After much drama, several prolongments of release dates, and a lot of commentary from a lot of people on the subject, it’s finally coming out. The DVD of the year. That’s right, this month you, too, can watch GACKT’s latest live tour, Visualive Tour Requiem et Reminiscence II…and you don’t have to go to Japan to do it (sorry).
One of his more aptly titled songs of, well, ever, Faraway~Hoshi ni Negai wo~ is just that– faraway from ever being one of his more memorable pieces. Not only that, but the sub-title, Hoshi ni Negai wo is one of those particularly annoying song/album titles that gets used by pretty much every single band ever founded.
The “2nd Heaven” of his ten year anniversary countdown campaign, Faraway follows suit with the outrageous album cover of 1st Heaven Koakuma Heaven, which showed a crowd of host-girls, one of which is a dragster GACKT. Faraway’s two album covers depict a blonde woman (most likely a CGed GACKT) tossing her bra, and the second is also pretty self-explanatory:
Jrock bands must really be struggling to get their albums noticed, now that such vast multitudes of bands are flooding Tower Records’ Jpop section. I remember Flumpool used a similar tactic on one of their album covers not long ago. The fan-service covers aside,
Faraway is another one of those generally un-memorable but sweet upbeat pop songs such as Marmalade and Road that GACKT is not renowned for. Although it has some really precious moments, like the growly vocals, the opening verse, and the bridge to chorus which, although not inspired in its melody, is charming with the clapping hands and everything. This song is basically a feel-good pop-rock song, annoying and charming in equal measure. It has a super upbeat, summery feel, and could be passably cool to blare while driving along in high summer.
That being said, where Faraway missed the mark, its shortcomings are completely and totally made up for by dutiful B-side Oblivious~Kao no Nai Tenshi (Angel Without a Face). This song is an absolute gem. It feels straight out of the MARS era, and falls into the category of those songs which, although not well known, are all treasures in their own right, such as Birdcage, Emu~For my Dear, and Leeca. Slow and steady, with acoustic effects, and that perfect blend of melancholy and resignation mixed with the perfect feeling of empowerment and downloading the strength to carry on, despite anything and everything–that we originally felt in melancholica-best-ever Leeca. This song is absolutely worth the entire single, and, in my personal opinion, should have been the A-side. Except that then the 2 sad songs + 2 happy songs recipe of the campaign would have been obsolete.
Although, yeah, it has that slightly understated B-side affectation, this song is in every way glorious. Yeah, it’s not the hit of the century, but it has real feeling, that and the older-era feel (back when lower-case letters were still honorable enough to spell out Gackt). This is seriously one of my favorite songs of 2009, and is one of those rare pieces you can just repeat over and over again without ever tiring of.
In conclusion, the shallow superficiality of Faraway is totally overwhelmed by, and excused by, the sincereity of feeling and pure empowering qualities of its perfect B-side, Oblivious.
I’m pretty proud of that title, by the way. And anyone who has seen the track-list for GACKT’s Summer ’09 decade marking fourth release, LOST ANGELS, ought to be pretty impressed that I was able to use the entire track-list for one post title!
I think I made my suspicions about GACKT and his tenth anniversary countdown singles pretty clear when they started coming out last Summer…What with GACKT dressing as a host-girl and everything. They seemed really suspicious, that is, until fall/winter when GACKT went and got a sidesaddle perm. And then they seemed perfectly normal. Just took some contrast.
The four-part countdown releases were an interesting mixture of music. From electro-pop bubblegum sensation Koakuma Heaven, to mediocre Faraway, to mainstream-feeling but powerful anyway Flower, there were ups and downs, as well as many ?? moments from fans across the globe. For anyone who was startled by the “newness” which seemed to strike a strange panic into GACKT fandom, LOST ANGELS came as a gentle, reassuring pat, as if to say, “Don’t worry, it’s still GACKT.”
Comprised of a-side LOST ANGELS, and 2 b-sides (Suddenly and No Reason), LOST ANGELS was the most Gacktese of all the countdown singles. A powerful, magical piece with all the Gacktian fixings, LOST ANGELS is a ballad that sparkles with all the newness of freshly fallen snow, while retaining a fundamental core of (particularly Diabolos era) the ballads we already know and love.
