REMEMBER THE URGE Peripherals

I’m skipping the whole New Look comment-fest this time around because I think by now everyone’s seen The GazettE‘s new look and probably guessed what my opinion is about it anyway. To summarize: everyone looks the same. Any enhanced coolness of the mug-shots this time around is thanks to cool lighting and enigmatic, indirect poses (way to not look at the camera, Ruki. I never do either.), as opposed to innovative new outfits/styling. I don’t really mind either way if they wear crazy outfits or choose the subdued a-typical Visual Kei monochrome uniform of choice, so no complaints in that area.

Moving along, today is the REMEMBER THE URGE (to write all in caps? To smash your electric guitar? To start tearing off your clothes?) EDITION of GazettE Overwhelms The World With More Mediocre Releases Week.

Optical Impression....

 Tracklist:*

01 – REMEMBER THE URGE
02 – CLEVER MONKEY

*Plus DVD containing PV and making-of footage.

  Even if I rarely end up actually listening to the music anymore, I still find myself drawn to The GazettE‘s sense of aesthetics. The albums and singles always have cutting-edge styling, and the imagery is ironically pretty sweet and different from a lot of the stuff out there. Looks like they’re drawing on a similar general concept to their last release, Vortex, by using the same ambiguous-paint-splatter concept, this time in black. Not sure who picked out the kid’s camo trunks, but it’s cool man.

And Auditory...

 Tracklist:

01 – REMEMBER THE URGE
02 – CLEVER MONKEY
03 – Chiyou

I actually really appreciate how they tied the two covers together. In the first cover, the kid is smashing the guitar, and it’s like the guitar is spewing this deluge of black…blood? Paint? Oil? And in the second cover, the guitar’s blood? Paint? Oil? is raining down on the character in a black shower. Sick.

As always, I wish I could approach the preview with as much enthusiasm. Perhaps I should go into being an amateur art-critic and give up on music altogether (you were thinking it– don’t deny it). Actually, I’m choosing to withhold judgment until the PV is released in full….But trust me, you will be hearing from me when it is.

 

 

GACKT in the Ghetto

I’ve been stewing over this for some time now. I can’t take it anymore, I gotta get it off my chest.  In anticipation of his upcoming YFCz European tour (extended and expanded version), GACKT switched up the ol’ tried-and-true approach of actually looking cool, and decided to go out on a limb with his newest makeover. His stylist must’ve felt bad for all the countries that haven’t gotten a GACKT tour yet, and decided to help console us by giving GACKT such a ridiculously WTF-worthy hairstyle that we would close out the tour schedule tabs on our browsers, going “grumblegrumbleGACKTwtfyourghettohairgrumblegrumble”, content to wait until a better makeover before we lament not being able to see him live. ¹

Who is he, Shimizu Shota?

 I mean, seriously, did I miss something? Is he a rapper now? Will Justin Bieber be featured on Episode .0 as a special guest? Or is this some inter-cultural attempt at Harry Potter in time for Deathly Hallows Part 2? What’s with the lightning bolt? Didn’t he read the books? It goes on your forehead, man!

 I’ve always accepted and been able to appreciate GACKT’s blonde haircolor– I thought he looked kind of like a Japanese sararii man with the straight black sleek look– not in a bad way, just in a Japanese-dad kind of way. I do think the blonde hair makes him look younger and certainly edgier…

Fo shizzle, yo.

My issues lie with the haircut.

 It looks to me like someone wasn’t paying attention when they were cutting it and accidentally hacked a huge chunk out of the bangs and did a rush job of trying to cover it up (remember, GACKT, don’t tell them about their salary cut while they’re wielding scissors by your head). It’s not definable by any hair-style known to man– it is not a low-cut, faux-hawk, or buzz. It’s like all three mashed into one, dyed blonde, with a random zigzag stuck on the side just to enhance…enhance what, exactly? The overwhelming lack of symmetry and coolness? Remember, there’s a difference between “asymmetrical” and “just plain awkward”. I doubt I need to tell you which side of that line this falls on.

