. Prechorus is cute. Then the chorus is amazing. The missed first beat and then all in on the second beat really makes it quite brutal, in an entirely cute way. The arrangement is lush, and it's all good. The little clusterfucks before the chorus, bass before the first and acoustic guitars before the second, are sweet as anything. The mid-8 has some orchestral hits and drums, then a guitar solo. And a damn sexy one at that. Then it starts duelling with hammonds. Oh yes. 10/10

6. ライスとチューニング. How to even describe this song? Imagine if 80s rappers couldn't be fucked, and rapped about any old random shit that came to their attention. It's like ADHD rapping. Mizuho is the "star", in that she raps with her usual flair for speaking in an incredibly bored voice. It's cute but the randomness level is off the charts. The music, what there is of it, is quite fun, but Mizuho just wins. The chorus is a bit weird, but it's certainly among the most experimental rap songs I've ever heard. It's certainly the worst song on the album so far, but to be fair they've all been amazing and this ain't bad. Mizuho randomly inserting a cross-rhythm in is probably unintentional but is incredibly weird and awesome. Mizuho needs more love. 8/10

7. 夏のアッチェレランド. The name of this song gives me hope. In the beginning there's some awesome jazzy piano. Then it turns into a pop song. That's a turn up for the books. Still, pretty. Even if they are in tune. Some 80s guitar sounds in the verse. It's like they're progressing through the decades. The chorus is pretty as a really pretty thing and I love it. It's the least experimental yet, but still I love it. How bizarre. Mid-8 is pretty nice too. Still, the lack of an actual accelerando is mildly annoying. The buildup chorus is all piano, but win. I'll forgive the lack of accelerando simply because piano solo at the end. 10/10

8. Pleasure ~秘密の言葉~. What a start. Tremolo picked acoustic guitars and synths and then we're back in the 60s. Out of tune again, lends a really nice haunting quality to it. Really draws you in. Acoustic guitars are win. The dulcimers also add a nice touch. The chorus is just so hooked up it's like a drug. It's psychedelic. Like an acid trip with no come down, it's full of awesomeness. So much tremolo picking before the second verse it's like a black metal song. But without the screaming and electric guitars. This does remind me a lot of the whole trve kvlt surf music thing going on at the moment. Taking black metal songs and making them into 60s surf music. It works most of the time, to the extent that Satyricon got Youtube to remove Mother Surfing North. The mid-8 has some more gloriousness. Really win. Again. 10/10

9. サーカス&恋愛相談. The song that got me into them really. The video was full of insanity (the moment I remember most is the crowd storming the stage, and Mizuho ripping off her boot and whacking the fuck out of people with it), but the song itself is by no means sane. More of the circus insanity levels I love so much, reminds me a bit of the first Haken album if it'd been released in the 60s. Again with the haunting melodies that're out of tune, and then a pounding beat that just pummels the weirdness into your skull. I sometimes wish all music were this experimental. Then I realise that people are often just too incapable of comprehending it. The chorus is pretty, in a shouty, weird carnival way. Circus theme between first chorus and second verse that puts me in mind of the quote of the Carousel Waltz at the beginning of Dire Straits' Tunnel of Love. The random synth solo that's only quiet in the left ear in the mid8 is weird but win. Then hammond organs and buildup chorus. YES! I think I love Hammonds too much. Outro is cool. Lots of screaming. 10/10

10. yOUらり. Moogs. Then more psychedelic trippyness. It's basically Pleasure pt2, with more melody. Not that it's a lot of melody, but some. It's also a bit more dull. Probably the worst so far, until the random synth interlude. Regains lots of marks. Still, can't say much I didn't say about Pleasure. It's slower. About the only difference. Solo on the moogs. Wins. Then mellotron flutes in the buildup chorus. This gets points for those, mostly. 8/10

11. Bed Head. The title track. Quite a cute one, more folksy than the prog that's came before. Even an accordion. There's a interlude after the first verse, and then a completely unrelated bit that comes after. Structurally this is fucked up. Bunch of non-flowing normal verse-prechorus-chorus stuff out of the window. Not heard anything remotely like a chorus yet. Go back into the first bit though, so guess the chorus was there, it was just completely... not a chorus. How weird. And then it ends. 2:13. That was fucked up. 10/10

12. ダーリン. Weirdly haunting harpsichords, then haunting vocals and despite the song being called Darling, there's a hint of overly attached girlfriend to it. Then there's some grunge guitars, and another creepy as fuck chorus. Can imagine it being sung by a bunch of yanderes. Still, not the most yandere song I've ever heard. Nothing can ever beat this. The mid-8 has some mellotrons and then some violent bits. Then repeat. But anyway, it's rather good. If it wasn't surrounded by a bunch of fucking amazing songs I'd be jizzing over it like mad. But as it is, it just happens to not quite stack up. Still, I like. 9/10

