Tricot
Makkuro


3.0
good

Review

by Johnny[Well] CONTRIBUTOR (143 Reviews)
February 6th, 2020 | 35 replies


Release Date: 01/29/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tricot's tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil

It’s been a good few years for Tricot. Starting up as just another math rock band in a land of math rock bands, they’ve broken the usual barriers related to the Japanese language and undanceable rhythms and have established themselves as a respected staple in international indiedom. I’m not sure exactly which time span a few years refers to, because it doesn’t matter - you can pick any Tricot LP, music video or international tour from, say, 2013 onwards and chart it as a cogent slab in the pavement of a band whose highway was clearly headed somewhere worth going. But wasn't all hits and excitement; part of the reason Tricot have done so well internationally where the Paranoid Voids, Cabs, Uchu Conbinis and Owarikaras of the world have not is that their sound has always been chorus-heavy and thoroughly uncontroversial. Math rock with a great live show, a penchant for (shock horror) emo, selectively linear song structures, wire-taut guitar frenetics, and viable singalongs? You’ve got a recipe for broad church genre appeal right there, and if you can point to a single concrete instance where being (almost) a girl group with a conveniently stunning lead vocalist didn't help things along, your next beer’s on me.

This is all to be read unsalted; Tricot deserve their success and I’m on board with them. There will never be enough decent math bands that are both Japanese and can be brought up as a household name with that fidgety hipster you’ve barely met at an overcrowded houseparty. Chalk up a few brownie points extra for the way they’ve held onto an easily recognisable staple sound adaptable to various different ends. 2017’s 3 played out like an anthology of directions into which the band could have steered their sound wholesale, without committing to any of them entirely; that album’s highlight tracks were remarkable for sounding nothing like each other on paper, yet fitting the band seamlessly in performance. As such, Tricot have been more or less exemplary in the how they’ve reaped every benefit of a rising platform while eschewing all the accompanying baggage of success and heavy expectations.

Up til now.

If Tricot’s new album Makkuro has a great accomplishment, it’s in the way it simultaneously lands as the most controversial Tricot album and their most compact, palatable tracks to date - quite apt for an album themed on darkness yet musically flashy as hell. The controversy in question is less to do with it being their long time coming major label debut, and much more with how it marks the end of the time when Tricot would continually test the boundaries of their sound just enough to get away with never substantially inventing themselves. I didn’t realise I had so many reservations about what Tricot’s follow-up to 3’s accessibility and the Repeat EP’s introspection might sound like until I found all of them being squarely validated by this album. Makkuro is a competent streamlining of Tricot’s longstanding tropes into one neat, disaster-proof package that sounds slicker than ever but fails to deliver the same lasting impact. The music is good. It’s competent, energetic and feels destined for a large audience of positive disposition. There are no weak links and I can’t fault the development of any given track. As usual, band bring their all: vocalist/guitarist Ikkyu has a field day, holding the spotlight in almost every track; bassist Hirohiro enjoys prominent placement in a mix sensitive to her contributions like never before; guitar heroine Motifour feels a little reined in yet as impressive as ever; now full-time drummer Yuusuke Yoshida is a sturdy foundation for his bandmates’ übertight chemistry.

All good, so far. Things get a little dicier when you look at the production. Makkuro’s inevitable major label gloss-job is a far cry from the knife-edge guitar tones and delicate dynamics of the past and will likely split people between those enjoyed the way this band managed brittleness and those who actually really like mainstream rock [and that’s okay]. I won’t pick bones over it because there are other, more obvious targets - namely, the wider scheme of the songwriting. Going through Makkuro end-to-end, there are several points at which I’m convinced the band collectively decided that the easiest way never to make a bad album was to hold as tightly as possible onto all the stylings that had previously brought them praise. Accordingly, the most adventurous cuts here sound like they were directly lifted from 3 and Repeat’s better ideas - and when I say directly, I mean that “Himitsu” might as well be “DeDeDe” transposed down an octave with the odd sinister melody thrown in, “Junpuu Manban” is “Pork Ginger” pt. 2 with the same plot and half the stakes, ditto for “Naka” and “Sukima”, respectively, opener “Mazeru na Kiken” is a sawn-off “Tokyo Vampire Hotel” except this time Motifour loses her shit instead of Ikkyu, and “One Season” is “Reflection” rehashed and stripped of all its dynamic nuance. At least these girls know their own best songs.

