Seasons greetings to the Magical Meteorites, Earthlings, and the other folk in the stratosphere to another Jingle Bell Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree edition of Morning Twilight.
As today is Twilight Tuesday, we’re going to be Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree where I tackle Christmas presents of old. Strangely enough, in spite of my love for idols, the only J-music albums in my possession are all either Shibuya-kei or J-rock.
In this inaugural post, we’re going to tackle a very near and dear old Christmas present of mine: Nice.
See, like most in my generation, I got into Puffy AmiYumi through Teen Titans. This came roughly a year after becoming a fan of Shonen Knife (which may get its own post in the future).
I remember running into that name in my adventures in J-Pop surfing (namely, looking at the Popular Artists list on YesAsia). While my interest had waned a bit, I won’t deny that my J-music-loving past is still evident.
So, I got this for Christmas in 2003, the same year I got Smash Mouth’s Get the Picture (which I mainly got for “Hot”) and… I forget what else. Teen Titans was only on the air for about 3 months at the time so two songs were still fresh in my mind (which will be covered in this post). In terms of Puffy Love, it grew and grew, culminating in a magical moment in August 2005 (and yet another reason for my loss of credibility as a Morning Musume fan): an early birthday present to myself in the form of seeing Puffy perform in New York (to the semi-secret envy of my friends).
Now, you didn’t come here to see more ironic self-bashing pertaining to the concert. You came here for a review and you’re gonna get one!
Let the Show Begin! Anything is possible!
- Planet Tokyo
- Tokyo Nights
- Angel of Love
- Invisible Tomorrow
- Thank You
- Long Beach Nightmare
- Your Love is a Drug
- Shiawase (Happiness)
- Teen Titans Theme
- Red Swing
Thirteen tracks of Puffy niceness, waiting to get the Magical Meteoric treatment. Well, here we go!
1. Planet Tokyo
The album opener begins with a chugging guitar alternating with some hard chords, setting up the mood. It’s a good, energetic opening to set the tone of the album (which is sorta funny since a good number of songs are on the lighter (read: softer) side). This is also a weird song to listen to if you’re familiar with the Japanese version, but we’ll get to that when it comes.
On another note, the motorcycle sounds transition to the next cut…
2. Tokyo Nights
We are taken to the Puffy Disco with this dance floor number. This would seem weird if you know them as a rock duo, but rocker girls doing disco is no oddity to me. (Hello, Shonen Knife!)
Ah, this takes me back to the concert. See, in the shop, there was a fan featuring the girls and if you had it during the concert, you’d be in a good spot. The keyboardist would have his fan on the synths and then at the right time, he (and thus the audience) would thrust the fan at each “TO! KYO! NIGHTS!” in a similar manner as you wota would thrust those glow sticks. I remember how pumped I was at those moments.
Ah, good times. This got a lot of use, mainly from me being blissfully unaware that such trinkets are meant to collect dust or be bragged about. I dunno what happened to the “P” sweatband, but I know the fan and the T-shirt got worn to death (the latter more so, so much that it partially became the basis for a character design).
3. Angel of Love
After two genki songs, we slow down a bit with this dreamy ballad. AmiYumi’s vocals create a soft, gentle atmosphere with the lush romance of the sounds, going deeper into the sweet dream. A very fitting title indeed.
We stick with the ballad-y sound but make a return to the rock for the next song. As I’m writing this review in early November, the first thing that came to my mind as I listened was Sayu’s graduation. (It barely helps that by the time I got onto my desktop to edit this―as I started this (and the Berikyuu PV reviews) on my phone to mixed success and then jotted down notes in my sketchbook―, we received news of Tanabe Nanami and Yoshihashi Kurumi’s “training completion,” which cuts me as I was really hoping for Tanapyon to get the proper debut she deserved.)
In a sense, this describes what every (H!P) wota is feeling now.
Jiyuu na boku ni kanpai wa sayonara
5. Invisible Tomorrow
We return to the more high-energy rock with this one.
After spending years listening to “Friends Forever,” this was strange to hear again and once upon a time, it was the other way around! From the first listen, this was a favorite of mine (mainly for the high energy rock – those became my instant favorites on this album).
