C74 brought us more, much more than 2 fantastic new MOSAIC.WAV singles. A bunch of denpa/electropop/gamewave stuff came out which I've yet to report about, mostly because I was so busy dedicating all of August to the one band that really matters in the end. Regardless, much like GWAVE's last two albums previously escaped my radar, IOSYS... I mean Albatrosicks also eluded my grasp and released a follow-up to last year's self-titled debut LP. Maybe it was completely unannounced, maybe everyone was in the know but me. It is kinda hard to keep up with all of the multiple IOSYS releases and flash videos.
Now I'm pretty sure most of you readers already know about IOSYS's attempt to break away from their meme-band stigma and march into a brand new market. Truth be told, they are probably attracting the same fans as before as the overall style isn't all that different. But the fact remains that Albatrosicks' songs are much more refined and concise than the average IOSYS song. I mentioned the previous album, which I should really have reviewed a long time ago and probably will before the end of the year. It was a solid offering of versatile yet cohesive songs that worked really well as a whole, but it didn't have a major impact on its intended market i.e. people like me. In fact I'm not sure that it was really all that well received in Japan, which is why I was so surprised when I found out about this new album.
1. どう聴いてもイントロです。: This is a short, rather pointless instrumental intro that does not feature any interesting ideas There's really no point in listening to this track so I usually just skip it. Off to a bad start, eh?
2. Planet Liberation: Maybe it's just me and my overexposure to all things 中田ヤスタカ these days, but it sounds like IOSYS wore a lot of Perfume while composing this track... if you catch my really, really obvious drift. They get some points for that... but then lose them instantly as the title track is nothing but 4 minutes of the same riff. They probably should have given the name Planet Liberation to a better track that would make the album stand out even more.
3. ミコリザ4世: This is a bit more like it! It opens up with one of the guys screaming "Let's Steal It!" like his life depended on it, over some hectic noise that eventually goes into fast paced techno rythm driven by sweet snare rolls. Then about 1 minute into the song, a loud and perfectly distorted electric guitar takes this song and catapults it to the next level, complete with strong breakdowns and energetic picking. They lyrics convey a strong steampunk setting, with appropriate Engrish gems (White powder junkie people, Chaos revolver mad guardmen)... color me impressed. This is exactly the kind of song Albatrosicks should focus on. The final breakdown will have you banging your head whether you like metal or not. A+, will listen to again!
4. 暴走マンボウのテーマ: Finally moving back into the realm of denpa, this song is in line with the more popular flash tunes... Overdrive! The lyrics don't really make sense, there's some 8bit and video games sound effects, really high pitched miko vocals, yup denpa indeed. They even found a way to incorporate a car's horn + a referee's whistle into the song without making them sound obnoxious. And they use a fucking wah-wah on their guitar. Good lawd, I'm in heaven.
5. 3 Quintillion Starry Heavens: Somehow the name reminds me of all the ZUN-inspired tracks and somehow I'm not too far off either considering the tempo they used on this. Actually if you've already heard their first album, this is kind of a follow-up track to Dreamin' Trip, which was one of the LP's highlights despite being a slow tune. Oh, the lyrics are completely written in English, but you wouldn't know that just from listening to the song! Sunday Early Morning, anyone?
6. ぽたぽたユーカリプタス: This song does not need more cowbell, because it's omnipresent throughout and it kinda gets old to tell the truth. This is a happy-go-lucky kind of track that takes a turn for the weird towards the end. It's denpa, sure, but it's a little too fucked up even for myself. Really, really weird tune.
7. Determination of Singing: The first few seconds introduce the rest of the song very well. Deep and low grooves that could be seen as danceable, especially when the chorus hits. Much like the title track displayed, it seems that a huge capsule/Shibuya-kei influence took over Dr.ARM these days. Miko does a wonderful job of singing clear yet solemn vocals that adequately compliment the foreboding rhythm. Possibly one of the top 3 tracks.
8. 物欲少女: The S/T LP had some decidedly punk rock tracks (veritas and 闘いの唄) and they must have been quite successful with the live crowds because this is exactly more of the same. This one wastes no time going into a really fast tempo that hopefully drives everyone to circle pit. It wasn't until I got this this song that I realized at what point the engineering of the album rules. These guys (and girls) are completely independent and do everything on their own, crystal clear recording quality included.
