Review Summary: Ladybaby this is not. This is straight up J-Rock with all-girl punk energy.
Remember BRATS? I reviewed them last year shortly after they released their first EP Ainikoiyo/Nounai Shoukyo Game, and now, roughly a year later, they’ve released their first self-titled full-length. I was very keen on the potential of these girls when listening to those tracks and now that BRATS is out, we can take a look at how much of that they have fulfilled so far.
Opening with the dark and moody “Pain” is quite misleading for the energetic J-punk that BRATS have to offer, but it works well to grab the listener’s attention. It’s refreshing to hear Rei Kuromiya singing in her more natural vocal range as opposed to the high pitched “kawaii” voice she used in Ladybaby, and as opposed to the banal subjects she sang about in her old band, she’s given full scope to sing about all manner of things, including her own personal struggles. However, she doesn’t mull about for long, and once “Kaihouseyo” and the energetic alt-metal of “Doudatte yokatta” kick in, it becomes clear that we’re here for a good time. The riffs of Hinako and the chemistry between her and the Kuromiya sisters mean that, no matter how dark Rei’s lyrics may get (such as in pop-punk belter “Unfair”), the high energy never lets up.
While rooted in punk and J-rock, there are a wide variety of influences in BRATS’ first offering. From electronics which borrow heavily from industrial and J-pop in equal measure, to crunching metal guitars on “Doudatte yokatta” and “Big Bad World”, there’s enough to be found in the simple-at-first-glance album to provide bounds of variety and replay-ability if you want to dig in deep enough, finding something new on each repeat listen. Hinako is a greatly underappreciated element of the band, although Rei is understandably front and centre due to her status. Hinako’s songwriting ability creates the perfect platform for Rei on tracks such as “Kimarigoto”, which eccentrically skips all over the place. Even when things slow down with the anthemic “Big Bad World” and “Seitouka Pride Monster”, Hinako is the foundation of everything that happens, allowing Aya’s bass and Rei’s vocals to shine.
Obviously, when an album flirts with so many different genres, people are going to be put off as it will more likely than not contain influences that they may not like. With the way in which BRATS frantically bounce between pop-punk, J-rock and metal, it can make for an exhausting and testing listen for some, but the variety keeps things interesting and shows a maturity in their songwriting that many musicians their age lack. Obviously if they want a wider appeal, it would benefit them to refine their sound into something more consistent, but they have years ahead of them to do that.
After closing things out with their two well known theme songs, “Ainikoiyo” (from the anime To Be Hero) and “Nounai Shoukyo Game” (from the film Slavemen), you can see that they have grown from these two tracks already. The future is bright for BRATS, and they could go far if they continue growing at their current rate.