Review Summary: The Hiatus shift up their sound to create the best album of their career thus far.
When I first heard that Takeshi Hosomi of Ellegarden fame was starting a new band a few years back, I couldn't help but think of when Tom DeLonge formed Angels and Airways after Blink-182 went on an indefinite hiatus in 2005. Ellegarden had after all always been considered by many to be Japan's answer to Blink, with their pop punk/alternative rock style of music and Hosomi's vocals, which weren't quite as 'whiny' as Tom's but caught your attention in a similar manner. Though I never bought into the idea of Ellegarden just being a Japanese Blink, the connection was there and thus I couldn't stop myself from wondering: would Hosomi take us down a similarly (arguably) disappointing path like Tom did with AvA, or would we get something more interesting and satisfying this time around? Knowing that Ellegarden had split due to musical differences, and that respected math rock group Toe's drummer was on board for this project, there was at least one thing I assumed was for sure: this would be just as different from Ellegarden as AvA had been from Blink-182.
However, the Hiatus' first album together, Trash We'd Love
, was basically exactly what you'd expect from the band succeeding Ellegarden if you didn't
take those last two points into consideration. No, it wasn't just another Ellegarden record, and if you listened out for Takashi Kashikura's drumming you could sometimes tell it was him. But otherwise, this was just an alternative rock record that sounded like a natural progression from Ellegarden's final album. Anomaly
had a few more tricks up its sleeve, adding experimental elements into the mix while retaining the catchiness that had always come with any music involving Hosomi. However, the way that it trod the line between new experimentation and the pop punk influenced sound of earlier days didn't entirely hit the mark, making for a not exactly bad, but rather messy album. It almost felt like Hosomi was trying too hard to prove himself as a mature musician by just tactlessly throwing experimental sounding elements into the music, and other members of the band didn't have the guts to tell him it wasn't working.
It was on their third effort, World of Pandemonium
, where everything fell into place. I was certainly taken aback by this album, and I wouldn't be surprised if more than a handful of fans other than me felt the same when listening to it for the first time. Whether or not you were familiar with previous releases from Ellegarden, the Hiatus, or any other bands members of this group were involved in before, this was something new entirely. This album does not have a shred of the same sort of 'catchiness' found in Hosomi's previous works, but to say so is no criticism. Here, instead of holding onto any traces of what made Ellegarden a great band in its own right, the Hiatus decided to not look back but to rather only look forward, which lead to remarkably fruitful results. There isn't a whiff of pop punk to be found here; in fact this record doesn't really give off much of a 'rock' aesthetic at all. The band does still primarily use rock instruments, and it is ultimately some brand of rock music, but at the same time it's unlike any rock album (or album in general) that I've ever heard before. With World of Pandemonium
, for the very first time in their career, the Hiatus had created an album with a truly unique sound.
Not only does this album sound unique, it's also a commendably mature record. Unlike Anomaly
, it makes complete sense as an overall cohesive work. Both records could be labelled as certain kinds of experimental music (especially considering the albums that came before them), but they experiment in completely different ways. While it's not unheard of for bands to take aspects of their previous works and put them into full effect later on (think of how the abrasive heaviness on parts of Brand New's The Devil and God
almost completely took over on the album that succeeded it), this is not at all the case here. World of Pandemonium
completely leaves behind the disjointed messiness of its predecessor, replacing it with something more interesting, focused, and perhaps more than anything, beautifully lush. Not only the sound of music itself, but also the album artwork, song titles, and lyrics all work together to paint a picture of this 'world of pandemonium', but the word pandemonium does not hold onto its usual negative connotations here. While listening to this album it's fairly easy to picture a clamorous, but also very bright and beautiful world in which various kinds of wildlife and vegetation are living abundantly. In the end the music itself, however, is of course the most essential part of transmitting this feeling of 'lushness' to the listener.
I would argue that perhaps the best thing this band ever did for themselves was begin to construct their sound more around Kashikura's drumming, very similarly to the way his other band Toe does. This is something that they began to do on this album, and is one of the main reasons why their sound from here on out has been so different and generally fantastic. Kashikura's iconic drumming is something Toe has always been particularly renowned for, and it was a shame the way it wasn't utilised to its full potential on Trash We'd Love
. Whereas on many of their older songs I'd argue you could swap his drumming with another drummer's work and it wouldn't really make much of a difference, here it is absolutely essential to the overall sound on every track. World of Pandemonium
's specific brand of lushness that was earlier mentioned is something that is only able to be crafted around Kashikura's sharp but seamless, and equally lush performance. The fact that the band doesn't sound anything like 'Toe version 2.0 with vocals' when constructing their music more around his drumming is testament to how unique and original their sound really is here, as well.
Just because Kashikura's drumming is so remarkable and well utilised here doesn't mean that the other instrumentation should be overlooked, however. It's definitely impressive how every
band member was so successfully able to shift playing styles to work with their new, starkly different sound. Guitars are still greatly prominent (there's no experimentation with electronics here), but the dynamics and overall tone is entirely different from the more alternative rock sounding guitar work that came before. Instead, the band mostly takes on a more stripped back sort of sound with some of the tapping and clanging associated with math rock bands like Kashikura's Toe. As stated before though, they are far from being Toe 2.0 here, and tracks like 'Broccoli' and 'On Your Way Home' show that they can still create great songs when they’re not simply tapping and clanging away. In fact, no matter what they're doing on this album the whole band is always on point. This can be seen through Hosomi's lyrics, which despite their ambiguity paint such great pictures; Kashikura's drumming, which fits in with everything else so perfectly; and the guitar work, which manages to be not only very different, but also better than ever before. Since the beginning of their career the Hiatus have consistently put out albums that vary in style to some degree, but it is here that we have their most solid and accomplished record yet. Over anything else they've made before or since, if you were only to listen to one album by them, this is the one I'd recommend.