 Following this disaster, cover-art for July single Episode .0 was released for 2 versions, the usual ltd and regular. I was originally planning on picking up the ltd edition because it comes with a DVD, but then they released the cover art…

…Which further proves my point that the Regular edition cover art is always superior. I don’t care if it is the OP to some new anime or game, to me it just doesn’t have the feel of a GACKT single. It also reminds me of those vocaloid monsters in which I have absolutely .0 interest.

 The regular edition cover art, however, hits the spot. It actually has GACKT on it, which always helps give it the feel of a GACKT single. Fortunately he’s wearing his cool samurai wig so I won’t have to remove and hide any booklet tainted by this new Faux-Low-Cut nonsense.

 Not my favorite cover by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done. I admit, I like the font a lot, but I feel like the design of the cover overall is “good” rather than “great. I live in hope that the songs and PV² far surpass the quality of their creator’s hair-style and the lackluster artwork.

Remember, GACKT’s birthday falls on the 4th, so if you’re starting to make plans to smash open watermelons on the beach or poke out innocent eyes with sparklers, save some time on your calendar to acknowledge GACKT (ghetto lightning-bolt-scar-wannabe and all). And if you have plans to do so, feel free to comment and explain– I’m always curious about how others honor these moments in their Visualife.

Also, July 7th is tanabata for Visualists and Japanophiles alike, Episode .0 drops the 13th, and of course don’t forget the premier of GACKT’s new movie.

Wait, what? Don’t worry about it.

¹–Note: I am obviously being humorous here…kind of. Even if he was bald I would kill to see GACKT live. I think.

²—Note: The PV has been leaked on YT, but, as is my custom with GACKT releases, I won’t be watching or reviewing the PV until I’ve heard the single itself.

Aoi Defies Dye Lot 335 “Asian Blonde”

“The New Look”, always a much anticipated release of information. In my experience, the disclosure of a Visual Kei band’s “New Look”, as organized for the promotion of a new album or single, is always a testament to rock bands’ abilities to create infinite variety with one or less colors.

In the past, I’ve found The GazettE to be satisfactorily edgy in their looks. Veering shockingly away from the standard black pants, black blazer, and the occasional, unnerving splash of gray, The GazettE‘s image always pops up in my head dressed in colorful velour suits with perfectly coiffed blonde mullets.

However, when black became the new, well, rainbow circa 2009, and the word on the street was “chic”, it seemed like Visual Kei started getting a little less, y’know, visual. The host-boy hair syndrome overwhelmed the industry as the standard hair-fare, and, that-which-must-not-be-named (oshare) aside (out of the discussion, where it belongs), the universally accepted Visual Kei uniform became the angry angura badass bad-lands look. That is, blackblackblack.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t worn color since 2009 either. But I will pass judgment here and say, I think that Visual Kei bands could stand to break out of the angura thing and at least give us a splash of something that’s not just black clothes and blonde hair. I’m pleased to see that one of the most universally accepted “cool-looking” bands have let at least one member go out on a limb this time¹. First of all, let me just say that I think the concept for these shots is pretty epic. The industrial, utterly lackluster backdrop contrasts with the striking paint-splatters smeared over each portrait, giving a creative twist to otherwise standard Type A new look portraits. I’m actually astounded by this “new look”, simply because they actually did something with Aoi’s hair. Gone is the ultra simple black coif of their past, and present now is a spiky, edgy, and very……purple… style that totally defies the “Asian Blonde” I thought it was illegal for a Visual Kei band-member to not have. Whether he actually had a hair color for past single Pledge cannot really be known, as the PV was monochrome, and I bet they stood behind a monochrome holograph for all their promotions. Can never be too careful– you never know when a splash of color might invade your cool, black-clad life and ruin everything with its recklessness.

The hair and high collar also bring across something of a hide-feel, which I think is probably a healthy direction to be moving in.

As usual, Uruha, with his tumbling golden locks and smoldering glare, just begs to be worshiped by men and women alike. Putting all androgynous Visual Kei creatures eternally to shame as he does, even after all these years I cannot reason with normies who say he looks like a woman. No disrespect- you have to be utterly and irreparably confused to even attempt to deny it.