13. アイスクリーム. There are good songs. There are amazing songs. There are FAKSMs. And then there's this. Aside from the fact that it opens with the greatest chord progression in history and then channels Muse like all shit, the arrangement is so amazing I get shivers all over from its awesomeness. The bass in the beginning of the verse is so deep it's like getting pummelled from behind with a jackhammer. The little piano flourishes are gorgeous. Prechorus adds more guitars and the melodies, for a change are fucking amazing. Why bother being haunting in this song when you can simply be awesome? Then the chorus goes back into the fifths and ruins my balls because I jizzed everywhere. Second part of the chorus is just epic and glorious. If there's any kind of heaven, this is the fucking soundtrack. Random voices after the chorus lead into solo. Then chorus and we're jizzing again. I feel sorry for people listening to this song. It's so good. Their ears will be hard-pressed to ever replace it with something better. Then we get it all done double time in the outro with another little solo and it's glorious and pianos and hnnnnnnnnnngh. Have to do this again. Limit BREAKER! 11/10

14. Teck Teck Walk. I have no fucking idea what that title is supposed to mean either. But violins. Sounds like The Verve or something. Seems with this and Ice Cream we've journeyed to the present. Then they start singing with haunting voices over the top, layered so thickly with reverb one wonders if the producer fell asleep and forgot to change the knob or something. Guitars are sex. Chorus is more haunting with some Alcest-y guitars and no hook whatsoever. Doing that again, I see. Still, slow and hauntingly beautiful. The solo is quite slow but nice. 10/10

15. Wide Mind. Flange. So much flange. And porn music. Then circus-y win. Actually, circus music and fandango and Mexican ska. It's a bit awesome. But then, hasn't this entire fucking album? Once again there's no discernable melody, it's all a bit freeform. Then random genre change to a 60s happy upbeat rock song with a melody and beat and it's all a bit crazy. I have no idea what's going on now, my mind has been broken by the constant onslaught of psychedelia, wonderful delights and insanity and now I'm just in awe at how this song draws together so many disparate elements and pulls it off well. Fakjea. Ends with more porn. 10/10

Overall: Despite this being probably the idol album that has broken my mind through awesomeness the most of all time, I have to be honest. The production on this album is pretty shit. At times it's like they were just given backing tracks and told to make up whatever they liked on top of it. At times the recording quality is so different between the backing track and the vocals it's almost as if they were aiming to create such a divide. With some of the 60s songs they stayed true on the music side of it, and recorded mostly analogue when they could, leaving it nice and pure. Yet the vocals, despite being drowned to fuck in reverb, never seem to meld with the music, they sit just on top. It's a small criticism, but it would have been negated had they tried recording the vocals analogue too. An 8-track doesn't cost that much. Anyway, moaning over. This has the best collection of songs I've ever heard on an idol album. None of them were bad, only in comparison to each other. If I take off the marks for being a slightly lazy production job, it's still the second highest ever idol album I've reviewed. However, this will be rather controversial as it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. People like me, who like idols, prog, metal and a bunch of even weirder shit, will probably love it. If someone's only into Jpop, or also likes other popular music but doesn't stray much outside of that, it'll be like getting punched in the face by a waiter at a very nice restaurant who then pisses on your dinner and then complains when you don't tip him. Still...



Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku - Chuunin review

What with finding fulltime employment that's rather more fulltime than my last fulltime job, I've found that my time to write blogs (as well as lyrics, music and prose) has decreased substantially. As such, I've been inactive on here and Beats for months. Still, with the end of the year in sight, I've once again got a huge backlog of reviews to sort out. For the first time this year I doubt I'll do any end of year awards post, might just end up being Beats of 2013 for the year's top albums. 

So, Ebichuu. Momoclo's mildly insane little-sister group whose sound is just that little bit more insane simply to compensate. I've spoken previously about how some of their singles enthused me, now it's time for their first original album that isn't a eulogy of their indie days.

Due to the nature of the album, and Ebichuu's "King of Gakugeikai" gimmick, it's structured like a school arts festival would be, with little interludes for a droning speech from a principal, some tuning, and random crap. I'm not counting these as actual songs for the purpose of this review, due to them having no musical merit and yet fitting the theme. I thus compromised by taking them out of the list entirely, thus my score will assume that this is merely a 15 song album.

Preamble: Always did approve of Ebichuu's not so generic utterly insane subculture and completely unrelated to the group in any way covers.

1. Chuning!! A silly, happy intro song that has some interesting chord progressions and not-so-interesting melodies in its brief 49 seconds of existence, but that sets the tone of the album to come quite well. 7/10

2. 仮契約のシンデレラ. The first song of theirs I heard, this song is not only pretty out there, it also has some of the most hilarious and genre-twisting lyrics I've ever heard in an idol song. Starts out with a sexy extended harpsichord intro because harpsichords are sexy. Then we get guitars and pianos and cheerleaders, and Ebichuu's terrible (yet terribly amusing) vocals. And then shouting. The verse melody is quite win. The prechorus melody is even better, along with all the random dialogue all over the bloody place. Also pi in the lyrics. Random. Chorus is nice and upbeat, while the lyrics remain silly. Really sums up the whole appeal of Ebichuu in one song. Insanity, speaking over, through, around and across the singing, with punchy melodies and general winningness. Mid-8 has some crazy synth solo which is epic, then random interlude, then a full-on waltz. Genre bending at its best, that change into 3/4 was lush. Then suddenly returns to chorus. Random but incredibly good start. 10/10

