Last week, The Japan Times published a review I wrote of the new Momoiro Clover Z album. It was a fun album, and on the first listen, there was a very powerful sense of Wow! to it, just for the sheer audacity of trying some of these ideas in an idol record. Neo Stargate opens the album in a nine minute-plus version, the first third of which is just the O Fortuna segment of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burina (yeah, the one from the Old Spice ad) just plonked there, unembellished, for no particular reason other than as testament to its own excess. The song then just explodes into hyperactive synth squiggles a la Skrillex and typically melodramatic vocals straight out of an anime theme. Yes, I did just reference Carl Orff, Skrillex and anime music in one sentence. Listen to it: I wasn’t joking in the review when I said they should do a rock opera.Neo Stargate
The best stuff on the album is still the stuff they did over a year ago, especially Rodo Sanka, which still baffles me how it ever got made — how did anyone ever let a drug-addled British indie-dance producer cum 70s blaxploitation soundtrack enthusiast loose on a top ten idol pop hit? As I say in the review though, it’s interesting how the tracks around it also seem to adopt the tag-team vocal approach of 80s hip hop to varying degrees in how they make the group work as a collection of individuals, not just as a pop unit. The result reminds me a bit of some of the laid-back silliness of Halcali, albeit done with Momoiro Clover Z’s customary polish.Rodo Sanka
I mention Otome Senso, which I don’t really rate as a great song — it’s too much of a watered-down copy of the kind of song Kenichi Maeyamada used to do for them, although it works far better in the context of the album than it did as a standalone single. It’s still way too long though, which is a problem the album has as a whole (my theory of pop song lengths is that once a song goes over 3:45, it’s too long, and this continues until it goes over 8:00, at which point it becomes awesome again). Other stuff on there plays around with different approaches, hunting for a style, and sometimes it works, but it doesn’t quite hang together as a piece. Tsuki to Gingami Hikosen is the better of the two ballads by virtue of its overblown, orchestral, Magical Mystery Tour-era McCartneyisms, while 80s rocker Tomoyasu Hotei’s Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi-yo sounds a bit like just a Hotei track with the five members of Momoiro Clover Z stuck on top of it, but it just about works. Narasaki’s (of Coaltar of the Deepers) Birth 0 Birth does an interesting job of taking the group in a more electronic direction without leaving their essential identity behind, and he’s probably helped in that by his long association with the group — with such an important songwriter as Maeyamada seemingly on his way out, it might be a good idea to hold onto at least one songwriter with an already established association with the group, if only for continuity’s sake.Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi-yo
Anyway, in a curious parallel to the 1966 Byrds album of the same title, despite rumours of it being a concept album, it really doesn’t quite hang together, and as I say at the end, I really want Momoiro Clover Z’s next album to be a completely ridiculous, absurdly camp rock opera. Ideally it’ll feature space vampires, robot battles, crossdressing, and be set in a girls’ school in a giant castle on the moon run by a fat, disco dancing German explorer. They’d need to get someone like Kunihiko Ikuhara to write it, and anything less will be a huge disappointment to me.