Archive for the 'Asian Kung-Fu Generation' Category

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Surf Bungaku Kamakura

Surf Bungaku Kamakura, Asian Kung-Fu Generation

Fujisawa Loser

Kugenuma Surf

Enoshima Esker

Koshigoe Crybaby

Shichirigahama Skywalk

Inamuragasaki Jane

Gokurakuji Heartbreak

Hase Sons

Yuigahama Kite

Kamakura Goodbye

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

Surf Bungaku Kamakura (Surf Culture in Kamakura) is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s sixth album and third album release of the year (including the EP Mada Minu Ashita ni), released on November 5th, 2008. It reached #2 on Oricon and has sold 56 110 copies. Cultural Note: Kamakura was the capital of the Shogunate in Japan from 1185 to 1333. Note that the capital of Japan was Kyoto from 794 to 1868, but the period between 1185 and 1868 was marked by the Emperor being a puppet in the hands of the Shogun.

Opening the album is the only single released before this album, Fujisawa Loser. I still think the relatively short length of this song is the biggest let-down of this song, considering it’s a very good song. It’s a prime example of what AJIKAN does best: soft punk. As for its position on the album, it makes a perfect opening.

Originally featured as the B-Side on Aru Machi no Gunjou, Kugenuma Surf has started to grow on me after I wrote about how much I hated it. It’s similar to Fujisawa Loser, although it’s more laid back, making a smooth transition.

Enoshima Esker sounds distinctly more Western than the rest of AJIKAN’s material, which is actually a disadvantage when it comes to the overall presentation of the song. It sounds like some of the what I like to call “fake” rock we hear so often now, unfortunately, but it’s acceptable.

Koshigoe Crybaby is a calm song with a powerful beat similar to previous work like Kimi to Iu Hana (a flowery called ‘you’), their second single, and one of their best. It’s not nearly as catchy, though, and features sloppy vocals, which is one of the many things Masafumi Goto has to improve. Otherwise, I think this is a pretty decent album track.

Next up is Shichirigahama Skywalk, is also reminiscent of their earlier works. It’s quite dull but gets better for the bridge, which is slightly catchy, but not enough to really make this track memorable. Nonetheless, it’s an acceptable album track, and although objectively it’s a bad track, subjectively I really like it.

Inamuragasaki Jane brings us straight back to Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s habitual punk, another work reminiscent of earlier material, this time more like Siren and Re:Re:, although they add a particular twist, notably a Pink Floyd-like guitar solo toward the middle, which sounded weird at first, but in the end is a nice addition. I think this is one of the most memorable tracks on this album.

Gokurakuji Heartbreak is another Kimi to Iu Hana-look-alike, with a very similar bass guitar in the background. Here again, though, they fail to create a particularly impressive song, lacking the powerful catchiness found on their second single.

Another song making use of staccatos, Hase Sons is really hard to enjoy because the guitar staccatos are too powerful during the verses, even though the chorus sort of makes up for this. It’s another one of the more memorable songs on the album, but not necessarily because of its positive attributes. The bridge is very typical AJIKAN because of its relaxed mood compared to the aggressive chorus and verses.

Featured as the B-Side on After Dark, Yuigahama Kite is the worst of the three B-Sides of the World World World era. It opens with a deafeningly sharp screeching, which sloppily flow into some really boring guitars and Masafumi Goto’s voice, which make him sound like he’s sleeping.

I thought Kamakura Goodbye was going to be a short interlude-type song, but I was pleasantly suprised. It’s somewhat boring, and sounds more like a YUI ballad rather than an AJIKAN song, but it’s a perfect closing piece. The music features a woodwind in the back, which adds to the quality of the track, because it’s sort of boring. After a while it began to remind me of Neko Case, in a nice way, with the guitar effects.