The piece is a combination of intensity and mellowness, with relatively flat, elegant verses paired with rolling, rockin’ choruses, and some beautiful vocals that were last heard on Journey Through the Decade. LOST ANGELS is packed with orchestral strings arrangements, piano, and nicely undulant guitar parts. Although some of the lyrics are pretty familiar fare with all the usual dakishimet-ing and kimi wo wasurenai-ing, the chorus especially has really nice new vocabulary– the warai aetara‘s are particularly gripping and satisfying. The whole piece has a gentleness, as if it’s not trying to take over the world– just trying to touch its heart. And it certainly does that.
Although also not mind-blowingly original or b-sides of the era or anything, honestly the following songs feel like a continuation of (dare I say it?) my favorite original album, Rebirth. The album packed with songs nobody can remember the name of, finally gets an energetic sequel with No Reason and Suddenly. Thought I already kind of hurt their compositional feelings with the paragraph’s opening statement, honestly, I think both b-sides rock. They feel like like that older era of GACKT, back when he was particularly progressive and experimental; back when he used weird, dissonant effects and driven, gloomy melodies. Oh wait, he still does– but you know what I mean.
The second song, No Reason, is in my personal opinion the true heart of the single. Cool, aloof, prickling with edginess, and with a bit of an attitude, No Reason is a truly cool song, and despite also having a low-key nature, for me at least, it stands out the most out of the three tracks.
Akin to incredible ancestors such as Emu ~for my dear~ and CUBE (don’t even get me started on either of these masterpieces), Suddenly starts out slow, plodding steadily into a pretty goose-bump worthy chorus, which seems to end way too abruptly, and we’re back into that eighteen-million-measures-long GACKT signature verse pattern….This is just an honest-to-goodness awesome gloomy, grumpy, low-key rock ballad that actually wins in its lack of obvious firepower.
In conclusion, this is a great, emotional single full of all the basic GACKT goodness we can never get enough of. Well-balanced with its selection of pieces, LOST ANGELS delivers tenderness, cool edgy attitude, and moody melancholia respectively in its lineup. This is absolutely a must-have for any self-respecting GACKT fan.
I’m reminded, every year, why one should never order anything between December 1st and January 20th. Reminded, and yet I never learn. In this case, I really didn’t have a choice. I had no business ordering anything online between those dates to begin with– but the Japanese don’t care. They’ve infected me with the elitist need to pre-order everything I buy so that I can flaunt my first-press, limited-edition, limited-run versions of things. It’s commercial brainwashing– and I know it, and they know it. They also know they’re good at it, and that we’re all completely unable to resist.
I mean, can you blame me? We want the freebies! The official goods! The bonuses! Just a little alms for the deprived non-Nationals. And they put everything out in “limited” runs so then you become a complete nervous wreck watching the item page for the “ACT FAST! ONLY 4 LEFT!” alert to pop up in matador red and set the charging, goring bull that is PayPal loose in the arena.
Since I discovered their company last year, I haven’t purchased any CDs or product from any company other than CDJapan. Therefore, they have me trained well. When I found out that their stock of GACKT’s 10th Anniversary Bible, GACKTIONARY, only had 4 copies left, I let that bull charge! And since the book was released on December 19th, it took forever. And I mean forever, to get here.
And it was worth the wait. Especially because now it’s out of print or out of stock everywhere. (You can buy this book through YesAsia.com, although it costs about $10.00 more than at CDJ or Amazon.jp.)
Released in honor of 2009 marking the first complete decade of GACKT solo activity, GACKTIONARY is a full 191 pages of the honorable rocker. The subtitle of the book marks those treasured years of incredible productivity and insane achievement, GACKT 1999-2009, and the outer sleeve exclaims descriptively, GACKT 10th Anniversary Bible.
That’s what this is. A bible.
It features an opening spread of exquisite, all-new photographs by Nomura Seiichi (who has done GACKT’s yearly calendars, spreads for magazines, and several photo books, including Ryu no Kenshin.)
