Review Summary: Chara's sophomore album takes the innocent synthpop feel of "Sweet", and matures it with an overly seductive feel, losing a bit of its original charm, but regaining a new, sensual sound she would later be known for.
In the early 1990's JPop boom, hardly any name was as instantly popular as Chara. Equipped with a cutesy voice and seductive songs, Chara made a name for herself by starting out with an R&B-meets-synthpop based sound, but later developing an alternative/trip hop sound. Twenty-plus years after her debut, she is still stacking impressive sales, and is further pioneering an ever-breaking ground of evolutionary JPop. In 1991, she made her debut with the CD, "Sweet", which sold surprisingly well for a new artist, charting at number 10. Her next album, "Soul Kiss", was released in 1992, with a highly matured style, and shows Chara mastering her seductive songwriting.
The album starts off with a two minute prologue, which initially consists of dreamy, ambient-like synthesizers, with Chara whispering, setting the mood for the romantic feel of the appropriately titled "Soul Kiss". Out of nowhere, a quick stab appears, and instantly has Chara conversing in a normal tone, over the steadily progressive synthesizers. And within a matter of another minute, the album officially starts with "Ano Tokei no ***a de", which starts off with a funky bass line, with the aforementioned dreamy synths following. The track then kicks off into a nice R&B track, with Chara crooning over the smooth, molasses-esqued rhythm. A great start out track, and works well into working into one of the album's finest moments, "Ouki na Jishin ga Kitatte". "Ouki na Jishin ga Kitatte" centers around spacey keyboards, with tiny stabs added in to coincide with Chara's progressive emotional vocal style. A terrific track, hands down. The next track, "Are wa ne", isn't too shabby either, as it centers on a trip-pop style, which Chara would be later renowned for. The hypnotizing poppy organs and penetrating bass lines are sure to win over some fans, and combined with a dreamy acoustical guitar lick, the track is a tremendous followup to "Ouki na...". Definitely an effective track, to say the least.
The next track, "No Promise", kills the spree a bit, and slows the album down even more with a ballad-like track. The ballad itself isn't too bad though, since the sheer progressive elements in the track saves it from being just another sappy ballad. It comes off as more of a relaxing, ambient-like track, than a sappy Foreigner-esqued track. "Naze Waratteru no Kana?" sort of distorts the typical idea of a mainstream JPop song from 1992, bleeding in various tropical elements with occasional stabs and a poppy, half-walking synth bass line. The sheer uniqueness of Chara's voice is the icing on the cake, as it establishes the track as sort of an anti-mainstream song, while maintaining to be mainstream at the same time, due to its bounciness and half-walking synth bass line adding life to the virtually flat and simple track. An interesting track, and takes over whatever "No Promise" managed to kill. "Ai no Jibaku Souchi" continues the unconventional spree, with the basis of the track being centered around a "Humpty Hump" sample by Digital Underground, and wailing guitars and vocals from then-Scanch frontman, Rolly Teranishi. Combined with Chara's cutesy vocals, the track ends up being a beautiful disaster, with wails thrown all over, overrun by a bleeding pop kick. This track is the only track to try to emulate the fun style on "Sweet", and thus brings the album up even higher, breaking the chain of seductive, even unconventional at times, pop style on the album.
However, the bizarre fun ends quite abruptly with the next track, "Soul Kiss XXX". Followed with the typical 'Soul Kiss' breakdown, the track loses its appeal very quickly, especially with the sudden burst of energy from "Ai no Jibaku Souchi". The track virtually slows down the album's recovery and promising fate. "Pain", surprisingly, is another bouncy record, akin to "Ai no Jibaku Souchi", only less chaotic. This surprising dancy track reflects the 80's international new wave trend, and has a rather dated style to it specifically. Even though it comes across as mere new wave filler (in this track alone, Chara comes off like a Japanese Cyndi Lauper), it livens the album up, and raises its potential up a tad. "Migite o Watashi no Migite no Ue ni Kasanete" tones down the energy from "Pain" halfway, and is a decent track. Heads-over-heels above "Pain", definitely. The strings in the track adds to its originality, and since it's not hyped up, it works as a decent cutaway to "Time After Time". "Time After Time" is the album's final track, and is a ballady track, with a highly atmospheric feel to it. The song itself is a great track, and works as an outstanding closer to a great album.
In short, "Soul Kiss" is a fantastic album, without a doubt. The only problem with it is that it centers around too much of a seductive feel. Whereas the previous album, "Sweet", mixed an alluring and overall passionate sound with a few fun tracks, "Soul Kiss" comes off... well, too damn seductive. While it does have a few bouncy tracks in tact, the order in which those tracks are placed are quite confusing, as one minute you'll be bouncing along to a somewhat energetic Chara track, before being cut off in a series of ballads. But the thing is, the majority of those ballads are good... really good. Especially "Time After Time", which, again, worked as a terrific album closer. An excellent album overall, but definitely pales in comparison to "Sweet".