If we can ignore my inability to take a decent photo and how I’ve managed to cut the top of the first photo off, then this is a nice post! I recently bought j-rock band CreepHyp‘s two major-debut albums after falling in love with them over the Summer. Usually I’d be more in-depth about the packaging and such – I’ve tried (and failed, I know) to capture at least a little of what the inside looks like of each CD – but I’d like to do two little reviews of the music! Semi-long post ahead.
CreepHyp have been around since 2001 and have released a plethora of albums, EPs and singles. They made their major debut in 2012 and have since gained a comfortable following, with their latest releases making a respectable impact on the Oricon. Their lead singer has a… unique voice, to say the least. But there’s so much to love here: his voice, the lyrics, their cover art and typography (like this poster for the Shakai no Mado single), the alternation between fast-paced and softly slow melodies. Japan has never ever been without a shortage of rock bands, but CreepHyp have stuck out to me in the emergence of Japan’s “new generation” rock movement, alongside acts like androp, [Champagne], Galileo Galilei etc.
Fukikoboreru Hodo no I, Ai, Ai (吹き零れる程のI、哀、愛; Spouting Enough to Overflow of this “I”, “Sorrow”, “Love”) – 24th July 2013
1.ラブホテル (Love Hotel)
2.あ (A; Ah)
3.おやすみ泣き声、さよなら歌姫 (Oyasumi Nakigoe, Sayonara Utahime; Goodnight Crying Voice, Goodbye Diva)
4.憂、燦々 (Yuu, San San; Melancholy, Brilliance)
6.女の子 (Onna no Ko; Girl)
7.社会の窓 (Shakai no Mado; Society’s Window)
9.かえるの唄 (Kaeru no Uta; Song of the Frog)
10.さっきはごめんね、ありがとう (Sakki wa Gomenne, Arigatou; Sorry for a Little While Ago, Goodbye)
11.シーン33「ある個室」(Shin 33 [Aru Koshitsu]; Scene 33 [A Private Room])
12.傷つける (Kizutsukeru; Hurt)
13.自分の事ばかりで情けなくなるよ (Jibun no Koto Bakari de Nasakenaku Naru yo; My Things Just Feel Miserable)
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes CreepHyp – and this album in particular – so addictive. It could be Ozaki Sekaikan’s incredibly distinctive whiny voice, or the complex guitar melodies, or the unique and thought-provoking lyrics. Even if you don’t fully understand the latter, anyone familiar with Japanese music will have an inkling that they’re singing about something… different.
Highlights of the album include the single Shakai no Mado: an acerbic, scathing assault on CreepHyp’s female fans and their hipster tendencies, as well as giving a big “fuck you” to those who aren’t too fond of his voice his voice, but providing a tongue-in-cheek standard pop chorus of “I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU”. NE-TAXI and A are fast-paced and carry some provocative lyrics, but the messy arrangements are the winners here.
Other singles Yuu, San San and Oyasumi Nakigoe, Sayonara Utahime ooze radio-friendliness, but retain an alternative feel. Although the band uses standard instrumentation in terms of guitar, bass etc. there’s something oddly refreshing about the “back to basics” approach to their music. They provide a pleasant simplicity, but at the same time it makes the expressive moments all the more raw.
I’d go as far to say that there isn’t a bad song here. My only (terribly minor) complaint is that compared to their previous efforts, Fukikoboreru (if anyone wants to contribute a better translation than mine above, PLEASE DO) is definitely more subdued. Now that may naturally be because of greater public exposure, which we all know can lead to artists toning it down a little – but at the same time I don’t feel that it’s a valid criticism for me to make when the likes of Shakai no Mado is the centrepiece of the album. Seriously, listen to it. Perhaps “maturation” is a better term to describe it. Either way, I’m stamping this an 8.9/10 and naming it my current favourite album of 2013.
Shinu Made Issho Aisareteru to Omottetayo (死ぬまで一生愛されてると思ってたよ; I Thought I Would Be Loved My Whole Life Until Death) – 18th April 2012
1.愛の標識 (Ai no Hyoushiki; Sign of Love)
2.イノチミジカシコイセヨオトメ (Inochi Mijikashi Koi se yo Otome; Life is Short, Fall in Love Maidens)
3.手と手 (Te to Te; Hand in Hand)
5.バイト バイト バイト (Baito, Baito, Baito; Work, Work, Work)
7.身も蓋もない水槽 (Mimo Futamonai Suisho; The Body and the Lid is not a Water Tank)
9.火まつり (Himatsuri; Fire Festival)
10.蜂蜜と風呂場 (Hachimitsu to Furoba; Honey and Bathroom)
11.チロルとポルノ (Tyrol and Porno)
12. ex ダーリン (Ex-Darling)
Shinu Made is a truly great album. Skeptical of Ozaki’s voice at first, I emerged after just one listen a definite convert. There’s much to be said here, but I’ll keep it concise:
ABCDC is probably my personal favourite from the album because it showcases the emotional intensity of Ozaki’s voice. The urgency and desperation feels like a slap in the face: it’s powerful, angry and liberating. Littered elsewhere are cute but choppy ditties about worrying about part-time jobs paying for your increasingly “adult” life (Baito Baito Baito), a loving ode to milk chocolate – even if it gives him tooth decay (seriously – MilkyCrispy), and songs about love with sarcastic, dark and playful undertones.
Perhaps the real high point is the final song Ex-Darling, a sprawling 7 minute masterpiece that drips with genuine feeling, an incredibly bittersweet nostalgia where he recalls all of the things he learned from his old lover. Some practical, like the difference between sparkling wine and hard liquor, the Pacific and Central Leagues in Baseball. Some frivolous, like the difference between JAV stars and Ayanami and Asuka, two characters from iconic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion – but nonetheless of equal importance to him. The sparseness of the instrumentation make the song feel personal and private, and the inclusion at the end after the chaotic tunes before makes it feel like a very special afterthought.
This is one of these albums that you listen and listen to and then suddenly, out of the blue, it just hits you how much it really means to you – music you keep close to your heart for a long time. And I need to mention how much I adore the cover art and title. For one, pink is my favourite colour ever (can you tell?) and the placement of the text is just gorgeous on the eyes. It’s reminiscent of when Utada Hikaru said she struggled with what characters to use for her Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro single – that the use of kanji and placement of the text was vital. Secondly, if that title isn’t one of the most bittersweet things I’ve ever heard – I simply don’t know what is. 9.2/10.