I like what they’ve done with his hair– some edgy layers and of course a pretty little twist of the hair-iron produces that little iconic curl. That being said, from the neck down I can’t help but have this feeling that he’s wearing one of Ozaki Nana’s outfits from the anime Nana. The signature leather jacket and….please tell me that’s not a tulle dress?

Some things may change, but Reita will forever look the same.

I can’t say I’ve ever disapproved of a Ruki look, unless you consider that one time he tried to be totally gangster, which I think was succeeded by The Perm….Which I think was succeeded by…Nah, just messing with you guys. The slight wave to his hair is acceptable, and all the clean lines and simple details make for a solid vocalist ensemble. No big shockers here.

Who is this ninja musician, and when will the waiter be here with my check?

All together now:

 

¹ – Would like to take this moment to also mention Jyou of exist trace who is rocking some fiery locks.

images from http://gzrock.wordpress.com & google

IMPO…

On Thursday I will be driving down to Boston to spend the weekend at Anime Boston, specifically with the primary intention of attending girugamesh’s concert and panels. I’ve been prepping for it by listening to their albums and tuning into their Ustream events online. Pretty foolproof.

In anticipation of the founders of Visual Kei fusion genre Anime OP <3’s Teen Angst girugamesh‘s long-awaited US appearance, and following on the heels of their January release (first original album since ‘o9’s toeheaded NOW), entitled GO, I’ve been ruminating on the black-clad host boys an awful lot lately. So before I hit up Boston and see them live and then have everyone blame this on post-concert bias, I wanted to address some things about girugamesh and Visual Kei Today.

Over the past 2 or 3 years, there’s been a lot of griping about what girugamesh has been and will be doing stylistically. As far back as 2008, they began entering their re-debut of adolescent, agonized expressionist experimentation that stirred up some mixed feelings from fans. What started out as white-noise steadily developed into doubtfulness about where the band was moving with its sound and image as they began incorporating elements of mixing, pop and electronica into their previously hardcore shredder scene. This developed into outright concern with releases as early as MUSIC, and certainly increased over time when NOW disappointed in its offerings. Now, with the release of b-average sub-standard singles such as COLOR, doubt and concern is turning to dissatisfaction and, potentially, dissension.

I’ll admit, I have not been remotely hesitant to express my opinions and concerns for the future. Although it’s not usually my wont to do so, I may have, of late, been (in regards to girugamesh, among others) unselfconsciously harsh and, possibly, somewhat insensitive to the quivering, vulnerable feelings of COLOR-loving fangirls.

Although I don’t feel the need to explain myself or my views, as I believe vehemently in that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and certainly I believe that my own blog ought to be allowed to be the vomitorium of my own personal opinions, with or without explanation, but that being said, I have an immense respect for, and value highly, the qualities of objectivity and fairness. Generally I think that if people have something negative, critical, or hateful to say, they should save everyone’s time by not saying it at all. I believe that any criticism should not be spoken unless it has at least a somewhat intellectual argument to back it. If you have an intellectual argument, you can say whatever you want as long as you can express your opinion in a respectful, un-trollish way. Any criticisms that I may have toward girugamesh, or any other band or media figure, would never see the light of internet unless they were spoken from a sense of constructive debate and, from the heart of a Visualist and follower of the band, hopefulness for their continued success and talent.

We should know better by now than to judge something without really giving it a chance, but that being said, sometimes some things are just not a good fit when you first discover them. If you judge or criticize something and then do a 180 and start to admire or respect what you previously bashed, I personally don’t believe in that type of “hypocrisy” at all. When I was younger, I used to ardently despise hardcore music, screamo, death-metal, heavy-metal, hard-rock. Even if I talked bull about it when I was 12, that was just because it hadn’t found me yet. When the correct circumstances came into place, I became quite passionate about that kind of music.

