With all of the hustle and bustle of the past few months, it’s been ridiculous to even think of compiling information about many of the bands working hard at their craft. There have been so many events, news, and releases through the summer and fall that it almost seemed like it would never slow down. However, now that the new year is upon is, it would appear that now would be a good time to do a retrospective on the activity of one of the most incredible bands of the past 5 years, who really blossomed last year with a deluge of incredible activity: abingdon boys school.
The interim between their formation in ’05/official debut release in ’06 and last year saw pretty spotty activity from the super-group. Which is to be expected, really, considering three of the members work hard at Nishikawa’s T.M.Revolution project, as well as all of the other gigs and support work bassist IKUO, Shibasaki Hiroshi, and SUNAO are always up to. In 5 years, we only saw one full-length album, one Japan tour, one DVD release, and 4 singles.
However, things really took off for the boys last year, and devoted fans were kept hard at their rockin’ studies until very recently. I suppose this is our “winter-break”?
They started the year off on 2/25 with the hit single STRENGTH, the piano-strong, heavy melodic rock piece (b-side Freedom) which was featured as the OP to Soul Eater.
They continued going strong (heh. Get it?) on into the summer, with May 20th’s JAP (b-side Valkyrie), an incredible swerve in a new direction for the band. The rhythmic, rolling melody and fun, energetic lyrics are infectious and overwhelming at once, and the single was fun and fresh. Although it set a new standard for B-A-ness at large, it felt less serious than STRENGTH. JAP was used for the anime Devil Kings (Sengoku Basara).
A slightly modified version of the b-side Valkyrie, dubbed “Valkyrie -Lioleia Mix-“, was also featured in Monster Hunter 5th Anniversary, a tribute album to the Monster Hunter video game.
JAP was followed by Kimi no Uta [Your Song] on August 26th, which was released as the OP for brand-spanking-new anime series Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. Kimi no Uta also branched out for the band, playing with acoustic-guitar sounds and jazz-style solos. The b-side was an English version of JAP titled Stealth.
Although STRENGTH‘s PV was pretty classic a.b.s fare, the PVs started getting a lot glitzier and artsier, beginning with the pumped up JAP and getting really elegant and polished with Kimi no Uta. They also started experimenting with their image a little bit, veering away from their standard British school-boy ensembles and donning something a little more futuristic and chic.
Their final single for the year, which was released as, literally, a single song, From Dusk Till Dawn was a great addition to their heavy repertoire. From Dusk Till Dawn marks their first official ballad– definitely their slowest, gentlest piece. Although I tend to put on HOWLING to help me get to sleep, someone with subtler sensibilities will definitely appreciate something a.b.s to listen to in a soothing manner.
All singles made the top 5 in the OriCon weekly charts, except Kimi No Uta, which placed at #8. Still pretty good, if you ask me.
In the autumn, veteran Visual Kei band D’espairsRay released a new single, FINAL CALL (9/9/09), which was produced by Kishi Toshiyuki– a.b.s‘ keyboardist, programmer, and backing genius at large. A mutual honor for both parties, I’m sure.
In October a.b.s participated in the universe-shaking first-ever V-Rock Fest 09 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba (near Tokyo). V-Rock Fest was 2 solid days of non-stop Jrock and VK, and ran from the 24th-25th. a.b.s performed on the first day, along with artists such as Alice Nine, Aoi, D’espairsRay, D, Moi Dix Mois, Marilyn Manson, and others.
October 30th sent us back to school for a proper education with the release of the singles and b-sides compilation album Teaching Materials. The album was released only in Europe, and was the opener for a full Europe Tour in November. The tour opened on Nov. 3rd with a performance in Moscow, Russia, and included stops in Finland, France, the U.K., Germany, and Sweden.
The boys traveled through Europe by bus, both in an effort to reconnect to fundamental rocker-dom, and also as a way to bond further as a band. Being a side-project to some pretty major stuff, it’s not that surprising that the members might feel a certain level of incongruity in concerns to the a.b.s item. In an interview, Kishi remarked that traveling by bus to all of these foreign cities, and doing shows all over Europe, they actually were able to feel like a true band, and all of the members enjoyed that connection.
They will release a DVD of documentary and making-of, behind-the-scenes and concert footage, as well as making-ofs for their new PVs and album. The DVD, abingdon boys school Europe Tour 2009 & Music Clips / abingdon boys school will be released 3/17/10.
On January 27th, ’10, their (very) long-awaited second full-length album, Abingdon Road hit shelves and post-offices. The album was released in two versions, a regular edition with DVD and a limited edition with a photo-book. Abingdon Road features 7 all-new songs and 7 previously released songs, including older works such as Sweetest Coma Again (Luna Sea cover) and BLADE CHORD (’07).
The boys are currently preparing for a nation-wide Japan tour 2010. They set out on February 5th, and will wrap it up on March 19th, with a total of 12 dates.
I would say they’ve had a pretty busy year– and not only did they put out a ton of material, it’s all setting a new standard of quality awesomeness, not only for themselves, but for Jrock at large. Keep supporting these guys, and let’s all become such good non-national fans that they continue to expand their tour routes…and debut in the USA! I’ll be waiting for them.