Review Summary: "I'm just a simpuru maduness man"
A common trap in a band’s way is living up to the expectations set by a powerful last record. Different bands treat that situation in their own ways: some change style after achieving everything they could in their original sound, some try to recapture what made the last record so successful.
After releasing “Darker Then Darkness” in 1993 Buck-Tick reached a creative peak, and after reaching one a step down follows inevitably. The matter in question is how low that step was.
“Six/Nine” is obviously a transitional record, capturing the band in a state of self-search. Familiar Buck-Tick traits are present but are not dominant: old tricks are partly sacrificed for the sake of trying a couple of new ones. The results are discrepant.
The major problem with “Six/Nine” is its unnecessary longevity. Clocking over 1 hour and 10 minutes and consisting of 16 tracks the album tends to occasionally loose its grip over the listener with dull and uninspired material.
It’s a shame because the majority of the tracks range from quite good to just great. When “Six/Nine” works, it works at full throttle; and the ever-changing and instantly recognizable face of Buck-Tick is still here, again presenting us with many shades of one sonic structure, now with some new tricks up the band’s collective sleeve.
Unfortunately, “Six/Nine” fails where “DTD” prevailed: the opening track, “Loop”, provokes mixed feelings. Appropriately enough, the track consists of an electronic loop and some guitar chords, while Sakurai basically reads out a monologue in Japanese. I’ve found a translation online and it seems the text describes a fantasy of being on in a faraway place with one’s loved one. Now, if you’re Japanese or your skills in Japanese are comparable to that of a native language speaker, you might find that quite cool. Although, speaking solely about production, the voice sounds somewhat too rough and loud compared to the music and it sort of ruins the romantic mood. And if you listen to Japanese music for music itself and not for the lyrics then the track will probably simply irritate you. The album closes with a similar track entitled “Loop MARK II”, and there is also a weird electronic intermission-like track “Somewhere Nowhere” that consists of weird robotic samples and Sakurai ranting. Those tracks don’t seem to have a purpose and seriously interrupt the album’s flow as well as bloat it to an extent that was clearly uncalled for.
So the album is off to a not-so-good start, but then track 2 kicks in and makes “Loop” sound like a sick joke. “Love Letter” is a jar of rock’n’roll bile, served with some nice industrial-like sampling in the background. Sakurai grunts the gibberish English lyrics (penned by the band chief melody-maker Imai) in a humorously sinister manner, literally spitting out lyrics like “I want to live like a DOG, upside down and make a GOD”. This track has some serious balls attached to it and that’s some of the new stuff Buck-Tick had ready for “Six/Nine”: the album is eons darker than “Darker Then Darkness”.
After that reassuring continuation “Six/Nine” becomes more of a traditional Buck-Tick record, playing fairly simple and stylish rock songs while changing the mood for every track, but the mood is much different from that of “DTD”. “Six/Nine” is a bitterer album; it’s much less warm at the heart than their previous work.
The sinister bite of “Love Letter” makes a return in track 5 entitled “Kagirinaki Nezumi”, which uses a fairly similar guitar riff with a drastically different rhytm creating yet another shade of “Six/Nine”. Here, Sakurai sounds genuinely intimidating, and the Eastern-inspired melody adds to the mystique.
There are also a handful of up-tempo rock songs, which, while being fast-paced and fun to listen to, are far from being optimistic. An example of that is “Detarame Yarou”, which, despite of it lively guitar riff and danceable drum beat is sung in quite a desperate manner, creating a neat atmosphere of psychosis. Another notable track is “Uta” which sees Buck-Tick use their most badass bad boy attitude ever. The groove of that song is overwhelming.
I also want to pinpoint the penultimate track “Mienai Mono o Miyo to Suru Gokai Subete Gokai da”. It sounds somewhat similar to “Zero” from “DTD”, but not as a watered-down rip-off of the former. It is rather an upgraded, darkened version of the song, with a fantastic desperate atmosphere of someone standing on the edge of hysteria on his toes.
I mentioned above that “Six/Nine” shows Buck-Tick use new tricks, but as far as the intro and the outro go those tricks sort of fall flat. However it must be noted that not all of Buck-Tick's new strategies backfire here. Case in point: track 9 (its name is huge so I’m not going to bother, this review is bloated enough already). This track is basically trip-hop, executed with great style and grace. The sound palette is a joy: the throbbing bass creates a tasty contrast with the spacey keyboards, creating a darkly erotic atmosphere.
The uplifting pop-rock songs are still present, exemplified by “Kodou” and “Itoshi no Rock Star”, but they seem out of place compared to the prevalent shades of mood present in the majority of other tracks. They’re nice when listened to on their own but they seem to fall out of the album’s context.
Overall, “Six/Nine” is definitely not a masterpiece, but not a flop as well: it’s stuck in between several good and several doubtable ideas, leaving a mixed impression. For me personally, the stuff that works matters more than stuff that doesn’t, so I’d say give it a try. There’s some brilliance hidden underneath all that mess.