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.


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