These reappropriations aren’t poorly conceived; as B-stream versions of their originals go, they’re pretty neat (and, admittedly, “Naka” takes the crown from the clunky “Sukima”). Where things gets dangerous is when you consider that I’ve just named half the album and the remaining tracks are either singles or singles-in-waiting that predominantly sound exactly as you’d expect from a straightforward Tricot single in 2020: upbeat, slick, occasionally a little off-kilter and guaranteed to go down a storm live. The likes of “Afureru”, “Unou Sanou” and “Makkuro” play things by the book so tenaciously that they hardly leave a scratch compared to their predecessors “Pool” and “E”, amongst others. Consequentially, a significant part of the Makkuro experience consists of tapping your foot in objectively warranted appreciation while secretly hoping for something that sounds just a smidge less deja vu. I mean, the interval “Teisoku Douro” is a straight-up reprise of A N D’s “Kobe Number” and it’s one of the most individually memorable moments here!? Give me a break.

By my count, Makkuro brings two Strong New Ideas into the mix in song form. The first, “Mitete” is less an idea and more the lowest common denominator of the band embracing a more accessible sound, but they do it with such confidence and hold down enough of an edge in their chord choices that it pans out as an ultragratifying banger. The other, “Abenakunakunai Machi E”, is an gorgeous twinkly ballad no-one saw coming from Tricot, putting Ikkyu front and centre and, for the first time in their career, turning the rest of the band into a support unit. I would normally make a mean-spirited joke about this one being phoned in from Avex Trax HQ, but fortunately enough it makes for the album’s only real left-term and a clear highlight. Ikkyu delivers probably her finest performance to date and earns my infinite respect for turning *that* title lyric (not a typo!) into something beautiful and somehow fluid at the start of the chorus. Reflective of Tricot’s usual niche it is not, but “Abenakunakunai Machi E” is hands down Makkuro’s standout track - and I’ll be damned if that isn’t as inauspiciously backhanded as such things come.

Taken in isolation, Makkuro is probably a formidable album. It shows off all of Tricot’s strengths, even if none of them are at their strongest. It’s short of the same emo crossover appeal that T H E balanced so masterfully, but otherwise I can see this being an excellent starting point for newcomers; that factor alone gives it a certain Mission Accomplished factor. Likewise, the band are as watertight as ever and never once drop the ball; old hat songwriting and dubious new production aside, there’s a lot to enjoy here for longterm fans. Where it falls down is in the way it does something anathema to past Tricot albums, with their musical pluralism and jack-of-all-trades ethos: it asks a Firm Yes/No Question, is the principle of “More Tricot is good Tricot!” enough to carry a whole album?

Makkuro earns a grudging “yes”, but in posing that question to begin with, it ushers the language of binaries into the band’s previously unpolarised world and bursts the bubble they once sustained as such. Bam. That’s it for the happy equilibrium they once rode so fruitfully. The album’s dark/light theme suddenly becomes a metaphor for a set of opposites that have always been there, but are no longer as easy to dismiss when it comes to framing Tricot’s sound: comfort vs. innovation, idiosyncrasy vs. palatability and, lurking in the background, success vs. artistry. Back in the day one of Tricot’s great qualities was that these didn’t need to be opposites, but Makkuro rewires their sound into something equally functional, equally animate and equally competent, yet somehow a distinct notch less engaging.