I’ve had a lot of 180’s over the past 5 or 10 years, and through them I’ve (mostly) learned not to judge things or people without a good reason. And if there is a good reason to judge it, and I feel like judging it, it doesn’t make sense to waste energy judging something I don’t even like, so it’s better to make peace with it in yourself and just let it phase right out of your reality. This is why I believe a “dislike” option on Youtube is a pointless idea, and why people’s negative comments look intensely foolish. If you don’t like something, just walk away from it.

For everything you like, there is someone who hates it. For everything you hate, there is someone who loves it. I don’t care how anonymous the internet is, when you bash something, it hurts someone who takes pleasure from the something in question. It’s always easier to find a creative way to say something negative about something you dislike– criticism is by default easier than critique.

I’ve read some reviews on blogs and websites that really buy into negativity. People can write the way they want, and if I don’t like their blogs, I just choose not to read them. However, I do have a hard time accepting critics who have difficulty differentiating between “good music” and “music that I think is good”. Obviously all critics are doing is expressing an arbitrary opinion. All they are saying is “I think this is good,” or “I think this is bad,”, and in the end the only way we can truly judge its quality is by the way it makes us feel. When I listen to music that I think is really superb, it’s struck a certain note in my soul, it makes me feel something. Of course there’s quality of technical content– lyrical composition, programming, skill of the musicians. But I’ve heard some really good musicians play some really boring music and in the end it made me realize how, for me at least, technical quality is just a backseat factor, not a deciding one.

 I don’t think “good music” is a flawless recording played by great musicians. “Good music” is any music that speaks to you, that makes you feel like you could take on the world– regardless of how cheesy or obnoxious it may be technically.

Although mostly all bloggers and critics (professional and amateur alike) post their reviews and critiques as if the contents are Fact, every critic should be forced to have IMPO… tattooed to their forehead for whenever they start dishing.

Musical tolerance is really difficult for a lot of people. I used to only want to hear the music I liked and everybody else could go to hell–and take their mixed tapes with them. But, over the past year or two especially, I’ve developed a lot of tolerance for other types of music. This helps to make you not look like an idiot. And now that I’m a little more open-minded, I can tolerate listening to my sister’s rap music or a friend’s Top 40 station in the car without my soul shriveling up into some cold slimy dead thing in the recesses of my being. Even if I wouldn’t choose to listen to any of that music, I can still hear it from time to time and be able to think, that was really good. I enjoyed that.

Tolerance and acceptance is great and all when you’re wandering around like some kind of Ghandi letting people play their entire Muse discography for you, but sometimes the harshest judgment I see passed is by fans, on the bands they love most. Amidst the irony this makes sense, because obviously you love a band for its most prominent sound, and when the band goes to change that sound, it’s like they’re shattering your hopes and dreams. Stop waving your pitchforks– I know all about this. To be perfectly honest, although I appreciate GACKT’s music and projects now, I wish that on the day I get to see him perform live, that it was his 2004 self. Part of my soul curled up and died when I realized I would never hear or see the Sixth Day Seventh Night tour. Ever. That’s a regret I hope they carve on my headstone.

But people change. People need to change. Look back on a photograph or creative work from a year or two ago and you’ll see how much you have changed reflected in it, even if just a little. Now think what it must be like to have fans all over the world watching your every move. It’s much harder to change from that place, I think. It has to take a lot of courage and trust– trust and belief in your followers that they will support you in doing what needs to be done. If this is the GACKT that he needs to be, now that he is older, wiser, more insane, then I can accept, admire, and appreciate that. And know that I own that particular DVD, so it’s all good really.

I know it seems blasphemous that girugamesh goes from being one of the most awesome, angsty, screamy groups in Jrock today, to being a mainstream pop-rock group. However, if you listen to albums such as NOW and GO, they’re not really bad quality, or even worse than girugamesh or 13’s Reborn, they’re just different. They have an inherently different quality. Their music isn’t as dark, but it’s still pretty heavy. They may have added some rap and electronica elements– that’s popular in Visual Kei right now, better learn to accept it or stop sounding surprised whenever you pick up a new release and find that there’s a whole ton of sounds mixed into each track and, no, those aren’t guitar effects.

