Review Summary: What started out as a record that would equal to be highly avoidable, turned out to be one of the most ambitious debuts in Japanese pop history.
Back in the mid-late 90's, bands like Kick the Can Crew and Rip Slyme were becoming highly popular in the Japanese mainstream, making hip-hop a certified music genre in Japan. Hell, one could even argue that poppy groups like Da Pump helped pave the way for more serious hip-hop acts like Kick the Can Crew to surface in the mainstream. What made Da Pump a different all-male J-pop act was that, while other groups (most just happening to be under the infamous Johnny's name) had the bubblegum, faceless kind of talent, Da Pump had a much different kind of appeal. One thing that made Da Pump different than the rest of the groups was their passion for hip-hop (which was slowly gaining popularity in Japan at the time). If you are as nauseated as I was when I first discovered Da Pump, you may close this review right now. Or if you would like to take a gamble and see what makes Da Pump different then the typical, run-of-the-mill J-pop records that gets spewed out almost daily by the Japanese public, then stay tuned.
The album starts off with a brief intro, and then with the track "Feelin' Good-It's Paradise", which, essentially, is a brilliant J-pop track, that has a very 90's sound to it, highly synthesized back vocals, and croon-like vocals from the young band members, with brief rap-like interludes every now and then. A pretty damn good track. The next track, "Love is the Final Liberty", starts off with chanting vocals from the band, with atypical male J-pop vocalization. Not much to say about the track, but it's... decent. One of the common influences one may pick up by this point in the record is the overwhelming influence of new jack swing. The next track, "Coffee Scotch Mermaid ~Bang! Bang! Boom!~", is a brilliant dancey, pop track that isolates the new jack swing style, and instead inserts a much more modern (at least, 1998 modern) style. A damn good track, and heads-over-heels better than "Love is the Final Liberty". "You Don't Have to Worry, Baby" takes influence from SMAP, and is one of the best tracks on the album, that takes the R&B/bubblegum style of SMAP, and adds the signature Da Pump twist. "Without You" is one of the softest tracks on the album, that channels classic R&B, and inserts a much more of an urban influence. A pretty good track, and a standout one at that. "Infinity ~Moon Ride~" is one of the most forgettable tracks, while "Goki Genda Zetsu ~Nothing But Something~" is one of the strongest tracks on the album. "Goki Genda Zetsu" brings back the new jack swing influence, and adds a huge dance kick. A highly effective track. The next track, "Rhapsody in Blue", is another big track for the album, that shows the group at their most youthful state. A brilliant J-pop track.
"Crazy Rain" & "17 Guyz" both are huge tracks for the album, and shows off some more R&B influences (similar to "Without You" in various ways). "We'll Get the Wonderfull One" is a pretty good track, but lacks when compared to the flood of catchy, absolute classics just before. "Stay Together" is the last track on the album, and without a doubt, is a huge pickup from "We'll Get...", and is a smooth R&B track, with very little-to-no raps at all. A very satisfying closer for such a solid pop album as "Expression".
While it may be true that the record lacks true "artistic statements", "Expression" itself is one fun record, void of any major downers. As a matter of fact, the album itself helped pave ways for various other groups to come along and get a name in the Japanese mainstream. If you're into mainstream J-pop with a unique twist, then by all means, check out "Expression". If you're interested in Da Pump at all, then by all means, check out "Expression".