I really like the concept of Surf Bungaku Kamakura, and I’ll explain it to you: Fujisawa, from Fujisawa Loser, is one of the two extremities of the Enoshima Railway Line, which connects Fujisawa to Kamakura, with stations, skipping some, in order of appearance by the name of: Kugenuma, Enoshima, Koshigoe, Shichirigahama, Inamuragasaki, Gokurakuji, Hase and Yuigahama. You’ve probably understood that this album’s concept is the travel from Fujisawa to Kamakura, and probably the separation from a loved one. Otherwise, this is a pretty decent album. By far not as good as the two previous ones, but far better than what I was expecting from the third album release in one year. Unlike the last album I reviewed, Anna Tsuchiya’s NUDY SHOW!, the beginning and the ending are excellent, but the middle is sort of hazy and sloppy. None of the tracks were flagrantly weak, although most of them were average.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Fujisawa Loser

1. Fujisawa Loser

2. Hello Hello

Fujisawa Loser is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s twelfth single, released on October 15th, 2008. It reached #5 on Oricon and has sold 19 837 copies.

Fujisawa Loser is much of a disappointment. Whereas the verses are very nice and somewhat relaxing with that hint of Asian Kung-Fu Generation, the introduction and the guitar solo were extremely boring and repetitive. And let’s get to the worst aspect of this song: it’s short. Not four minutes, like the average single, not even three minutes. 2:48!!!!! This is not the conventional length, and for the purpose of the argument, I’m going to have to agree with the convention for once. Short time usually allows fewer mistakes, but this time is just means compacting all the mistakes in a smaller time frame, which makes my rating even lower. The lyrics, or at least the PV, remind me a lot of After Dark, and are similar in meaning to Utada Hikaru’s Keep Tryin’, although nowhere near the greatness of Keep Tryin’s lyrics.

For some reason, Hello Hello is not only in English but also not sung by anyone from Asian Kung-Fu Generation. It also features a more mature sound, with exception being made of certain bits. If my rankings were more subjective, this would get a lower rating than Fujisawa Loser, but because objectivity is one of the few limits as a reviewer I’m going to give it a higher grade for a nice combination of voices (there are a man and a woman’s voices for the chorus) and very nice instrumentation.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Mada Minu Ashita ni

Mada Minu Ashita ni, Asian Kung-Fu Generation

Makyuutsu Seimei

Science Fiction

Mustang

Shinkokyuu

Yuusetsu

Mada Minu Ashita ni

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

Mada Minu Ashita ni (into an unseen future) is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s second mini-album.. It was released on June 11th, 2008, but the songs were recorded in 2007, during the time when World World World was being recorded. It reached #2 on Oricon and has sold 75 139 copies.

Makyuutsu Seimei (pulsating life) has a very lively feeling to it. It has a more punk-y element to it, compared to the songs featured on World World World, although it does sound kind of similar to Aru Machi no Gunjou. The beginning kind of turned me off, but the rest of the song, especially the kind of abrupt ending, were nice.

Science Fiction follows, and is a more boring song than Makyuutsu Seimei. The vocals sounded kind of dragged, but the guitar work was, as usual, very enjoyable.

The next song, Mustang, is by far the best song on this mini-album. It’s far softer and more mature than the other songs on the album. The chorus was most definitely the best part of the song, with very on-off notes, something which, if executed properly, can makes a song extremely catchy. And, finally, Goto (not Maki Goto, Masafumi Goto) doesn’t have to use his whiny tone quite as much!

Shinkokyuu (deep breath) is the alternative song of the album. It has a weird background tune and the better drum-work compared to the other songs. Goto’s vocal work was very nice on this song, which secures this song’s position at number two on the album.

Yuusetsu (the thaw) re-introduces the punk element Asian Kung-Fu Generation masters, but the vocals of this song weren’t too pleasing. My problem with the song is that I wanted a more orchestral chorus than a mere swing, even though it wasn’t horrible. Yuusetsu isn’t a bad song, but I would’ve wanted more.