3. 梅. Alas, Hyadain. Starts out with some ambience and sort-of-sung vocal lines with little melodic value, then randomly goes into... well, a Hyadain song. You can even pinpoint exactly where you'd MIX from the first listen. Horns and guitars and everything else is synths. Then we get a jarring little pre-verse which is in a completely different key sig, and the verse follows swiftly with the same chord progression. Also, why the bloke goes from 1 to 3 I don't know. Vocals have improved though, especially in the prechorus. We also get some cool dramatic pauses after two quavers (you know, like the beginning of W's Koi no Fuga) though there's also some guitar whining which is cool. Chorus vocal melodies are pretty good. As a Hyadain song this is pretty good. Still, that clash between the chorus and the preverse is weird. Then rap (and Aiai doing something weird) before second verse. Skips the prechorus and goes into chorus straight away. Should have guessed that from Hyadain. Blaring horn solo. Also to be expected from Hyadain. Then prechorus buildup. Final chorus is cool. Guitar noises in the outro are win. 9/10

4. あたしきっと無限ルーパー. Dance song in my Ebichuu album. Pretty hard hitting club song too, up until dubstep hits. Chord progressions when not dubstepped up are quite good, along with the usual four-to-the-floor beat, syncopated higher pitched synths and decent vocals. Not quite Ebichuu-esque enough with vocals though, need more randomness. Also, everytime the dubstep comes in it seems to rip up my head. Such is dubstep. Mid-8 is pretty experimental for dance music and dubstep though, so it gains some marks back. Also, they keep saying place names and then "Give me GPS!" at the end, which is amusing. 6/10

5. R-O-B-O-C-K. Driving drum beat and then a very 90s chord progression gives us this. Megaphoned vocals lend a slightly grunge feel, though the music isn't grunge in the least. If anything it sounds like a weird mashup between 80s rap beats, Hanson and a twisted idea on noise music. Then we get a random chiptune with choral vocals and random phrases in Japanese that might have come out of Mr Roboto. Really quite out there and I can't really think of what to say. 7/10

6. 高校廃止法案. Random speech by the principal declaring that since High School (高校) doesn't fit into the whole small/medium/big theme of primary school (小学), middle school (中学) and university (大学), high school will be abolished and merged with middle school. Random. Not marked for purposes of this review.

7. 放課後ゲタ箱ロッケンロールMX. Hyadain's back and this time he brought the metal. The screaming at the beginning is win, especially Aiai's. Drums in this are awesome. Double bass drums in idol songs = fakjea. Guitars also damn win. Verse vocals have a nice melody. Lyrics are hilarious, wondering why anyone would steal shoes in this day and age. Preprechorus is quite brutal. Prechorus has the challenge letter, then Aiai lulz. Then chorus. Chorus melody is weak, but the music is so fast and win I pay no attention. Quick solo before second verse is win. Second verse itself is replaced by piano and soft singing, the preprechorus has no prechorus to go after it so it's straight into the chorus. This structural fuckery is why I still like Hyadain even after so many disappointments of late. The mid-8 has a vocal melody which is mirrored in the lyrics by simply calling out which note it is on the solfège, an interesting idea and rather nuts. The guitar solo isn't bad. Could have been longer. Aiai's last chorus buildup is epic, simply because Aiai. Then war at the end. 10/10

8. 大人はわかってくれない. I'm honestly glad they left the other A-side of this single off the album, because it was shit. Even if it was Hyadain. This one is much better. Rock and organs and good chord progs and vocals. Also d-beat on the drums. Underused in idol music. Prechorus is quite anthemic, and then the chorus is even more so. Ebichuu usually can't sing (well, usually is 98% of the time), but here it's turned into their strength. I've found that if you put enough voices in unison that are slightly out of tune, it actually works better for anthemic stuff than having all of them in tune. Unless you happen to be called Freddie Mercury or Hansi Kursch. Middle-8 goes a bit into progressive territory with piano and stuff building into a nice little riff with some harmonies and the like over it. Really quite a nice little song. 9/10

9. 体操. This song is a cover, a very well done cover of a very insane song by a group called YMO. They replaced the piano with synths that make it sound even weirder. This could quite easily go down as one of those songs which fuck with your mind so much they barely even count as idol music anymore, like 9nine's Nemurero Mori no Shoujo, Pucchimoni's Pucchimobics 2 and Melon Kinenbi's sweet suicide summer story. Still, just for causing my brain to squee in joy at the fact that it pays no heed to conventional modes or harmony, it's getting this. 10/10

10. 禁断のカルマ. Organs. Harpsichords. Guitars. Sex. Vocal melodies are also pretty damn win, but the arrangement is where this excels. The prechorus is especially win, with Aiai calling out to drink one's "passionate redness". Ah, vampires. Such a lacking lyrical theme in idol music. The chorus is incredibly long, and consists of two distinct parts. Makes a change. Such power in Aiai's voice. Dammit. I went much more in depth on this song over at Beats when it first came out so I'll spare you the highly musical terminology. Still, damn sweet song. 10/10

11. 誘惑したいや. More pop than most of this album, it begins with a decent chord prog with synths and a catchy as fuck little hook. The verse has a nice bassline, and a good little vocal melody. Guitars enter and make it a bit more interesting. Prechorus has another nice little melody that leads perfectly into the chorus, which, aside from the shaky as fuck vocals, is really quite win. Once again proving me right regarding lots of mildly out of tune voices being better than lots of in tune voices. Second verse has a minimalist beginning, then goes back into it normally rather than pulling a Hyadain and going into some different dimension entirely. The mid-8 is all wall-of-sound with hundreds of overdubbed vocal tracks surrounding and being quite epic actually, mashing up nicely with the main little vocal line. Then bass and piano buildup. Synths and niceness then draw us eventually through more and more buildup that crescendos into the final chorus. Really quite intriguing twist on Ebichuu's structural fuckery. Quite a glorious little track. 9/10

12. チューニング真っ最中. Tongue twisters.

