Review Summary: One of the greatest highlights in visual kei history.
Back in the early 90's, visual kei reached a critical point in its history. Various bands were coming out, trying to be among greats like X-Japan, Color, Dead End or Buck-Tick. In order to stand out visual kei, it was learned that you needed to be original: be a band that didn't sound like the rest, and you would make it far. Plastic Tree is a great example of a band that never sounded like anything else in the visual kei scene, and were among one of the first bands to follow an alternative rock sound, which would echo later in bands like Guniw Tools and Cali Gari. By the time they released "Parade" back in 2000, Plastic Tree were already considered to be indie visual royalty. However, "Parade" won the band much mainstream success, more than they ever had previously. And judging by the greatness of this album, it's not hard to see why.
The album opens with the track, "Ether", which has a very cynical sound to it, with buzzing guitars and bass, and a simple drum sound. Easily one of the best tracks on the album, and is a terrific way to start it off. The album then goes off into "Rocket", which has a very Smashing Pumpkins influenced esque to it. Another great track, and a worthy followup to "Ether". "Slide" is a much faster track, which is fronted by a heavy driving beat. Arimura's vocals are a nice touch on the track as well, as it helps give the track an apathetic feel, despite having a rather intense sound backing it up. "Shoujo Kyousou" is a grunge inspired track, that comes with a muddy bassline, and lo-fi guitars and vocals. An interesting turn in the album.
"Brenda" brings the album back to alternative normality, with dreamy vocals by Arimura and guitars by Akira Nakayama. A very nice track that plays with the indie style a bit. "Kuuhaku no ni" shows the band experimenting with ballads, but still maintaining the Plastic Tree alternative charm. "Juujiro" is another driving track that is reminiscent to "Slide", and has a balls-to-the-wall sound that any intense alternative fan would love. "Tremolo" shows the band trying an alternative-indie mixture, that comes across as a Pillows clone. Not one of the most impressive tracks on the album, but definitely not an album killer. "Sumin Yaku" is another standout for the album, as it features a mysterious sound, with intense melodies in tune. "Bloom" features an Americanized sound, that sounds like it was influenced by bands like Foo Fighters and Weezer. But with the signature vocals by Arimura, the Plastic Tree sound is still highly intact. "Sink" brings the album down once more, as it brings out a melodious, straightforward alt-type song that would make The Pillows and late Unicorn proud. The album closes with "So***e Parade wa Tsuzuku", which is an alternative epica done right. With a symphony backing Plastic Tree this time, "So***e Parade wa Tsuzuku" mixes progressive elements, and makes a very fitting closing track.
All-in-all, "Parade" shows Plastic Tree at their most impressive state, and is arguably one of the best albums they ever released. Mixing a pretty straightforward alternative sound with (at times) rather bizarre influences, "Parade" is one of the most entertaining albums in visual kei history, and is highly recommended to rock fans of all ages. If you are an overall rock fan, give "Parade" by Plastic Tree a spin. You will definitely not be disappointed.