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2& - LIVE IDoL ARTIST review

So, everyone (I assume) who reads this blog has probably seen me gushing about Saki at some point over the past year. And now, finally, the time has come when I can do what I do best, and rip apart some music. Today I attended Saki's birthday live, which was frankly awesome, and the price of entry was to buy her album, which was released today. So I did. Despite already having purchased two copies. Well, idol marketing gimmicks never change. So I have two spare copies if anyone's interested after reading this review.

Because I have a chance, and because, after all, Saki is a "live idol artist", I'll go into some of what happened today. The hall was covered in balloons and feathers. She had a live band. She wore a new black and red dress that she broke even before the end of the live, and because she wasn't wearing anything except underwear under it, had to go do an impromptu costume change. She stagedived. She jumped into the crowd and started leading us in running around. It was great fun.

So yes, if you get the chance to see 2& do so, because it's usually quite nuts.

Anyway, onto the album. It has 9 songs, not massive, you might think, but it's 47 minutes long so longer than a lot of real albums, so that's what I'm classing it as.



Preamble: The album cover is basically a really weirdly rendered image of fans kechaing the stage. Weird for an idol album, but hell, it's different.

1. 片目のLiliy. This song starts off in the same way the album will continue, with some cool rock surges and Saki sounding amazing. The verse and chorus all come and go in somewhat of a blur due to how sexy the music is. But the highlight of the song is when the music stops and she just yells "助けて!" at the top of her lungs. The music in this is glorious, wonderful little riffs and basslines that draw you in and Saki's voice that leaves you begging for more. Glorious start to the album. 10/10

2. 限界圧縮人形. The beginning of this song has the most flangey guitar riff ever. But it's sexy as hell. Then bass and drums. And Saki's voice again singing sweet sweet sounds over the top. The music goes from sparse to dense and back again, and Saki's voice is the main constant, staying strong throughout. The bassline in this song is fantastic. The chorus is also really a fistpumping affair. You know... if you weren't too busy furicopying. In the middle-8 there's a simple bass riff where Saki walks around in a circle during lives, and then starts going slowmotion when the flange guitars come back in. Truly fun to watch. Also nice to listen to on CD.  10/10

3. ネガポジmonster. Ah, Negaposi Monster. The song that first got me into Saki. It's held up well, especially in its newly re-recorded form. Again, the bass is funky as hell, with the guitar pretty much playing backup throughout most of the song. But again, Saki holds it together with her vocals. Also, in the chorus there's some glorious tap guitar going on. There's some glorious progressive feels in the middle-8, despite it being funky. Now Saki's screaming again. It's all good. Seriously fun song. 10/10

4. 兎と奴隷とカシオペア. Cassiopeia starts with a glorious little bass riff on the top strings, guitar noises and Saki singing just about as high into head voice as she can. Then we get some rock feel, which pushes the song along a bit. Then it quietens down a bit and we get to explore some more sonic landscapes, then the guitar starts noodling and the drums go a bit manic, and we get some glorious vocals. The guitars and bass interplay in this bit are orgasm worthy. And Saki's voice just chills me with how epic it is. Then another section with some headbanging. Then some crazy blastrolling on the drums into the chorus. At least, I assume it's the chorus. It's the happiest and fastest part of the song. Then we get a long slow part where it slowly builds up into a thing of pure beauty. This song is so prog in its layout. I lost count of the sections, but it's at least as rhapsodical as Iine, if not moreso, as the only thing that actually repeats is the 30 odd seconds of the chorus, which is a variation anyway. 10/10

5. 未来を. This is it. The most sexy intro of all. Saki's voice in the intro is just perfection. Then we're into fast funky rock again. Really, this could be a million-selling Red Hot Chilli Peppers single and no one would bat an eyelid. My mind can't keep up with how awesome it is. They've stuck some vocal effects at the beginning of the second verse, which keeps me from breaking the limiter on it. But it's still perfect. The chorus is perfect. The verse is perfect. In the middle 8 there's some nice bass riffs and then guitar buildup which is shwing. GUITAR SOLO! There aren't enough words to express how much win this song actually is. 10/10

6. ○の理論. 8 minutes and 21 seconds. This is one long assed idol song. Honestly, before today's live I'd never heard it so I had no idea what to expect. But it's (as you could probably tell from the length) progressive as fuck. Starts with some slow guitar and keys with Saki's voice sitting just on top. Then the funk starts. The riffs continue but the vocals, bass and drums break off into different patterns, almost reminding me of some jazzy type rock. It's been two minutes and we're still on the second riff, but because the bass and drums keep changing it isn't boring. Oh wait, third riff has started. Saki's vocal lines in this are superb. Then we get everything except the drums stop for a bit. And everything slows down to a really slow pace. Then it gets violent. Then after that section, we get some sexy bass twanging, very funky and sweet. Been 4:30 and no repeated sections yet. Then suddenly keyboards whine in and we get a chorus. Completely out of context to what surrounds it. Such a shock to the system. Certainly would wake you up. Now we repeat some sections. Saki's just singing "Oh yay!" at points and it still sounds good. She could sing pretty much anything and I'd like it, I think. It sort of goes hyper at the end repeating the same thing whilst speeding up to insanity and my brain has broken. 10/10