13. いい湯かな? I see the length of this track and shiver. 8 whole minutes. Could this be a prog epic? Could it be an sonic experiment? Could it be doom metal? The answer is, unfortunately, no. It's an incredibly slow ballad. 80bpm, to be specific. The pianos and melodies are nice, but the lyrics are silly. Basically the chorus just asks various people whether they're having a good bath. Reminds me a bit of the Sakugaku graduation ballads, just without quite so much in the way of musical accomplishment. I could do with some call and response, for a start. The arrangement is rather lush though. The middle-8 has some interesting key usage, but yea. Still just a normal ballad, and the only reason it's so long is because it's so slow. 7/10

14. 手をつなごう. I'm not a massive fan of this song. The melodies are pretty boring, the arrangement is insipid, and it's full of the same kind of lackingness that defined the period when I hated on Tsunku for his bullshit weedy synths (like on Onna ga Medatte Naze Ikenai). The arrangement is somehow empty. There's bass. There are synths (that are weedy). There's a bassdrum and some clapping. But nothing that approaches a good hook, nothing that approaches complexity. Nothing that even approaches anything musically interesting. Worst song on the album yet. 3/10

15. 中人Dance Music. Disco time. Pretty much everything here is as it should be in the genre. Could probably attribute it to any disco artist and people wouldn't raise an eyebrow. Therefore, it becomes problematic. Ebichuu are supposed to fuck with genres, not do sincere tributes to them. Everything's good, it's a damn good disco song. I like a bit of disco, and I like this. But as an Ebichuu song, I at least want them to randomly insert something ridiculous and bizarre into it. Still, as a song I like. 7/10

16. 頑張ってる途中. This is a better song that's upbeat, unlike that Te wo Tsunagou crap. Some brassband giving niceness. Pianos and bass in the verse with an interesting melody. No shitty synths. Harmonies in the prechorus, nice change. Chorus melody isn't amazing, but it's not bad. Bass in this song is actually quite proficient. I like. Mid-8 has some good ska-esque elements, then some random rap bits. Quite fun. 8/10

17. あるあるフラダンス. Hawaiian aloha thing for a closer. Ukelele is fun. Little guitar lines also pretty. Vocally and lyrically it's quite amusing. Musically it does actually have something it reminds me of, coming at the end of an album and being completely at odds with everything else that came before it. Kinniku Shoujotai randomly put Shinjin Band no Theme at the end of the Shinjin album which was basically the same but without the ukelele. Still, good. 7/10

Overall: Started out strongly, and whilst it tailed off a bit towards the end, it's still not a bad album. The length is a bit too long, and obviously the theme of the Gakugeikai was probably a bit much, but it worked. Hopefully the next album has some better oversight, and cuts out some of the crap to let the better material shine through.



FAKSM #25: Le Festin d'Esope

Okay, so it's not really a song, but the latest Fucking Amazing Kickass Song of the Moment is undoubtedly fucking amazing, fucking kickass, and fucking fucked up. I'd say it thus qualifies, despite the fact that it's an Étude, not a song. So, what the fuck am I talking about?

Back in the mid-1800s, Paris was a veritable smelting pot of Europe's musical ideas and was frankly full of astounding geniuses. Some of the best Romantic era composers lived there, including Chopin, Berlioz, Liszt, Mendelssohn and Bellini. Also, there was an actual Parisien living there, a nutcase called Charles-Valentin Alkan. Those of you familiar with Chopin and Liszt may now be nodding in agreement, while the rest will probably have been lost at Chopin and by Bellini wondering if I was listing a range of European sausages.


A Brief Response to "The Evolution of Idol Music"

For those who don't know, I'm in a band. My bandmate is a musical prodigy, gifted on everything he picks up, and incredibly knowledgeable about the history of music. He's also fairly into idols, though that mostly means old school Momusu and the occasional other song. However, when he turns his prodigious mind to something I say offhand in a tweet, and then writes a thesis on it, I can't help but try and plug it.

Until, that is, I actually spot a minor flaw.

The post in question is called Evolution of Idol Music, and it examines whether or not we're currently in the late baroque period of idol music. The original plan was for it to be a Roundtable discussion, but I got back from work that day and the fucker had already written it. I will warn you, the post is video heavy and the theme is laggy on its own, so it may crash your browser.

So, once you've trawled through that, feel free to return.


°C-ute, sunburn, psychos and a hangover.

