Review Summary: Access reach their creative peak with their legendary second album.
Formed by the brain of the group, Daisuke Asakura, Access initially came together in 1992 when Daisuke joined forces with the then-obscure Japanese pop singer, Hiroyuki Takami, after Hiroyuki did vocals for some of Daisuke's solo tracks. Who would've thought that the duo would single-handily change the 90's JPop scene? Shortly after Access formed, they were signed to BMG Records, and released their debut single, "Virgin Emotion", November of that year. The single was pretty much a flop, reaching number 40 on the Oricon charts. However, when they released their second single, "Jewelry Angel" in late January 1993, sales started to pick up, and the single broke the top 20 at number 14. Their third single, "Naked Desire", was their first top 5 hit, and reached number 3, and made Access JPop superstars. What made Access different from the other JPop duos of the time (their competition included the likes of Chage and Aska, Wink and, of course, B'z) was their unique electro-fronted sound, which fused the amazingly addictive poppy vocals of Hiroyuki Takami with a nice electronic punch, courtesy of Daisuke Asakura. The sound was highly revolutionary, and helped launch Access into being in a league of their own. In February 1993, the group released their debut album, entitled "Fast Access", which officially introduced the boys's style to the Japanese mainstream audience. The album was a tremendous hit, charting at number 2. Just a few months later, in September, the group, astonishingly, released their second album, "Access II". Commercially, it was as much of a hit as "Fast Access", charting at number 2 once more, but critically, "Access II" was a much more solid record, due to its heavier concentration on a more complete, fulfilling electro production, rather than leaving a few pop filler spaces in the mix. To date, it is arguably their finest moment in their career thus far.
The album gradually opens up with "Night Wave", which is a nice, disco-electropop ditty, equipped with a nice thumping effect. Combined with the melodics of the track, and the unique wailing tone of Hiroyuki, "Night Wave" serves as an appropriate opening to the album, but not really a standout track. "Naked Desire" then comes on, with an addictive triumphant, electro-power pop feel, with tons of progressive elements surrounding the track. This easily makes "Naked Desire" one of the best tracks on the album, and picks up the album's potential tremendously. "Moonshine Dance" is a nice dancey track with the same kind of electro-power pop feel of "Naked Desire", but with a slightly more accessible sound. A satisfying track on all levels. The album then temporarily loses its appeal with "I Sing Every Shine For You", which is a sappy, ballad-esqued track, and sticks out like a sore thumb among the sea of dance-driven tracks. This track is one of the main reasons why the album doesn't exactly reach its true potential, but the track has a few slightly rewarding spots to it, such as the twinkling effect of Daisuke's synthesizer during the chorus. "Jungling Party" brings Access back to its familiar ground, with a nice, buildup of a track with an all around feelgood pop punch to it, thus making the track the type to be a potential guilty pleasure to some listeners. But the track is pretty brilliant for a straightforward pop track.
"Lyin' Eyes" is another standout track, and starts off with a nice, foggy introduction, and kicks off into a nice, poppy club style, equipped with a bubbling bass line, and various keyboard breakdowns. A tremendous track that tends to be serious in structure, but still stays true to the entertaining dancey style of Access. "Realtime Lover" takes note from the likes of "Naked Desire" and "Moonshine Dance" in the style of electro-power pop, and has a nice, seductive harmonic style to it, thus making it another standout tracks, due to the sheer styling of the track. While most of the tracks are easily accessible, both "Lyin' Eyes" and "Realtime Lover" have the potential to be very mature sounding in pop nature, but with the various melodic elements thrown in the mixtures of the tracks, it gives the tracks a splendid edge, and since they come back-to-back in the album, that's another plus, due to the serious tone of those particular tracks (at least when compared to the nature of the other songs). "Endless Summer ~Kimi ga Nijinda Natsu~" is a nice, sensual sounding track that comes across as a TRUE ballad in the styling of Access, and not coming across as serious and plain as "I Sing Every Shine For You" did. Rather, the track has a levitating style to it, riding on the sheer, heartfelt vocals from Hiroyuki. A nice standout track for Hiroyuki in particular, since there's not a lot of dancey material in "Endless Summer", which makes it focus more clearly on the wailing croon of Hiroyuki, which is another plus as far as the album's material goes. "Marmalade Days" is a track that successfully channels the style of 80's new wave, and has a completely retro style pushing it. A nice track, with a few nice harmonic spots, but nothing real special. Nothing horrible at all. "Juliet" is a frantic electropop track with various energetic smashes within. A highly energetic track with a fantastic chorus. The album then closes up with the electropop epica, "S-Mile Generation". Needless to say, this track is one of the true standouts in the album, and has a tremendous amount of melody entwined with a fantastic progressive pop style. A fantastic ending track, and a phenomenal track in general.
In short, the album, essentially, has the potential to be a true JPop classic, with memorable songs, unique vocals, highly addictive song patterns and an overall well done production. However, the few things that holds the album back is that the album runs on a bit too long (the album is only 11 tracks long, but it goes on for nearly an hour). So, no matter how solid the tracks may be structurally, time-wise, they can be a tad overbearing on some. Also, the "I Sing Every Shine For You" dulled the album's potential down significantly. But, all-in-all, the album is a very entertaining listen, supplied with an overall enticing, electronic punch and tons of mainstream dance-friendly pop material thrown in. A tremendous album, and the closest that Access ever truly got to perfection to date.