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user ratings (46)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5doNaJuxzyiybQV0YswLBv?si=WgH0wBuXTt6wSE_UEerB5g

This is one of those reviews where I hope everyone tells me I'm wrong until I agree with them and then we can all carry on our days a little happier for it. Album is good and should be heard; if I'd heard this as no-context math rock, it'd be a much more positive review - but I'm so mixed on what Tricot specifically are doing here that it fell down somewhat. It's probably better than A N D but doesn't have that album's knockout tracks.

If you haven't heard Tricot, skip the review and absolutely do hear this. Solid starting point, although 3 is a superior option. It's also cute to see RYM losing their shit over this.

Band name is pronounced Treecko like the Pokemon :]

Digging: Jida - Lucid

zaruyache
February 6th 2020


21945 Comments


oh hey this album

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


18060 Comments


Great review man, I am gonna probably hate this album, cause I am pretty saturated with the local math rock scene here but I'm gonna check it out.

Digging: The Haxan Cloak - The Haxan Cloak

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


18060 Comments


And also fuck that cover.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cover saved them from having to write the title, but all their other covers are so great (apart from Repeat) ugh. I do think this is pretty hate-proof tbh and am glad people seem to be digging - just turns a lot of their great qualities into good ones :/

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"I tend to like to consider tricot as like, the "thinking persons" idol band. While that statement is obviously drenched in irony, there is some truth to the idea. The members of tricot are fucking hot. Like, I want to marry all of them, and frankly that is an intentional part of their appeal. However despite this, tricot doesn't feel like their goal is the be an idol band. There's a difference between an attractive artist, and an artist who happens to be attractive, and tricot is one of the best examples of the latter. Despite one of the obvious marketing tactics of this band being "your waifu/husbando harem and play good instruments" along the lines of K-On or some shit, I honestly think that if the band members were just "regular" looking people, I would still absolutely be in love with their music. That honestly shouldn't be impressive, but in a world where having a significant presence in the music industry seem to me to be a red flag, tricot is one of the few bands that makes me feel like not all major artists are in it to just pay the bills."

- RYM pasta from the Repeat page

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


3649 Comments


pretty good pasta, hard agree!

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


18060 Comments


Same thing happened to me first time I saw live Paranoid Void last year. "Damn, they are all really good looking girls", it's the first thing that came to my mind when they were setting up, but when they started playing, holy fuck... Incredible musicians and composers in their own right.

Same goes for Tricot.

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


11521 Comments


Do I want this.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Maybe but you defs want the debut

gschwen
February 6th 2020


236 Comments


Makkuro means "Pitch Black", like the album cover.

Been following the band for a few years now, kinda checking out each new single and EP ... this album is the best thing they've done to date. It's not a world beater but it's a solid album. If you're into some of the newer mathrock bands this would be a good recommendation.

I'm not slightly fluent in Japanese but here's the English tracklist I was able to deduce:

Danger, Do Not Mix
Right Brain, Left Brain
Overflowing
Look at Me
Blush
Slow Road
Smooth Sail
Inside
One Season
To a City That is Not Dangerous
Pure White
Pitch Black

dimsim3478
February 6th 2020


8573 Comments


holy cow that pasta is straight from the depths of hell

Digging: THE FULL TEENZ - ???????????

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the thinking person's idol hell :[

Could someone explain what's going on in 危なくなく無い dramatically? Is this like a double-negative; the usual negative would be あぶなくない, right?

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

*grammatically (bonus points for a dramatic explanation)

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


18060 Comments


Well yeah kind of.

あぶなくない = Not dangerous

危なくなく無い = Not not dangerous so becomes a positive = dangerous

It's not very common use, but I've heard it usually as a question.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So a similar sense to saying not undangerous in English if you wanted to be indirect but suggestive?

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


18060 Comments


I... guess? ;)

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

[notes new favourite word]

Gonna annoy the hell out of my tutor dropping these gratuitously instead of using chotto - 天気がさむなくないね...

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


18060 Comments


Missing a く there brother, 天気がさむなくないね...

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
February 7th 2020


21507 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

[blushes in Japanese_cringepost]



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