6. Thank You
Ah, my original “thank you”/”friendship” song. (I have many, but this is one that is near and dear to me.) This song is also in my “(un)official soundtrack playlist” for my upcoming webcomic series as well.
This summery campfire-style song is one with lyrics that’ll make your heart feel like s’mores. This one also has a rarity (at least within this album): solo lines. They sing the verses solo and then together for the chorus.
The song’s outro is of a subtractive nature, lulling you to sleep on the grass into a dream. Rather…
7. Long Beach Nightmare
This mid-tempo ballad sparkles at the beginning before going into a Beach Boys-inspired main section, all with verse-choruses that all end in “round and round.”
But where’s the nightmare?
8. Your Love is a Drug
Another longtime favorite of mine, one of the “heavier” songs offerings off the album. At times, this is lighter and more in-your-face than Ke$ha’s “love and drugs” comparisons. (Yes, I went there―and I like her.)
Or “K2G ~ Kimi ni GO!” in Japan.
Besides the theme song for Teen Titans, this was a song I wanted to get my hands on… and it’s for the same reason as the other one: Teen Titans. I loved it the moment it was featured in a now-infamous sequence in one of my favorite (if not, my all-time favorite) Season 1 episodes, Mad Mod.
To the despair of many (myself included), it was not performed at the concert. (Dad attributed it to the lack of a brass section.)
Now that I listen to it, I am reminded of Maji Desu ka Ska! Then again, what is it about the Japanese and the ska punk sound? There’s a certain awesomeness, between H!P, Strawberry JAM… Moving on.
10. Shiawase (Happiness)
We cool our heels after the fun of K2G (and its bittersweet lyrics) to a cheery summer song in the vein of Thank You. It’s a lot calmer than its counterpart, filling you with shiawase as you listen. It begins with AmiYumi singing separately (one thing I tried to do is pick them apart by their accents: Yumi’s from Osaka and Ami’s from Tokyo so they each had their respective regional accents. It helped that at the time I got this, I’ve been listening to a lot of artists from both places (i.e. Shonen Knife and Strawberry JAM for the former, Tomoe Shinohara and most of the Shibuya-kei folk for the latter) so I was somewhat attuned), then spending the rest of the song singing together. There was also a lot of harmonization that added to the mood.
We begin with a futuristic soundscape, bringing to mind one of three things: 1. a space shuttle 2. a race track 3. an airplane.
The race track imagery may or may not have been influenced by Hi! Hi! Puffy AmiYumi (this was one of many songs to get a mini-video). After a robot counts us down to liftoff, we are greeted with hard chords of the guitar with the fourteen-note riff (if my math is wrong, please tell me. I welcome any and all corrections and call-outs!).
Now I’m reminded of Sonic (almost certainly due to the sound).
12. Teen Titans Theme
Ah yesh, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. My gateway song.
I can hear a slight influence from Secret Agent Man (mainly in the melody). After hearing the Japanese version, I gravitated towards that one. However, given where I became acquainted with the song, I’m used to hearing both versions.
Whoever arranged this, did this well as they knew folks in the States would buy the album just for this song.
This was the perfect song to end it with (I’m calling it that for reasons explained below) and as you can guess, this was the last song played at the concert. (Either that or the theme to Hi Hi. Well, one ended the concert set and the other was the encore.)
13. Red Swing
Or “Akai Buranko” if you prefer.
There’s not much to say as it’s the Japanese version of “Planet Tokyo” (which is why I said the Teen Titans Theme was the album closer). It was a nice way to bookend the album though, sorta like how The Wall began and ended (sans the weirdness that went in between).
Listening to this album again was quite nostalgic for me, especially since my matured tastes allowed me to enjoy the calmer songs more. The entire album was a joy to listen to and to this day, it is a treasure to me. (As I made this review, I wondered why I didn’t do so sooner. Oh wait… I’m a lot more savvy with the blogging tools nowadays.)
Yeah… in hindsight, this should’ve been my “Forgive me for not going to New York to see Momusu!” post.
In any case, here’s a poll to decide which Shonen Knife album gets the treatment first:
Regardless of whatever happens, remember: Anything is possible.
Until next time,