I awoke. I awoke into a nightmare. I awoke into a nightmare, which, by some complete and ridiculous circumstance, was the exact same nightmare I had just awoken from. What happened next is completely boring and of no relevance whatsoever, so I won't bother to tell you. The camera sitting in my bag, however, is of interest, because I didn't use it at all on Friday, much to my own exasperation. It was just too hot to think about anything, so I didn't think and didn't get it out. But anyway...

Thus begins my newest journey of pain, treachery, hunger, excitement, vigour, amnesia, pain, treachery, hunger, excitement, amnesia, pain, treachery, hunger, amnesia, pain, treachery, amnesia, pain, amnesia and amnesia. I awoke. I awoke into a nightmare. I...

seem to be repeating myself.

Anyway, at approximately 4am on an incredibly bright, sunny, and horrifically dismal day, I awoke. I packed. I prepared. I ate. I showered. I left. I got on a train.

>> Fast forward

I arrived in London safely, generally tired as fuck and unhappy to be alive. Almost 3 years since I'd last been in London, and not a day of it too long. I must fast forward again, here, because I entered the tube, which, under no circumstances must anyone ever write about, lest people realise how horrid it actually is thus stop using it.

I got to St. Pancras and enjoyed a leisurely stroll at about 10mph through crowds of stunned and mildly tired tourists, and arrived at the check in to find it was helpfully before the time I was supposed to arrive. I checked in, and, after arming myself with some delightful Irn-Bru and some quick-melting chocolate, I departed.

Eurostar is shit. I suppose it's to be expected, but it was shit anyway. Even if planes were mildly more expensive, it was shit. Cramped seats, check. Unpleasant seating arrangement, check. On the other hand, there was a cold air vent which helped to keep my chocolate from melting briefly so I could eat some of it.

I arrived in Paris around 11am to find it was even hotter and more annoying than I remembered. I still couldn't find the underground route from Gare du Nord to La Chapelle, so I walked the outside way, becoming mildly roasted in the process. My jacket was removed. The sun began to eat my skin. I continued on my way.

The Métro is, as ever, uncomplicated (and much cheaper than the Tube), so I got to Pigalle with resounding success. After being accosted by a random bloke trying to sell me something and me pretending to be English (a ruse I kept up all weekend, to make the Parisiens hate me more), I headed to La Cigale to see what had been described as a "massive" queue.

It wasn't that bad, I think Buono's was bigger at that time of day. I eventually found Gina(RAWR) skulking in the shade, which in hindsight was a pretty good idea. Would that I had thought of it. I also ran into Tiffany, whose username I can never remember, and Chobineko, who didn't remember me. I began looking for Mieke (Miekie1991) and Kelly (Kerichan12) as they were usually hardcore queuers (Buono signing aside, when they arrived pretty much the same time I did) and would thus be at the front, but I was told they'd just departed for somewhere less infernally plagued by a rather loud large red lifeform and an evil glowing orb of pain in the sky.

Anyway, I returned back to Gina and her company of fellow Brits whose names I never got, and waited some more. After a while, various people from this group wandered hither and thither, and the large red lifeform approached me and (loudly) demanded to know why I was standing in the line. I explained I was guarding bags for my friends who had arrived much earlier in the day, and that I honestly didn't care that he wanted me to go to the back, I would when the Brits returned. He seemed briefly mollified, anyway. The Brits returned. I stayed to talk to them whilst trying to remain somewhat apart from the queue. My arms began to tingle. They turned red...

I stole some aftersun from Gina. Wrong order, I know, but then I applied suncream afterwards. Didn't work.

At this juncture Lolli, Kea and Shirow appeared, and we briefly reminisced over some good times of days past before they headed to the back to avoid the red scourge. Maoh arrived and I did some catching up with him too, before he headed off to parts unknown as well. Gina and I heard the red menace abusing some other poor sod, so we returned to the back before he could return his bitter attentions to us. Gina disappeared for a while to relieve herself, and disappeared for a good half an hour before she returned with Lolli and Shirow and beer. We headed up to queue with the aforementioned and Kea, and got started on some tinnies. Or rather, Shirow got started, the rest of us had a few at most. Around then, oroboras finally made his appearance, and we headed off to the hotel room to dump stuff. Upon returning we found Shirow had forced several beers on a hapless Japanese guy called Kyohei, who was hilarious. He'd had some pretty big troubles in France, his iPhone stolen and so on, but still seemed pretty happy to be there. Still, for a newbie Japanese fan (under 6 months) to attend his first C-ute live in Paris is pretty damn insane.

At some point around here I found Mieke and handed over some glowsticks for her use in the concert, before Kelly came back in the line to talk to everyone, and then brought stroopwafels for epic justice. Then I scared her off again with the only Dutch I can remember from when I used to be capable of reading it. It was rather rude though... Also bumped into Morningtime and MTSayuRin for a while somewhen.

Tom, Paul and Matt arrived, then departed again just as quickly to obtain alcohol, kindly buying me a bottle of water in the process, and Kyohei a pack of Heineken. They came back in style, with glasses, cocktail umbrellas and some foul-tasting concoction I can only imagine passes for alchopop in Paris. By this juncture Kyohei was absolutely paraletic, and he carried on drinking. I also gave another beer to another poor lonely-looking Japanese guy reading a book and spoke to him for a while. C-ute arrived or something like that and the crowd surged forward, once again we sneakily moved forward into the vacated space.