7. ドリーム. Dream starts off sounding like a cute 90s pop rock tune, with the guitars like they are now. But when the main riff and bass (which is turned up to 11) hit, the comparisons fly out the window. Again, the pounding bassline and guitars make a sexy platform for Saki to stand on, and then she does it with ease. The vocal melodies are sweet as a really sweet thing. The prechorus is especially wonderful. The chorus is a pure rock thing, and Saki sounds better than all of the early 2000s pop rock singers put together. Some of the slower bits in the buildup chorus are quite sweet as well. A lovely little song. 10/10

8. リアル. Real and Dream are built off the same structure. But there the difference ends. Whereas Dream tries to cute you into submission before bludgeoning you, Real has some pan-faded guitars to confuse you then just hits you with a hammer to the face with one of the best fucking riffs I've ever heard. Again, vocal melodies worth listening for alone. The guitar lines are wonderfully lush, and the drums build everything up nicely. The prechorus is an amazing buildup to the chorus, which will rip your face off. So much pace and energy even on CD you'll be hard pressed to not start jumping around like an idiot listening to it. The only thing they couldn't do on the recorded version is include Saki's gymnastics in the mid8 somehow. The buildup chorus is also wonderful. This is perfection in aural form. 10/10

9. ポッピングシャワーの雨. Popping Shower... after Real it's a shock to the system. Where Real mixed shoegaze and power into one (somehow), Popping Shower is funk as fuck. Still, the riffs are glorious and the bass and drums keep everything intact. Saki's also cute as hell on this song. They've added some spoken overdubs after the singing parts with her repeating lyrics or laughing. The chorus is powerful as hell, and the prechorus does a nice job of building us up to it. They've also recorded a crowd for the chorus, in which Saki does a call and response with the crowd yelling "zutto!" So they've actually put the crowd response in. They even had Saki's usual MCish thing in the middle 8 where she tells the crowd that 2& = Saki and them, and then basically has them all yell Double And over and over. Which they've also kept in, a nice touch. Gives it a bit of a live album feel towards the end. 10/10


Overall: So, shit. It finally happened. Albums that do this to me are few and far between. The last was Ayreon's The Human Equation back in 2004. This album is damn good alternative rock (a hint of shoegaze at times) with strong funky basslines and cool guitar licks, supported by a solid drum foundation. All the music on this album was done with a live band, so it's all pretty natural sounding. Saki's singing is also damn good: whilst live there can be the imperfections caused by hoarseness or the sound board being set up incorrectly, in a studio environment that basically all fades, so her performance here is top notch. Nothing wrong at all with the production (it was mastered in Sony's studios), the strength of the music is fucking fantastic (thanks Shachou), and yea. Honestly the only nitpicky bit I have would be that I think Real would be a better album ender than Popping Shower because of how powerful is, but I can see that because of Saki being a "Live Idol Artist" they wanted to show a feel of that during the last song, and Popping Shower is probably the most vocal the crowd get so they chose that.

So yes. This is the first idol album to achieve what this has just done.

Other albums that have done this to me include Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, Led Zeppelin's 4, Opeth's Blackwater Park, and Ayreon's Human Equation. There aren't many. It epitomises perfection. I've always said that my rankings are somewhat logarithmic so that the highest marks are almost impossible to achieve.

Well, Saki deserves it. So does Shachou for writing such glorious songs.

10/10

2 comments:

  1. Hey there, Krv!
    So, I've been reading your posts for quite a while now, and found myself to enjoy your way of writing quite a lot!
    Anyways, like you, I am a fan of the J-Pop and Rock/Metal genres. However, after listening to ネガポジmonster, i began to start feeling like i've never really paid attention to anything other than what was blatantly thrown at my face, like AKB48 or the Foo Fighters, for example.
    So, if you please would do, I'd like some recommendations of groups and bands to listen to. Lately, i have found music to be quite the hobby for me, so i would really like to expand my horizons.
    Thank you in advance, from Jorge B.

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    Replies
    1. For stuff like 2&, you'd have to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers really. That's the only thing I can liken it to outside the idol world. In other underground idol groups, you have Guso Drop, Saki's "other" group, which is a bit more on the crazy side. If you want solo idols, I'd really recommend Eren and Kumada Kanae. Both have really good live performances and interesting songs, though Kumada can often just play Buono's Hatsukoi Cider 13 times in a row.

      Lolisyn, Zekkyousuru60do and Next Shoujo Jiken are other good underground groups. Tsuki to Taiyou I like, but wouldn't recommend going to one of their shows without a great deal of preparation as they have the highest proportion of pinchike fans in the idol world.

      Necronomidol are produced by an American dude and their songs are a strange mix between black metal, dark ambient and techno. Worth a shot.

      As for metal, I'll just tell you to try Haken and see where you end up.

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