These opening photos are featured in a “photo-story” (in their words) of a…day on the beach with GACKT. The photographs are amazing- -for anyone who has become a fan of Nomura’s GACKT work, featuring luxurious and exotic natural backgrounds and candid-seeming yet perfectly composed poses, will be pumped over these…Although honestly, who, and I mean whose idea was it to have the opening picture be GACKT in a track-suit? It’s not even a stylish, expensive, GACKT-ish looking track-suit. Is nothing sacred?
Don’t worry– he looks so cool in every other picture you forgive the opening blasphemy. In fact, he looks so cool, maybe that’s why they put it in. I liked the homage to OASIS image especially, where he’s lying beside a fire at night, wearing a burlap-sack like poncho.
The second segment of the book is the VISUALIBRARY. This section is another photo library, but this time it’s images dated from 1999 up till 2009, organized in tiled pages.
This is an excellent walk-through of his work, and certainly a walk down memory lane. All the risky hair-dos and snake-print pants are there for all of our nostalgic and sentimental wallowing pleasure. It’s fascinating to watch the progression, and his development into his own style and image, all the way from Dracula-junior Mizerable up to dashing and more natural current day.
The next section, and the bulk of the actual book, is a combination of text and photographs– this time taken by GACKT– and compiled into 100 GACKT sayings. The photos show things such as the interiors of flights and taxi rides, outside of Starbucks, and roadsigns leading to L.A. Mundane, perhaps, but also a brief but candid insight into the journeys that have…brought him so close, yet kept him so far?
The sayings are organized into sections: ACTION, THINK, LOVE, LIFE, GACKT-ISM. The text runs from a few paragraphs to a whole page in length– and yes. It’s all in Japanese. Embedded into these pages are messages to G from Miyavi, Sugizo, and Hyde. All of whom have worked closely with G at one point or another.
The next section includes the VISUALIBRARY Part II~ GACKT STAGE HISTORY, and a complete history of every tour since 2000, including photographs, set-list, schedule, staff-message, and tour-pamphlet image. This is the point where, I admit, I started bitterly skipping pages. Thanks for taking the special time, ink, and paper to remind me of all the tours I’ve ever missed! Hah.
And really the final piece, and one of the major highlights of the book for a dual abingdon boys school x GACKT fan such as myself, a cross-talk between GACKT and Nishikawa Takanori. There are photographs and text, and even if you can’t read what they’re saying, the images are very expressive, and you can really pick up a lot about their relationship.
The book closes with a section of messages from each member of GACKT’s crew, including makeup and wardrobe staff, back-up dancers, GACKTJOB, writers, and photographers; and a discography.
All in all this is an excellent addition to any fan’s collection, and should not be missed. Even for those who do not read Japanese, the images and feeling in the book are really important, and truly I think they’re something not to be passed up for a superficial reason such as language– and for those learning Japanese, it’s an excellent motivational tool to get back to studying.
@ Amazon.jp (Used copies available)
All of the images are mine, therefore I accept all responsibility for their mediocrity….I know, I know, I’ll get a scanner eventually.
Before I finish up for 2009….This is more of a Christmas story, I suppose, but somehow the story (and more importantly the video attached to it) seems fitting for both the final night of December, and the final night of 2009.
In Japan it is common to spend Christmas with your most-precious person. However, GACKT once remarked that he remembered many years ago when he was stranded on Christmas without a taisetsu-na hito to spend the evening with. He called YOU, who, even though he had a girlfriend at the time, opted to spend the evening with lonely GACKT instead. YOU brought his guitar, and they played ’80s rock-band T-Bolan‘s tear-jerker Hanashitaku-wa nai (’93, from the albumT-Bolan). Years later, to honor–and perhaps humor– this memory, the two members performed the painful, aching, traumatizingly beautiful piece on the excruciatingly romantic banks of Kyoto’s Kamogawa River, on a cold December night, before a group of sweetly swaying lovers holding candles.
In my opinion, no December night could be more perfect. x Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
T-Bolan‘s 離したくはない/ GACKT (vo.), YOU (gt.)
And performed again, on December 18th, 2009. Beautiful.