From here to the concert it's pretty boring, except Paul, Tom and Shirow buying some cheap coloured canes (the "colouring" was because they were wrapped in coloured sellotape...) to extend the gentlemanly image and replace the need for glowsticks. So, we entered the concert hall. We were scattered to the four corners of the hall, I was blinded by one of the hall lights and got a headache, thus in the beginning I was rather tetchy. Then the light disappeared, and the music began...


The Treasure Box
Watashi ha Tensai (Nakky/Maimai)
Chikyuu Kara no Sanjuusou (Maimi/Airi/Chisa)
Adam to Eve no Dilemma
Kanashiki Amefuri
Maasara Blue Jeans
Ookina Ai de Motenashite
Disco Queen
Sekai Ichi Happy na Onna no Ko
Everyday Zekkouchou
Hitorijimeshitakatta Dakenanoni
Aitai Aitai Aitai na
Darenimo Naishou no Koi wo Shiteiruno
Bokura no Kagayaki
Midnight Temptation
Kiss Me Aishiteru
Chou Wonderful
Tokaikko Junjou
Dance de Bakoon
Seishun Song

As you can see, it was a setlist full of energy and pretty awesome happenings. The beginning was possibly a bit laggy to me, having three songs I'd not heard (The Treasure Box, Watashi ha Tensai and Chikyuu Kara no Sanjuusou... possibly new album songs or something), but Shock was shocking in that everybody sang. Let that sink in for a minute. The first MC became disturbing by the sheer amount of Maimai calls. She seems more popular in France than she is in Japan. In fact, in France she seemed to be the most popular. Was odd. I suppose now she's grown into her head she's more likeable or something. Weird Suzuka person is back again. Wish someone else would do these live translations, she's such a nuisance. The two new single tracks went over quite well, gaining quite a bit in energy from the live performance. Massara Blue Jeans and Ookina Ai de Motenaishite were, thankfully, the TRUE KVLT ORIGINAL versions rather than the shit 2012 remakes. Sorry, but a Massara without a motherfucking bass solo is no Massara at all. Disco Queen was somewhat devoid of audible fan interaction, the wota routine for that song being mostly furicopy. However, the pace was upped a notch by Sekaiichi Happy na Onna no Ko being damn cool live. After this, they invited Chobineko up on stage to thank her for petitioning for the concert. Then she got hugs and the roof blew off. Whether it was from fans raging or fans being happy for her, I'm not sure. I'm in the latter group, anyway. She may not be universally loved, and while I'm not sure why she provokes such mixed reactions, she's a nice enough girl and I'm happy to know that at least some fan-idol interaction goes both ways. If this provokes jealousy, maybe fans should be looking to themselves to think what they're doing wrong, not simmering because Chobi's doing something right. Either way, to me it was quite a heartwarming moment when Airi, then the rest of C-ute gave Chobi a hug. Half reminded me of Chuxnon at Momoclo last year with A-rin, only Chuxnon decided against getting a hug from the rest of Momoclo and got another hug from A-rin. 

Everyday Zekkouchou is one of my least favourite C-ute singles, but it held up decently live. Next up was Hitorijimeshitakatta Dakenanoni, to which I was having immense fun with and then blissed out during the epic prog mid-8 section. Aitai Aitai Aitai na provided some glorious dancing. By glorious, I mean that Maimi, Nakky and (perhaps oddly) Maimai had such ferocious hip movements it was rather beyond "mildly" erotic. Though it was the solo that made me jizz. And dat choir and organ bit. Oh yes. Darenimo is, I think, another song I don't know, and thus don't actually remember. However, Bokura no Kagayaki was epic (I've long had a soft spot for it), and then the fucking amazing kickass trilogy of awesomeness from Chou Wonderful 6 came in. I, to put it mildly, went wild. Had been awake nearly 15 hours on 3 hours sleep, and I was more pumped up than I'd been in about a year. To be fair, all three songs are amazing even on CD, live they were more impressive and DAT MOTHERFUCKING SOLO in Midnight Temptation... jizzed, and airguitared in an idol concert. Only ever done that once before, during Mouretsu at Momoclo. To be fair though, it's almost impossible to not airguitar to them, so epic are they. Chou Wonderful and Kiss Me Aishiteru were also epic. Then we had Tokaikko Junjou to round us out. The fans started chanting for an encore, and knowing what to expect, I turned to Gina and told her to expect 25 minutes of chanting and then for them to fuck us over. The documentary cameras came out and filmed the crowd, and Gina replied that they were probably only doing it for the documentary, then would come the turfing out.

Imagine my surprise when the stage lights went back on and C-ute reappeared and did Dance de Bakoon. Imagine my further surprise when we got another (hugely elongated) MC, with some failure French letter reading. Then we finished off with the rearranged group version of Seishun Song and Jump, to which much jumping was done. Overall, it was an amazing concert, probably actually better than the Buono! one just for not fucking over the fans. There were a few blips, some songs were TV-length rather than album length. I would have preferred some representation from the third album, Tokaikko aside, and the fourth album, Seishun Song aside, and maybe have done without the sub-divided songs that I didn't know. Still, was win. Here's to another, or, finances permitting, me getting my ass back to Japan sometime in the near future.

