Hailing from Ibaraki, Japan, FC Five is yet another band that goes unheard of in the western nations. Even despite organizing shows and touring the U.S. with acts such as Stretch Armstrong, and Bane, FC Five have managed to remain low on the scale among western audiences – even among the select group of individuals that pride themselves in knowledge of various obscure or overseas acts. Memories, FC Five’s debut full length album, is a mix of punk, rock, and emo, though the band likes to consider itself as a “Japanese spazzcore” band. While seeming with unique traits, covetable by others in the general genre, FC Five also manages to identify with more recognizable sounding influences. In general, Memories is a mix between an old fashioned style of hardcore, mixed with newer punk, rock, and emo influences.
Chug, chug, chug, chug! “Enter/Beginning of the Final Countdown” kicks in off right away. Nearly everything about this track is mediocre: the drumming, the simple guitar, and lack of vocals. It’s still interesting enough to draw the listener in. Nothing’s overdone; it’s a great introduction to the album. Chug, chug, feedback. The album drastically shifts gear via smooth transition into “Evolve”, the first full song of Memories. The poppy, friendly, power chord laden vibe of the album are now replaced with angry, punk riffs. The tune is essentially the same, but now faster, with more drumming, and for the first time in the album, vocals. Tomy’s voice is not very refined, nor are any of the band members skills, a trait more noticeable later in the album. But, for the time being, their inexperience is awe-inspiring. The sloppily played guitar amidst the spastic screams are complimentary to each other. Emotion pours, yet it’s not overdone to the point of exhaustion. In fact, even despite the melancholy overtone of “Evolve”, the song is actually “fun”. It’s essentially a good, fast, head banging track, with “scream-alongs” thrown into the mix.
The next two tracks are equally as striking. “New Greed” incorporates all the same elements that made “Evolve” great, but still maintains its own identity apart from the other tracks. The fourth track, “Cold Ground”, incorporates a slightly different set of dynamics. Instead of introducing itself with a sloppy guitar, it goes straight for the throat, with vocals and heavy guitar beating down on the listener accentuated with the crashing of cymbals.
The first four tracks of Memories are a promising bunch.
But, alas, as track five, “Everything Blame For Your Stains”, kicks in, repetition becomes more noticeable, or if not more noticeable, it becomes less tolerable. The tracks themselves aren’t bad. In fact, they’re all really just about as good as the introductory tracks. But in this case, that’s the problem. Memories reaches a sort of creative plateau after “Cold Ground”. The next few tracks just seem to blend in with each other, and since they’re all such short tracks, they become easily forgettable. No song on this album exceeds four minutes, and only a few barely exceed three minutes.
Still, even as the tracks blend in with each other, they still hold their “fun” factor. The punk styling takes tighter control of these tracks, but at the same time, more rock elements are added. Some things that are still not found, however, are virtuosities. Hardly any of the music stands out alone on Memories, as the songs prefer to be enjoyed through the cooperation of all members. No solos can be found on this album, and clean guitar is a rare commodity here. FC Five does not stray far from their “fun” style, and the result is yet another exhibition or mediocrity.
However, buried within the sea of decency, comes a gem. Track ten, “Watching the Sky”. Arguably one of the best, if not the best, song on the album, it incorporates practically all the positive elements of Memories, including: unique dynamics in respect to the rest of the album, the most recognizable and catchy riffs on the album, and a powerfully layered scream in the chorus. I’ve always attached a lot of interesting imagery with “Watching the Sky.” Just hearing it brings to mind a crowd of Japanese youths, crowded into a small, yet classily decorated venue, going wild and screaming along with the band. For whatever reason, the feel of “Watching the Sky” has always (to me) symbolized a trendy, Japanese nightlife, giving it that extra point of greatness on this album.
Following up “Watching the Sky” is “For Daybreak”. This is yet another interesting song, though not as great as the previous track. It’s a great follow up track to “Watching the Sky”, and it’s the first to use a clean guitar for extended amounts of time. The intro is a cool, easy sounding piece. The distorted guitar kicks in, and destroys a little bit of the vive, but not the point of complete alteration of the song. From this point on, the album concludes decently. The last track revisits the sameness that the body of the album exhibits, but since the previous two tracks, “Watching the Sky” and “For Daybreak”, overpower them, the track is successful. Successful, that is, but only in the respect of being a good track. As far as closing the album, “Truth Has Gone” taints the whole feel of the previous two tracks, which together would have made a perfect closing.
In general, it’s safe to say the Memories a strong album, though it’s not unfair to say that it’s also a lagging album. The high points of the album are counteracted by songs of equal caliber, but without the unique qualities as their predecessors, causing the album to loose appeal halfway through, only to regain its listeners’ attention at the tenth track on. Other aspects to the album, such as the lack of coherency in the instruments, and the spastic screaming of front man, Tomy, can add to the disapproval of some of the target audience.
To put it simply, the album could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse too. It has enough redeeming qualities to it to merit a 3.5 rating.