9. 狂腕: Duck and cover when this song hits because if you're not careful, Quim & Dr. ARM's "mad scientist" personæ will make you their bitch as they rap their way into your mind. This is by far one of the most experimental tracks, even though it isn't too far off from the formula we've come to expect from them. I'd say the first half is unintentionally hilarious while the rest of the song is pretty solid. Much like white men can't jump, Japanese dudes can't rap. Sorry!
10. 僕はポンコツだけれど: I knew it would happen, I knew Albatrosicks wouldn't let me down. This is definitely the record's #2 track (keep reading for #1) simply because it is the ultimate mix of the new direction and the old guard. It's really cute but it'll slit your throat when you turn your back. Clocking in at just over 6 minutes, this mammoth of a track should please Dr.ARM fans the most, because it feels like walking through a museum dedicated to his compositions. Take care to listen to the multiple levels of melodies stacked on top of one another, because there's a lot of stuff going on here. It gets a couple of really epic moments as well, but unfortunately it is held back by the fact that this is an Albatrosicks song and not an IOSYS experiment in terror. If it had blast beats, grenade explosions and limbs flying all over the place, it would be their crowning achievement, but they kept things a little too straight for my liking. Still, it doesn't get much better than this!
11. 8ペタビット遊園地: Miko transforms into loli-mode for this one, with a really cute voice to accompany the very Amusement Pack-esque composition. The constant 8bit effects really do it for me, they sound so ridiculously good as well... no offense to YMCK (whom I love) but I don't think Dr. ARM is using their freeware VST plugin. Possibly Albatrosicks' best denpa composition to date, you just have to give it a try.
12. Honeymoon Period: Talk about a weird title. It can be seen as either a beautiful time in a just-married couple's life or a really unfortunate occurrence of an otherwise very natural thing. That's my sick twisted mind for ya, or this could be me skipping around the fact that this track sucks, being a ballad and all. There's some OK piano and acoustic guitar that try really hard to get my attention, but they don't save it from being a wreck in the end. The end chorus even sounds like it was ripped from a certain Avril Lavigne song... eww now I feel really dirty.
13. ホシヲコエテ: It's like Dr. ARM knew I was gonna give the previous song a shit review, so he threw an excellent punk-ish composition right after it to balance things out. This is the kind of song that accurately represents his creative capabilities, so why don't they stick to a gun that works? There's not a single poor decision here, all of the riffs were carefully designed and put together to create the ultimate Albatrosicks song. Despite being void of meaning, the main chorus "GET OVER!" is absolutely addictive. On top of the captivating flash video, ホシヲコエテ makes for a fantastic promotional tool for this relatively new band. It has the perfect length and you can tell miko went all out in order to make it one for the ages. Congrats to those involved! Each and every one of this blog's readers should make it a point to get this album for this track alone if nothing else.
14. Star Cry: As a finale, Star Cry has a lot riding on its proverbial shoulders. It's pretty clear that Planet Liberation is a better album than the S/T was, despite a rather high number of duds. Well, this isn't one of them. It opens with a psychedelic instrumental part that sets the tone for the rest of the song, along with a pounding percussion section and solid vocal patterns. Great way to go out with a bang and leave us hungry for more.
You want to see something funny? Loli Salad (great name for a blog, or greatest fucking name ever?) also wrote a review of Planet Liberation, but in a much more timely fashion. Check out how Fang-tan basically writes the same thing as I did about each of the songs! If someone has a clear case for mine being redundant, go ahead and make your plea. Or, you know, do something better with your time: find this album and enjoy it for all it's worth. As a starting point, the band put together a page with demo MP3s from the entire record.
It's a shame that there's yet to be a perfect Albatrosicks/IOSYS album, but what can ya do? Actually, what you could do is throw together a big playlist of their better songs and that would probably tally up to an impressive ten or so hours. In the unlikely event that they're reading this review: Guys! No more ballads. Yours suck. Write a whole album based around ホシヲコエテ. Your fans will then dedicate the rest of their mortal lives to building you a palace on the moon.