Post concert, Kea and Lolli borrowed some money from me to buy themselves a CD with the handshake ticket in it, I followed suit and grabbed a tshirt too because mine was ruined. I now had a ticket to Expo and a handshake ticket, and no idea what to do with them. 

I went outside to look for people and failed dismally, but managed to corner a few people into agreeing to go to the Aussie Bar with us again (several of us had plotted in advance on Hello!Online to that effect already), though understandably some of the hardcore queuers like Tomasz (Aard1ark) and Chobi wanted to actually sleep rather than get wasted. A shame. Whilst people hung around outside the venue to see C-ute go home, Kea bought me some food to get rid of some of the money she owed me, and because I was starving, having realised I'd not actually eaten since like 4am aside from 3 cubes of semi-melted chocolate on the Eurostar. orob and Gina headed off to eat/go home respectively. I eventually went and stood and waited around too, before giving up and retreating to the grass verge with Matt because legs aren't capable of standing for prolonged periods of time. Eventually we returned, eventually C-ute came out (two hours later, nearly), eventually we went to the pub.

Orob, Maoh and a few of the Japanese guys had arrived somewhat before the motley crew of gentlebeings who descended with a vengeance upon Café Oz that night, but I think we broke it. Two guys who were there soon left. Not long after that, pool tables were being moved, curtains drawn, lights dimmed and UVs switched on as the hottest party in the world kicked off. Succeeding in flirting with the barman, Kea managed to get the C-ute Paris CD put on, and we wotagei'd through most of it. We had many a good conversation. We kecha'd the barman, who gave everyone a free shot of Baileys. We got viciously drunk, except Mieke, who was teetotalling but still looked like a total wreck (she was feeling pretty ill). Even after the C-ute stopped and the DJ started at midnight, we carried on drinking, educating the Japanese wota in British pub culture in an Aussie bar in Paris. We carried on into the wee hours of the morning before finally departing for some picture times.

Liberally yoinked from everyone's Facebook accounts.
I spoke some more with the Japanese dudes I hadn't had a chance to speak with yet, once again finding my Japanese skills improve massively after an influx of alcohol, as well as get a the reactions of the concert from a now-near-death-from-drunkenness Kyohei. After this orob and I headed back to our hotel with Crazed Lurker, arie and some other Dutch guys, and Brian from Hong Kong. We arrived rather inebriated (me probably moreso, on account of having drank rather more) and sunburned, and then slept.

The second day dawned, bright and early, and I awoke to darkness. Unfortunately it was because of a blackout curtain rather than it still being dark, as the sun was once again intolerable. I showered and headed off, bidding farewell to oroboras who had a train back to England to catch before the handshake event started. I grabbed a quick breakfast in McDonald's because I couldn't be bothered to walk to Blanche to catch the Métro, then caught it at Pigalle, and before I knew it I was on the dreaded RER headed to Parc des Expositions. Heat. So much heat. It was insane. Then I got to the Expo centre, walked about two miles within around the looping queues (to be fair I probably got in ahead of people who started "queuing" (French queuing = walking incredibly slowing) about half an hour ahead of me) and finally got in. I immediately headed for the "Photocall" where the handshakes would be, and found nothing. I found that odd, so walked to the Bishibishi booth to look at some goods. The prices were rather insane, so I walked back to the Photocall. Still nobody there, so I walked around and took some pictures.

A dancing robot.
The ripoff booth.
Who should I then be tapped on the back by but Crazed Lurker, fresh from the late night drinkings. After some waiting, I decided I really couldn't be assed to wait in a line that didn't exist for a handshake event more than 3 hours away, so I dragged him to the Live House in the hope that Paul, Tom and Matt would show up. Shockingly, they did, less than 2 minutes later. In the dearth of anything more interesting to do, I joined them (and dragged Crazed Lurker along with me) to watch a new dance group called J☆Dee’Z, and a group of idols who make even Momoclo seem sane: Denpagumi.inc.

From Japan Expo's description, I expected J☆Dee’Z to be a group of dancers, who didn't sing. Imagine my surprise when they started singing. And it wasn't bad, good dance music with pummeling beats and a high level of skill from all four girls. I even chose my oshi, because one girl was called Momoka and I don't think there's ever been a group with a Momoka in it in which said Momoka has not been my oshi.

Their performance lasted about 18 minutes, but was good while it lasted. Dunno any of their songs, but they did get everyone to memorise a dancemove in a song which I can only assume was called Daisuki and the crowd performed it along with them. They're not quite Dream5 level yet, but looking forward to see what they can do in the future.

Momoka and Ami... I think.

After ten minutes or so of prep time Denpa arrived on stage for their mildly insane overture, before ripping into WWD and taking us on a journey of about twenty genres in six minutes. Their set was littered with favourites like Den Den Passion, Sabotage, Denparade Japan, Kirakira Tune and Future Diver. While Pinky wasn't in attendance for some reason, it was still a pretty cool time. Even though my glowstick ran out. I picked Risa as my oshi because she looked so damn cool, with Mirin as runner up.