Mada Minu Ashita ni (into an unseen future), the title track, is a very nice ending, even though arrangement matters little on mini-albums. I was disappointed by the beginning, because it suggested that it would have a very flashy beginning, which it didn’t. So the verses didn’t hit the spot, but the chorus was really catchy, Ajikan-style.

Mada Minu Ashita ni is much better than Houkai Amplifier, their first mini-album. If World World World was a step up from Fanclub, then Mada Minu Ashita ni is a huge step up from World World World. This mini-album just displays a far more mature sound from Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and they’ve needed it since punk is getting old after six albums. The reason this album is probably so good, is that it’s a mini-album; that means that there’s less space to mess up and less songs to concentrate on, so more quality. Also, all tracks are new; no singles to give the album a specific structure, perfect liberty of creation. The fact that these are the songs that didn’t make it onto World World World surprises me, since most of them are better than half of the songs on World World World, but they probably would’ve destroyed the arragement. I have high hopes for Fujiwara Loser and Surf Bungaku Kamakura, although making an entire album after only one single, right after a mini-album and an album kind of makes me sceptical about the album.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: World World World

World World World, Asian Kung-Fu Generation

World World World

After Dark

Tabidatsu Kimi e

Neoteny

Travelog

No. 9

Night Diving

Laika

Wakusei

Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu

World World

Aru Machi no Gunjou

Atarashii Sekai

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

World World World is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s fifth studio album (counting Hokai Amplifier as a mini-album), released on March 5th, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 163 470 copies.

The most obvious title for an introduction theme for this album would, of course, be World World World. I would compare this song to Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor, the opening track on Viva la Vida, in the way that both songs have this very catchy tune which wouldn’t be bad as a regular song. A thumbs up for this 1’18” long intro!

After Dark (single originally released on November 7th, 2007) is my second-favorite song of theirs, after Aru Machi no Gunjou. The music video depicts a man who wakes up with wings on his back, and does everything to hide them, so I suppose that the actual message is that having an extraordinary talent (in this, case, flying) is often more of a burden than it is a help. The actual music is just awesome: it starts out with the drums, then adds one guitar, another, and finally the third and last guitar enters in play. Asian Kung-Fu Generation is good at making aggressive songs which reach into punk, and this song is the very proof of that.

Tabidatsu Kimi e (to you, the departed) is a very fast-paced song following the same style as After Dark. It begins well, but when the vocals come in, the whole thing just falls into pieces. Not their greatest album song.

Watch out! Neoteny follows directly after Tabidatsu Kimi e, without a few seconds between the two (that is to say that you could mistake Neoteny for being the same song as Tabidatsu Kimi e). However, after picking up from where Tabidatsu Kimi e left, it becomes a much better song. The first few moments are completely instrumental, and they remind me of World World World. There are very few lyrics, instead, there’s a lot of “ooooooh”.

Travelog begins more aggressively before the vocals come in, at which point the music slows down. The refrain wasn’t too bad, but in the overall, this song could’ve been better.

OK, now we get to my favorite part of the album. No. 9 begins nicely and sticks to it. Just like in Travelog, the music slows down when the vocals begin. The refrain was pretty neat, I’ll give them that.

Night Diving begins with a mix of island music and rock, very slowly, but progresses slowly toward a typical AJIKAN punk song. The chorus is great! I loved everything about this song, from beginning to end. It’s definitely the best album song on the album.

Laika is a bit of a weird one. It swings an awful lot between low and high, and it did work for them. The opening turned me off immediately because of its monotonous guitar riffs and Goto screaming at higher pitches than should be permitted. The rest of the song is just as the beginning as a matter of fact: monotonous.

Wakusei (planet) is a pretty nice song with slower lyrics, but the same “fast beginning, low vocals” pattern. At this point the music tends to get kind of repetitive. Wakusei remains one of the best songs of the album.

Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu (rolling rock, morning light rains down upon you—single originally released on February 6th, 2008) is the first calm song on the album. The music has an almost mesmerizing effect, but it loses it when the music becomes quicker, but the bridge and verses make up for that gap.

World World is an interlude which manages to create a good liaison between Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu and Aru Machi no Gunjou, but the song is terribly boring.

Aru Machi no Gunjou (some city in blue—single originally released on November 26th, 2006) is the best single of the World World World era. The beginning switches between hard and soft a little, but it stabilizes itself later. The instrumental section between 1:47 and 2:14 was definitely the best part, and vocals after that were sung on the perfect tone. I don’t really like Masafumi Goto as a singer, but I did like his vocal work on this song.

Atarashii Sekai (new world) is the last song on the album. The album seems to be focused on the word “world”, going from World World World, to World World, to “New World”. Anyway. Atarashii Sekai is a song that does say “ending”. It’s not quite as good a song as I would’ve wanted for a finale, but it ends the album on a good note. 

World World World is pretty much on the same level as Fanclub, or maybe a tiny step up. As with all their albums, I don’t like listening to them in the whole quite as much because the album songs aren’t too good. However, if Asian Kung-Fu Generation continues with singles like the ones on this album, I know that they’ll score very high with me! (One last thing: I love their album covers.) 

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu

1. Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu

2. Enoshima Esker

Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s eleventh single, released on February 6th, 2008. It reached #4 on Oricon and has sold 43 891.

Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu (rolling rock, morning shines upon you) is a lot calmer than the two previous singles, but a lot more catchier instead. It begins with slow guitar plucking, and then introduces Goto’s voice subtly. Although the verses are very good, I was expecting more of a chorus, but it will do. The grungy guitars and the powerful drums are this song’s focal point, and prove to be even better than they first sound, especially during the relaxing bridge. Thumbs up for three four-star singles in a row!

Enoshima Esker (Enoshima being the name of a place) is my favorite of the three B-Sides, just because it seems like they worked a lot more on it than Yuigahama Kite and Kugenuma Surf. Nonetheless, the song is still pretty average.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: After Dark

1. After Dark

2. Yuigahama Kite

After Dark is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s tenth single, released on November 11th, 2007, becoming their first and only release in almost exactly a year. It reached #4 on Oricon and has sold 57 760. After Dark was selected as the opening theme for Bleach.

After one year of taking a break (thank God I didn’t know of them at that point), Asian Kung-Fu Generation makes a triumphant return with After Dark, an upbeat song with excellent lyrics, instrumentals and vocals, all accentuated by guitar staccatos with make the song more aggressive-sounding. This song falls out of Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s habitual field of work, since it’s not a punk song about gentle love, but a punk song about life in a more general sense, and it sure did succeed!

Yuigahama Kite (Yuigahama being the name of a place) is your average (and as such, really bad) AJIKAN B-Side. Nothing special, in fact quite annoying and a bore. I love them, but they have to work on their B-Sides a little more.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Aru Machi no Gunjou

1. Aru Machi no Gunjou

2. Kugenuma Surf

Aru Machi no Gunjou is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s ninth single, released on November 19th, 2006. It reached #1 on Oricon and has 46 898 copies.

Aru Machi no Gunjou (some city in blue) is a gentle, almost melodramatic song, and just about the best song Asian Kung-Fu Generation has and maybe ever will make. The verses are gentle, the chorus is gently aggressive and the bridge is excellent. As usual, Masafumi Goto performs very well, and his voice is a wonderful accompaniment to the great instrumentals. Aru Machi no Gunjou is an example of what AJIKAN excells at: nostalgic, gentle yet punk rock songs.

Kugenuma Surf (Kugenuma being a place name) is a fairly well-done B-Side, although it seems to lack something. It’s not bad, just could’ve been better; but no surprise here, since AJIKAN’s B-Sides are really, really bad most of the time.