I’m not going to stop expressing dissatisfaction with a new release if I find reason to be dissatisfied, and I’m not saying that I won’t review an album I disliked just for the sake of having a blog about rainbow-puking unicorns. It’s important to be tolerant and appreciative, yes, but it’s equally as important to be transparent and honest, and be able to call it when a band fucks up. We’re not drooling adolescent fangirls who will “love” any old single just because one of the band-members has a shirtless gravure up on Photobucket. But GO got me wondering if giru‘s new stuff was really that bad, or if it’s just a case of Visualist stubbornness.

Pink Panthers, Delicate Dragons, and Pop Poseidons: the disconcerting ratio of Sadie to SHINEE

Part I: The Set Up

So here I am writing from the farthest-most corner of the United States, some 4,000 miles north-west of my usual office, sitting in a bustling cafe attempting a record consumption of caffeine, flipping through the March 2011 edition of Arena 37c, front-cover: T.M.Revolution rocking hot military in distressed denim.

Since I currently reside in a less prehistoric city than usual, I’m located very close to China Town, the International District, and a little corner of Japanophile heaven—this particular patch of wonders being home to the unsuspecting Visualist’s den of colander-wallet syndrome, Kinokuniya books. It’s the one moment when I actually feel ‘at home’ in the US; the one place where I can find the CDs I’m looking for in the CD section, where I actually find magazines I want to (wish I could) read in the newsstand, and where names like YOSHIKI and AnCafe pop off the bindings of books. It’s a brief compromise between East and West.

It’s hard to stay calm. Especially when hoards of giggling, daisy-dukes-and-tights-wearing Japanese girls are hurrying past with armloads of Tohoshinki CDs and those 30-pound, $5 fashion magazines they have to Saran wrap and rubber-band just to keep the inserts, posters, and packs of makeup samples all intact for purchase.

image: cidbia.org

Although I, personally, tend to pre-order my CDs and singles months in advance via the internet, magazines are one product I want from Japan that I tend to stock up on once in a while IRL when opportunity strikes. My (exceedingly) infrequent visits to Kinokuniya rarely send me out with discs, but a few Shoxx, Fools Mate, and Arena37c’s usually find their way home with me (where they typically end up encased in plastic and stored carefully in an air-tight safe, hidden away from the dangers of fingerprints and dog-earing caused by ignorant mortals). With the yen-dollar + import mark-up on these publications, it’s clear I’m not saving for retirement.

As long as I could carry on singing the praises of the mystical waypoint, what I’m trying to say right now is not that I went to Kinokuniya and dropped bank on magazines I can’t even read yet, but more to do with the contents of said magazines.

First of all, I had a difficult time finding the content matter I look for. Is it the general fact that a lot of respected Visual Kei artists are playing it cool or on hiatus, or is classic Visual Kei just not front-cover news anymore? Whatever it is, the magazines that, in 2009 and 2010, were covered with abingdon boys school, D’espairsRay, The GazettE and GACKT, are suspiciously devoid of any of those holy names. Today’s issue of Arena37, featuring an excessively elegant yet somewhat lackluster main feature of T.M.Revolution, fills the rest of its pages with cutesy oshare-mania and WTF moments such as Jin Akanishi, Tohoshinki, and SHINEE. It’s nearly enough to make me feel more like a hardcore metal-head were I to buy Can Can Cream’s jumbo-edition featuring Koda Kumi’s latest eyelid surgery result story*. SHINEE….seriously? Is this what the Visual Kei industry has become? Spreads of The Kiddie making chocolate fondue and Jin Akanishi repping thug-life in a fitted-hat? On that note, who exactly is Jin Akanishi?

Also, what is with the interview on page 98 with a trio of guys dressed in white feather boas, calling themselves “Panther”, “Dragon” and “Poseidon”?

The most badass part of the magazine (aside from T.M.’s typical glitzy bride+groom-in-one shoot) is the back cover advertisement for SADIE’s newest releases and lives. Honestly, aside from the brief insert for The GazettE, it’s the only page reminiscent of classic Visual Kei.