They also announced some kind of drama/movie thing starring them on the big screen which was impossible to see from where I was. Either way, the reaction sounded like it might be good.

So, with the gig finished, we bolted to the handshakes where suddenly, the numbers had skyrocketed. I went to speak to Mieke, Kelly and Maoh for a bit, and then (eventually) Shirow, Lolli and Kea turned up, fashionably late as ever (especially so in Shirow's case). I queued up and waited, speaking briefly in the line to Tiffany, and then started thinking of what I wanted to say. 15 minutes late, C-ute appeared, and I started shuffling my way forward. I eventually reached the front and had Maimai in front of me.

"Merci beaucoup!" she said in surprisingly sufficient French to trip my brain switch over to its French gear, wasting me a second in changing it back into Japanese mode. I briefly stumbled over something so simple I would have said it in less than a second the previous night regarding the fan's reaction to Maimai in France being extraordinary, and then got pushed along.

Hold on, I thought to myself. I thought it was supposed to be at least 5 seconds for a handshake.

Unfortunately my bad experiences continued. With Nakky I tried to say hopefully next time they'd come to the UK, but  again got thrown off by the French and again got pushed away before my time. With Maimi I managed the switch quickly and busted in a quickfire "イギリス人ですけどね・・・" after the rote "Merci", before failing to recover enough time to say that I wished that she'd remained an Ame Onna before showing her my sunburned arms. Unfortunately I failed. With Airi I stood my ground and resisted attempts to push me along until I'd told her to do her best with her guitar lessons, and that hopefully one day I'd get to see her do an acoustic solo live. Finally one I could be proud of.

With Chisa, I hadn't planned to say much, but oddly she didn't say "Merci", she just said "Hi!" which threw me off even more. She must have heard me speaking to Maimi (by that point I think everyone else in front of me had been moved on). I busted out four quick words ("頑張り屋さんとして頑張ってね!") and she probably seemed the happiest out of the lot of them, oddly. Anyway, I moved out, received a badge, and then headed to find people. I spoke to Kelly, Maoh and Crazed Lurker, and told them how quick the handshakes actually were. Then I took a picture of the three of them and some random person who jumped in.

Then I spoke to Shirow, Kea and Lolli and said I'd probably be going in a minute, but I wanted to take some pics of the girls first. Unfortunately, the left hand side of the barriers were crowded, so I went around the right hand side and got lucky, though all I ended up with were some side-shots of Maimai.

I also grabbed a decent shot of Morningtime getting his hand shaken by Maimai, so I'll post it here until he tells me to remove it.

Morningtime's patented "okay" sign.
After this I hovered around to the other side, grabbing a really quick (but crap) shot of Airi, taken over the heads of several people.

Can't even blame it on Mieke this time...

I saw Mieke in line, anyway, and went over to bid farewell, before she bid me grab Kelly upon her exit from the handshake and send her back over. I saw Kelly come out soon after this, in tears of joy. I passed on my message and made haste to leave, bidding a brief (and second or third) farewell to Kea, Lolli and Shirow, and then made my merry way home through the burning sun. I grabbed something to eat on the way, cogent of the fact that I'd otherwise be possibly 24 hours before next eating. It was shit, but hey, it's Expo food. Got approached by my final tout of the weekend, who offered me something, before I failed at even falsely claiming I was English, such was my state of mental disrepair. I reached the train platform and there were about 3000 people on it. So much for "leaving the Expo before 4pm is really easy." Twenty minutes later, another 2000 had joined and a train still hadn't come. By the time one did, possible 8000 people were trying to push onto one train. I sat out and swooped at the next one, merely four minutes later. I got a seat, but it was still pushing 50C in the train from the sheer mass of humanity. The problems continued when we reached Gare du Nord, as the train doors started closing before I even got within 5 metres of the door. I briefly remembered some French in order to yell at people pushing onto the train, and some helpful black guys gave me a massive push through just about everyone and left me stumbling onto the platform. Ah, bliss.

The battle after this was less vigourous, but no less annoying. The wait for Eurostar in Gare du Nord was about 10 times longer than the wait in St. Pancras. I suppose having a custom built station is rather more effective than screwing up an already busy hub station. After a bizarre series of customs and security (French passport control - outbound; UK passport control - inbound; French security - outbound; customs) and another 10 minute walk to the end of a very long platform (hooray carriage 1?) I ended up on a horrible table seat, with more tossers around me. Luckily the woman with a screaming toddler on her lap in the seat next to me decided to spend the majority of the trip not next to me. I suppose attending concerts and working up a sweat has some benefits.

Got back to London after several delays, swept through customs, and then got accosted on the way out of the customs door into the station proper. Ooh err, I though, expecting the worst, only to find it was a fellow C-ute fan, who saw my T-shirt and just wanted to say that it was an excellent gig and he'd see me at the next one.

World never fails to surprise.

After this I decided London needed some Krv, so I headed up to the Brewdog in Camden, grabbed a few beers, bought a few more to take home, and then headed home. I arrived too. Otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this, eh.

So, yes. Another brilliant wota-weekend. As I said before (I think), maybe next time I'll get to do it in Japan. If not, then there's always the next Europe event. Unless it's Berryz. Or S/mileage. Though who knows.

Still, maybe next time... less sun, please France?