Review Summary: "Dangerous is My Middle Name", while it may not be her best work, remains an interesting spectacle of 80's bubblegum pop and post-punk: a true diamond in the rough.
One of the most underrated artists to boom out of the 80's J-pop scene has to be Mayumi Chiwaki. With a sound that initially followed a tightly-knit new wave style, she soon infused various influences, more significantly being post-punk. Her unique style can be compared to the underground avant-garde veteran, Jun Togawa. While her first three albums are superb and remarkably cutting edge for their time, her fourth album, "Dangerous is My Middle Name", followed on tightening up her post-punk bubblegum fusion style, and loses a bit of its charming aura in the meantime. Nonetheless, the album still ends up to be quite an addictive and satisfying listen.
The album's opening track, "Animal X", has a stamina-pumping mechanical chug to it, that sounds similar to the music of new wave-rockers Psy-S (who were becoming popular in the Japanese music scene by this time). Chiwaki's apathetic vocals, mixed with the high-tension bass plucks and robotic drums, makes this track a solid one, and probably one of the best on the album. "Ha! Ha! Ha!", one of the most recognized tracks on the album, has a screwy tendency to mix in shrieked sound effects, and channels more of a funk-inspired sound. The end result sounds a bit similar to Prince's material during this era, but maintains a snotty rock attitude that is Chiwaki's trademark throughout the album. "Save Me" has a much more frantic style to it, and is another popular track on the album (at least among Chiwaki's rabid fanbase). The track follows a much more straightforward rock style, and has a swinging, carefree element to it, which ends up to be quite addictive. It also ends up being one of the album's most memorable tracks, along with "Animal X".
"Divine Love" follows the rock pattern, spearheaded by "Save Me", although "Divine Love" has a more sinister sound, impressively fronted by the sneering vocals of Chiwaki. "Mosukoshi Baby" reiterates the pop crunch of the album, and briefly revisits Chiwaki's cutesy harmonies that she used so splendidly on the previous "Attack Treatment" album. The ending result ends up being another memorable moment, and a brilliant mixture of new wave and pop-influenced post-punk. "Happy Birthday Ceremony" completely surrounds itself in a pop sound, also revisiting the cutesy vocals once more, with an impressive array of lows-and-highs orchestrated by Chiwaki throughout the song. It ends up being a fluttering piece of mainstream bubblegum pop, laced together with a balls-out post-punk smash that has been so fluent throughout the album. In fact, the song most accurately sums up the album in a nutshell, so this is a highly recommended track in particular, especially to those unaware with the unique style of Mayumi Chiwaki. The album's final track, "Occult no Koibito" (loosely translated in English as "Occult Lover"), is a haunting melody which consists of fizzled drums, low vocals by Chiwaki, harps, pianos, vinyl static, and a few other screwy samples thrown in for experimental measure. Without a doubt the most experimental track on the album, and not exactly a suitable album closer. However, the song's artistic nature is admirable in itself, and is a nice piece which projects a more unorthodox side of Mayumi Chiwaki.
"Dangerous is My Middle Name" is, along with "Attack Treatment", her two most rock-oriented albums in her catalog. But what makes "Attack Treatment" a superior album is its charming innocence, while "Dangerous is My Middle Name" has a tendency to take itself a tad too seriously. Nonetheless, it still is quite remarkable for its time, and, like Jun Togawa, Chiwaki has an admirable nature to march to beat of her own drummer. That nature makes Mayumi Chiwaki a terrific artist, and a truly impressive underground figure in the 1980's J-pop scene. "Dangerous is My Middle Name" confirms that it is a crying shame that Chiwaki never had the opportunity to blow up, and conquer the Japanese mainstream through her truly original style.