L'arc-en-Ciel
Real


4.5
superb

Review

by INTERNATIONAL POPSTAR STEVEN WILSON USER (50 Reviews)
March 15th, 2015 | 10 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Some of the most ambitious pop rock out there, guaranteed to get a sold out stadium on their feet.

L'arc-en-Ciel are known across the world for their catchy pop rock hooks and accessibility for western listeners. Let’s get this out there first, these guys are huge. Like, the first Japanese band to play Madison Square Garden huge. If the name isn't familiar, if you've seen Fullmetal Alchemist, Gintama or Great Teacher Onizuka or four particular episodes of Rurouni Kenshin (before it was replaced due to their drummer at the time’s arrest for heroin possession) you've heard these guys before. But while it’s perfectly acceptable and understandable that L'arc-en-Ciel are revered for their infectiously listenable brand of pop rock, no one ever really talks about how ambitious they are. Now, REAL was a seriously ambitious effort, considering that they had just released a double album the year before. The quartet was just coming off penning two hugely successful (Ark was #1 on the Oricon and Ray was #2 both at the same time) and iconic albums and releasing them back to back when they decided “hell, let’s do one more.”

As crazy as that sounds for a pop-rock group, it's phenomenal how much REAL has going on. If you're curious as to exactly how much you can pull off within the pop rock spectrum over 11 songs a little over a year after simultaneously releasing two full length albums, then look no further than REAL. For some bizarre reason, the first two songs on the album are the weakest. It doesn’t make for a good introduction, but it's just as well in retrospect that the rest of the album is impeccably solid. “get out from the shell –asian version-” is a less than inspiring electronic vehicle that never actually builds into anything successfully. The chorus lacks depth, the melody is far and from and world class vocalist Hyde sounds ridiculous. Then sexually charged, drunk and disorderly “THE NEPENTHES” staggers in, admirably attempts to hook the listener in with a fast-paced rock ditty but ultimately serves to be the most forgettable song on the album.

Despite such a wobbly start, the rest of the album makes up for any and every mistake and misconception that these two tracks create and delivers tenfold. One of the most entertaining songs the band has ever written comes in the form of “Stay Away,” kicking in with a massive distorted bass lick diving head first into an uptempo pop rock dance track, exactly what “THE NEPENTHES” attempted to be but executed to perfection. As is key to what makes L'arc-en-Ciel such a fantastic group to listen to, every single member of the group stands out in some way on “Stay Away.” Bassist Tetsu acts as much as a lead guitarist as he does a bassist, Ken rips some wicked lead breaks all over the place, drummer Yukihiro holds complete control of the tempo throughout the song and Hyde delivers his fish hook vocals unrelentingly, combining with Tetsu to deliver one of the groups most memorable choruses.

L'arc-en-Ciel deliver a satisfying amount of variety with some incredibly strong ballads. “finale” being one of the most interesting pieces on the album, chugging along imposingly, reverently using electronics and effectively utilising string arrangements as a vehicle for Hyde’s vocals which are somehow punchy and perfectly restrained. The album mellows out beautifully towards the end with the tearjerker “a silent letter.” Probably one of the groups softest moments and most intimate, soft reverbed and delayed guitars flow around quietly while Hyde and Yukihiro tone their down their respective roles. Hyde’s range is impressive, managing to hit some rather difficult to reach notes without needing to raise his voice up to do it. The way the instrumentals burn softly throughout the song into the screaming mess of feedback near the end is highly moving and entertaining. Alongside the ballads on REAL are the heavy hitter stadium rock type tracks like “ROUTE 666,” a bluesy number and one of the most balls out moments on the album.

REAL is just loaded with feel-good moments. From the soaring serenity of “NEO UNIVERSE” and the hypnotic rhythm of “finale” to the crowd firing hooks of “Stay Away” and “ROUTE 666.” Every bit as ambitious as the bands chart-topping double-dip, REAL showcases how many different feelings you are able to achieve while staying within the realm of pop rock. It’s absolutely no surprise that L’arc-en-Ciel have gained the international recognition that they have, demonstrating their ability to get a full stadium jumping in a way that is simultaneously professional and full of heart.



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user ratings (33)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jasdevi087
March 15th 2015


8122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Got the day off school because NZ is currently getting the ass-end of cyclone Pam. It's just raining a little and it's pretty windy but basically it's not even close to being a serious as it was in Vanuatu thankfully. Not worth closing the school in the end, so jokes on them we all get a day of school for a rainy day.



As usual I did a pretty lax proofread.

silentstar
March 15th 2015


2528 Comments


>if you've seen Fullmetal Alchemist

i knew i recognized this band from somewhere

Jasdevi087
March 15th 2015


8122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

On the school, not Vanuatu.

ComeToDaddy
March 16th 2015


1851 Comments


Does "four particular episodes of Rurouni Kenshin" refer to Tsuioku-hen? I don't remember these guys being in that at all :s

This is like Supercell, in that I love what I've heard but never made a concerted effort to jam outside of the anime I watch. I didn't regret it last time, so I'll check this out on your recommendation (: cool review too, pos'd

Jasdevi087
March 16th 2015


8122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"The Forth Avenue Cafe" was the outro for four episodes, no idea which ones as I haven't seen it.

ComeToDaddy
March 16th 2015


1851 Comments


Ohhh okay, I just made an assumption given how famous those particular 4 episodes are. I haven't watched the show either, only that OVA, but it was fantastic

Sabrutin
March 16th 2015


9632 Comments


Sweet, pos'd. Everytime I try to approach something by this band I stop, I swear I'll try harder one day.

Jasdevi087
March 17th 2015


8122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Watch their Madison Square Garden live, that's what got me into them. I just had it playing one night and it got me hooked.

Sabrutin
March 18th 2015


9632 Comments


I don't seem to dig their sound too much but I'll come back later, at least this time I made some progress haha.

Vorpax
June 16th 2015


24 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

One of their best albums, absolutely amazing.



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