Review Summary: This album is an unexpected gem. Not only is it a superb album, but it stands out amongst the groups greatest works and deserves to be acknowledged for its ability to sound truly new and inventive 33 years after the bands inception.
After years of constant music releases and touring, many bands often lose their sense of direction, and end up coming to a point of musical blandness, releasing music that treads a similar path to previous releases, yet never truly surpasses or stands next to the groups best work. This is true for many veteran acts in the Japanese rock scene, namely Luna Sea and X Japan, both bands which have seemingly lost the flare that was ever so present in their golden years. Yet, occasionally there are bands that, against all odds, can hurdle over this creative slump, and continue their journey of greatness.
This grandiose adventure of inspired work has been showcased for years by one of visual kei’s most famous patriarchs, Buck-Tick. For most people familiar with Buck-Tick, the golden years of the band occurred in the early 90s, between the seminal hit album ‘Aku no Hana’ and the experimentally brash ‘COSMOS’. While most bands would normally fall into the cycle of regurgitating familiar ideas and hoping for one to stick, Buck-Tick said, “screw that” and went on to practically change their entire sound with the release of ‘Sexy Stream Liner’. What ‘Sexy Stream Liner’ did that was rather unexpected was that, not only did it change the bands sound drastically, it perfected said new approach with flying colours, and brought the band onto a new era. For years after ‘Sexy Stream Liner’s’ release, Buck-Tick have continued to reinvent their sound on practically every album, providing the listener with new sonic experiences while still sounding distinctly ‘Buck-Tick’.
In 2014, a whopping 33 years after the band’s initial formation, Buck Tick released an album that I doubt anyone thought would be anything of significance. Titled ‘Atom mirai-ha No.9’, the album has been labelled by some as, “just another Buck-Tick album”, but to the most attentive of listeners, the album reveals itself for what it is: a celebration of Buck-Tick’s past, present, and future (additionally, this is made even more evident by the similarity of the albums cover art to the cover art of ‘Aku no Hana’).
When the album begins, listeners are greeted with the sounds of mingled electronics, before the album abruptly shifts to the the atmospheric strumming of an acoustic guitar. This slow-burner of a track, titled ‘cum uh sol nu -flask of another type-’, sets the dark tone for the album, and introduces the inventive mix of electronics and traditional rock instrumentals explored throughout the albums 13 tracks. From there, the album continues to impress with practically every track, from the unrelenting force of ‘PINOA ICCHIO -The Atom Dances-‘ (which clearly references Osamu Tezuka’s most well known character, Tetsuwan Atomu), to the enchanting ambience of ‘Sea of Trees’.
One of the albums shining elements are its spectacular lyrics. While English listeners will obviously not experience the same thrill while listening to this album as a native Japanese listener would, there are many translations available online, and I urge anyone who wants to get the full experience from this album to seek them out. Another key thing to note about the lyrics are the excellent contributions not only from Sakurai, but Imai, who has clearly drastically improved his lyrical penmanship since the days of ‘SEXUAL xxxxx!’. A track which has particularly great lyrics are the lyrics to ‘THE SEASIDE STORY’, which are a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, ‘The Little Mermaid’. The way the playful music contrasts with the rather depressing lyrics complements the mythos surrounding the song.
If this album has one fault, it is the sometimes-overbearing electronics. While overall the production on this album is stellar, the choice to include some of the electronic backing-tracks at such an dominating volume is questionable at best. Trust me when I say that the song writing more than makes up for the occasional poor choice in production.
cum uh sol nu -flask of another type-
THE SEASIDE STORY
FUTURE SONG -Here Comes the Future-