Review Summary: A diverse release from one of Japan's most successful Japanese pop rock bands.
Judy and Mary were arguably one of the most successful pop/rock bands from Japan. Equipped with an unpredictable sound and signature vocals from Yuki Isoya, they enjoyed a major success in their decade-long career, before splitting in 2001. Towards the end of their career, they started to experiment outside of their usual style. The 1998 album, "Pop Life", remains one of their most open-minded and solid releases to date.
The album starts off with "Music Fighter", which is a highly aggressive song for a poppy band such as JAM. With crunchy guitars, shreeky vocals, and an all-around hostile sound, it's a helluva way to kick off the album, and a pretty major curveball for the band. From "Iro Tori Dori no Sekai" onward, the atypical JAM sound is reintroduced, and sounds as refreshing as ever. The next two tracks, "Sanpomichi" and "Bathroom" are two of the biggest highlights on the album, and shows JAM at a much more conventional state, but still managing to keep an alternative edge. The next few tracks further push their alternative sound, and mixes it with various influences. "Suteki na Uta" mixes all of what happened in the album thus far, and blends it all together in a 4-and-a-half minute ditty. A pretty interesting experiment, but fails to live up to the hype of the album previously.
"Natural Beauty 98" shows the band experimenting with heavier grounds once more. A pretty good song, and definitely a pickup from "Suteki na Uta". "Tegami o Kaku yo" shows the band at a much more sensitive state, and has a Spitz sound to it. A decent song, but nonetheless, not a strong point in the album. "Goodbye" resembles the classic JAM sound, and is one of the most noteworthy tracks on the album (along with "Music Fighter", "Sanpomichi", and "Bathroom"). The album closes with "Lover Soul", which is yet another mentionable track. It pushes the alternative theme of the album to unseen heights, with kicking melodies and hypnotic vocals by Yuki. A superb track, and a fantastic way to close the album.
All-in-all, "Pop Life" is not only one of JAM's most experimental releases, but also one of their most successful ones as well. Pushing over one million copies, this album is recognized as one of their most remembered works (along with "The Power Source"), and shows the band thriving in their golden age. While there were some knockoffs (cough cough HYSTERIC BLUE), no other band could capture the sheer magic of what pop and rock could sound like when blended just right, with just a pinch of alternative rock included.