The clean pastel tones of nude-gravure-fronted Shoxx promise a slightly more familiar lineup of content, including: The GazettE, Kagrra,, girugamesh, Vidoll, and heidi.. Mostly devoid of the collection of gawky 14-year-olds masquerading as promising Visual Kei musicians, Shoxx presented more interesting shoots of cooler looking people and better (in my opinion) bands.

heidi. still looks like a Visual Kei band, as do boogieman and TOON-FACTORY. The disappointments maxed out mercifully at having the same gravure of Sid as the Arena37 interview, and the shocking realization that Visual Kei stylists have outdone The Perm by instating the Goldilocks Regime. Page after page of tumbling gold ringlets unfold before my horrified Visualist eyes…

* Please note, Can Can Cream is not a factual magazine title, I invented it to serve my creative purposes, so spare your dignity any blows and don’t go out and try and buy it.. Also, don’t ever believe anything I ever say about Koda Kumi. I don’t even know who she is, let alone how much eyelid surgery she’s had or when.

Pledge Allegiance to GazettE 12/15

I’ll admit, The GazettE is, much like girugamesh, one of the mainstream Visual Kei bands whose releases I don’t procure religiously anymore. I more or less skipped over Red, although in retrospect it was a pretty decent single. In many ways, I’ve enjoyed their earlier work to such an extent that I’m pretty content keeping NIL in heavy rotation, and if something utterly mind-blowing is released, that’s okay too.

Heading into mid-November now, a new wave of release dates are being announced for the December and January rounds of economic Visual Kei worship. I find it quite fascinating when I’m paying the bills…There’s always Rent, Cellphone, Internet, List of Visual Kei singles to pre-order for [insert month]. It’s one of the few I pay cheerfully and with a sense of great reverence. Coming up to reward your December tithe is new single Pledge from The GazettE on 12/15, just in time for their first Tokyo Dome performance on Dec. 26th. I bet that leaves no mystery as to how I want to spend my holidays.

Check out the preview for the heavy ballad (Yeah, I wasn’t surprised either), and Gazerock fans, censoring any spewing of “Reita omg kawaii kawaii!”, let me know what you think.

Mug Shot

Finally the stylists stopped being on strike, recognized that Kai is, in fact, part of the band and not a misplaced member of the catering crew, and outfitted him accordingly. For once in their career he is actually starting to fit in with the band, and it’s working wonders for him. The sharp black outfit (what can be seen of it, anyway) is…a…y’know, sharp black outfit for which too much can never be said. The extreme layers and long hair bring me way back to Visual Kei in the late ’80s and early ’90s, before Host Boy Hair Syndrome (HBHS) took over the scene.

Mug Shot

Best part of my weekend: when The GazettE changes their look, and all the fangirls spam comment all over our lives with “Oooh omfg Reita kawaii kawaii!” When…his look never changes. Ah, a world without GazettE fangirls would be a sad, sad place indeed.

Mug Shot

Aoi always tends to pull off these minimalistic chic looks, with simple hair and normal-ish outfits to which he lends his natural enigmatic charm and makes everyone else look like they’re trying way too hard. He, like Reita, never surprises me. At least it’s in a good way.

Mug Shot

Uruha says, If my face ends up on another British T-shirt ever again…..at least send one to all of my band members.

Nosebleed

I’m not too much of a man to admit that I got a nosebleed.


Aoi Surrenders Love for Ayabie

I would, firstly, like to thank Connie of xreddishx.wordpress.com for correcting my information in regards to the Ayabie break-up/hiatus. My information in regards to the situation was outdated, and did not incorporate the latest installment of the saga, which was a vital and conclusive piece that explained the drama and the confusion therein. As a result, I was too harsh in my judgment of the events and actions surrounding the band splitting into two separate groups, and I would like to apologize if those judgments, wrongly made, offended anyone, Ayabie fans or otherwise.

As such, I will be taking down the original post, so as not to cause any further discord or confusion. My sincere apologies, and deepest gratitude for correcting my view.

 

gp.