Review Summary: A once interesting group puts out a release with so little to say for itself that all of the mentionable pros are contained within one sentence in the second paragraph.
I’m sure that there must come a point during the career of a band as large as One OK Rock where you have to decide whether you want to keep making music because you enjoy it, or if you want to hold your attention and make a living. Now, I’m not insinuating that the band did not enjoy writing, performing and recording 35xxxv, it’s not my place to make a sweeping statement like that. However, in saying that, it’s pretty obvious that 35xxxv was made specifically for the purpose of selling it in large quantities. I will argue as much as the next person that just because something is consumable and radio ready to the point of it being as obvious as it is here, doesn’t automatically make it bad. But this is that bad kind of listenable.
Now, if you’ve ever heard any of this band’s past material before, chances are you’d have enjoyed it. Their feel-good, party hard rock is with all certainty, rock done right. Their post-hardcore leanings on past releases added an extra level of energy to their sound and the way they executed their full on intentionally poppy sound on their previous outing Jinsei X Boku = worked in a way that was both appealing and modest, for the most part, respectable. But there is very little on 35xxxv that is respectable. A positive at least, is that the pop hooks are executed very professionally. But this results in a contradictory problem with the album; 35xxxv sounds incredibly sterile. The fact that One OK Rock use exactly the same tricks on every damn song on the album leaves the listener with very little to actually discuss and more to complain about. While the hooks are catchy, they are basically the only thing that makes the album worth listening to. You are better off just checking out the albums singles, “Cry Out” being a pretty good example of nearly the entirety of the release.
It wouldn’t really matter if the entirety of 35xxxv was in English. Just because the group is Japanese doesn’t mean that they have to exclusively sing in their native tongue. One OK Rock are very popular outside of their homeland, so of course English lyrics would benefit a whole lot of people. The problem comes in when the vocalist actually does sing in Japanese, it comes across as a gimmick. It almost feels as if the band thought that the main reason that they were interesting to foreign listeners was because of their nationality. On the topic of the lyrics, the band have quite certainly penned the most immature and stale lyrics of their entire career. The following example from the track “Memories” shamelessly displays the group’s tendency to utilise incredibly simple rhyming phrases (in this case, simple repetition even), angst appeal through uncharacteristic, emphasised use of swearing and Japanese as a gimmicky hook.
“You’re nothing but a memory, memory now
You are nothing but a memory, memory now
You’re burning out
Utsurikawari iku sedai koutai, atooi wa shinai shin jidai
Memory, memory now
Go on and *** yourself!”
The instrumental hooks are about as shallow as the lyrics as well, so don’t fall under the impression that the members of the group that aren’t singing are using their talents to their full. Aside from of course the instruments being unable to communicate in Japanese (though it is worthy of note that the album has a very western influenced sound), mostly the same problems with the lyrics and vocals (those that are convertible over to being an instrumental problem) is present with the instruments. It would be wrong of me to address these problems without even discussing the biggest offender on the album, genuine contender for worst song of the year (even this early) “Paper Planes.” Starring the hilariously generic vocals and lyricism of Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin, the song unintentionally elaborates on every single problem with the album and magnifies it 200%. Kellin isn’t even necessarily the main problem with the track, despite his vocal performance being completely devoid of emotion and all full of devilish intent in appealing to the masses with his neutered, completely uninteresting and depthless voice. No, the appallingly basic down-strummed power-chord progression, cheesy “harsh vocals” and laughable lyrics would have all been just as terrible without him. But the fact that Kellin was even hired (be it by the band or the label it really doesn’t matter) to feature seals it. What better way to appeal to westerners than with a westerner from a group as coveted by angsty teenagers as Sleeping With Sirens.
With 35xxxv, One OK Rock have opted into appealing to more people than actually playing something enjoyable. A guilty pleasure shouldn’t actually make you feel so guilty to the point that it is actually embarrassing to listen to and tell people about. What the band have done is manage to release an album so reliant on sugary pop hooks that it leaves listeners with next to nothing else good to say about it. Is it awful? Not necessarily, but let’s put it this way: if it was any good I wouldn’t have just spent 4 or 5 paragraphs explaining how bad it is.