Review Summary: Not reccomended for people with fear of clowns and ballerinas
Before this gets any further, who the hell is Buck-Tick?
Well, Buck-Tick is a Japanese rock band that has a lifespan of almost twenty years (that’s old school for Japan) during which they were constantly working. Their resume consists of 17 studio albums, a ton of singles, a couple of live albums and there already is a BT tribute album (and the second one is one it’s a way). Considering that Japanese rock stage is relatively young Buck-Tick is a monster mammoth and a force to be reckoned with. They’ve influenced countless bands of their homeland and are also credited with creating the “visual-kei” image and the following fan-service stage act.
After those words I hope all who despise Japanese musicians for wearing weird dresses and make up have left the page.
” Juusankai wa Gekkou” ("Thirteenth Floor with Moonshine”) is the band’s fourteenth record. Released in 2005, after a long period of industrial-influenced rock it was a radical change of direction; the record is a 18-track gothic-flavoured epic, with haunting melodies and colorful arrangements which create a sense of watching a mastered dramatic performance in a shady theater while being slightly stoned.
Being specific, the melodies are really great. Melody is a rather dangerous matter for Japanese rock bands to handle. The sad truth is, they usually don’t. Most of Japanese musicians are very skilled performers with distinctive stage presence but they often recycle their own melodic turns, boiling themselves down to the pit of repetitiveness and boredom. Buck-Tick had experienced that numerous times at their career but songs on “Thirteenth Floor” are diverse and recognizable. There are all sorts of melodies here: the creepy ones, the epic ones, the sad ones, the fun ones… you know, for the whole family. The only thing that’s repeated is the melody of the intro track, which has three variations scattered across the album, providing for the concept.
Speaking of concept, is there one? Well, yes and no: there is no story or a general message as on most of concept albums, but you feel that songs bond together in a sort of a play: the characters come and go but the sets are essentially the same. “Thirteenth floor” is a great “a sound concept”, when you don’t need words to get people into what you’re doing. The sound creates it all: ghostly keyboards, a wide variety of samples, mean-sounding guitars, solid bass and... yes, the drums. Drumming was never a strong point for Buck-Tick. They do fit the music and do their job well.
But everyone knows: half of the song is music, the other is lyrics. They’re entirely in Japanese, so you can spare yourself any attempt to dig what stories Atsushi Sakurai is telling with his majestic rich mellow voice (seriously, this guy’s timbre is pure joy and he uses it brilliantly). There are plenty of fan-translations on the Web, and having read most of them I have to say they are very atmospheric, combining poetic and beautiful images with disturbing ones; one particularly creepy track is sang from a female perspective and it has all that cool nasty stuff you’d expect such a record to have.
Initially I wanted to highlight some songs but dropped the idea because there are just too many to name. Besides, the album works as a whole and I highly recommend listening to it as such. It’s a very strong effort by an experienced band, a definite must-listen to any J-rock enthusiast and probably even a nice trip for a casual listener.