Review Summary: JPN is good news for Perfume junkies, but don’t think you’re unwelcome to join the party if you aren’t one.
Who is Perfume? Perfume is a bubbly electro-pop trio consisting of Ayano Ōmoto, Ayaka Nishiwaki, and Yuka Kashino. Formed in Hiroshima, Japan when its members were only 11-12 years old, these girls have been a thing since 2001. Their career started off as a series of singles and EPs, which were later strung together into a Greatest Hits-like package called Perfume: Complete Best
. So what’s considered their debut album is Game
, released in 2008 to good success. They pressed forward (ever so slightly) with a more mature Triangle
in 2009, and waited two years before releasing their next album.
And here it is, 2011’s JPN
. As addictively sweet and loyal to the girls’ cult-like following as their catalog had been, there wasn’t much noticeably different between their 2 LPs, and only a small percent of JPN
’s hype was actually attributed to a change in sound or possible improvement. No, an eager fanbase sat at the Perfume Thanksgiving table with forks and knives in hands waiting to gobble up their new album like a legion of ravenous slaves being fed their weekly meals. That says something about Perfume’s music; it’s the kind you can obsess over.
To put the patty on the grill, JPN
is another consistent chapter in Perfume’s sugary-sweet catalog. It’s essentially more of the same cyber-galactic, adorably robotic Japanese pop you can find on Game
. You take that as you will, for it will make or break the album/Perfume for you: Is Japanese pop sensational and charming or homogeneous and obnoxious? For that matter, how tolerable are you to “consistent” albums? Would you take the girls’ 3rd LP as a lazy cash-in with little musical growth to be heard, or would you switch internet tabs from your hentai over to last.fm just so you could post how ecstatic you are over Perfume’s new album (unfaithfully to Tifa Lockhart)? Perfume is an artist that epitomizes a certain flavor of music, which in this case is Japanese electro-pop, so if you’re unfamiliar with their music, color yourself grey: you’ll simply love this or hate it unfathomably.
The reason I’m teetering your potential feelings for Perfume’s entire career on this one particular album is, again, the fact that JPN
sounds just like the girls’ previous records. Now if you’re okay with that, you’re probably wondering just what are Japan’s beautiful pop stars up to this time around. Overall, you can expect sleek, silky production which complements the modern, futuristic electronic instrumentation that fills the album. The ladies continue to permeate their melodious pop music with stylish, android-sounding vocals that appropriately soar to galactic heights. When you see them perform, they might look like androids themselves the way they dance, which is synchronized and mechanical. It might seem rather odd, but their image is an undeniably cute one. Somewhat child-like vocals impart the image that they’re more girls
than they are women
, but don’t expect the execution to be so immature. Their electronic dance melodies are sickeningly catchy and sweet, and are ever-so charming as a whole package.
One of the areas where Perfume shines the most is in their aesthetic. Without relying so heavily on a sophisticated beat or even the song’s danceability in general, the girls’ can craft gorgeous cyber-electronic sound scapes that simply soar. The first track on JPN
to capture this is “Glitter”, perhaps one of the highlights as well. This is where Perfume combine their strengths to create something that evolves far beyond catchy or “kawaii”, and while songs like this aren’t as frequent as on an album like Triangle
, this is the *** you come for and leave the most satisfied with.
However, you’ll also find songs like “Have a Stroll” that take a back seat with the spacey pop vibes. Catering a bit to a loosely-related genre called “shibuya-kei”, the song shrivels up the intergalactic grandiosity to the scale of, say, a space station. Other times, the intention isn’t to sit in a space station or
to take off like the Magic Schoolbus during astronomy week. Sometimes songs just glow under a light show of synths, such as on the album closer “スパイス (Spice)”. They can buzz periodically in high tones or flare in and out of the background like an unanswered 90’s cell phone, and they manage to keep most of the album alight. As engaging as the instrumentation and myriad computer effects may be Perfume hasn’t changed enough to completely exterminate the “you already wrote this song” songs. And so, we’re back to the album’s lack of evolution. Beautiful, to be certain, if you have an ear for this stuff. But while Perfume remain as youthfully energetic and as adorable as ever, JPN
might not show enough growth to entice listeners outside of the group’s religious circle of fans. If you’re new to the band though, there’s just as much reason to start with this album as there is with any of their other albums.