trump - 1. a. any playing card of a suit that for one time outranks the other suits, such as a card being able to take any card of another suit
b. Often trumps the suit itself
2. a fine person; brick
Well, I think it's safe to assume that Scandal aren't playing cards! Scandal has always reminded me of Zone and not just because they're both all-girl bands with one word names printed in all caps. They both embody elements of "bandols", idols that play their own instruments and tend to have a more rock-oriented sound to them. As for myself, I've always been very on the fence with this band. Every once in awhile something of their musical content will pop up and catch my eye but most of the time I tend to overlook them. After hearing Harukaze, I really wanted to follow them but then Taiyou Scandalous and Pin Heel Surfer just didn't appeal to me at all. So I guess I just sort of let them drift away. But now I'm back and I have every intention of giving them another chance by looking at their new album! I heard about their new album through Brett's review and it sounded pretty cool; I got a kick out of the title anyways. I've noticed over time that I have a tendency to agree with his opinions so I decided I should check out and see what this group of bandols has been up to! Will I finally be able to start showing real interest in this group? Let's find out.
1. Queens are trumps
What a better way to open an album with a song that shares the same name as the album's title? And holy crap, is this an awesometacular opening! Right from the get go you've got this hard guitar and steady riff blasting at full volume and the song just keeps getting more and more energetic as each second goes by! The song is solid rock and the most hardcore track on the album. Queens are trumps is the kind of song that I could easily bang my head to, and I'm saying that as someone who rarely bangs her head! Actually... wouldn't that hurt? Wouldn't you get brain damage? Anyways, the song is a lot of fun to listen to and it's a really great opening song that grabbed me when I first listened to the album! It set the tone for the rest of the album: an assortment of pure rock'n roll, a... oh wait, except the next track is Taiyou Scandalous and a total contrast from this song. Still, this song is super-freaking-awesome.
2. Taiyou Scandalous
You know, I was going to review this in my summer PVs collection but I didn't have enough time and decided not to bother with it. Mainly because I was never really able to get into this song. It's not exactly bad but it's not a very interesting song and coming after the hard rock and powerful energy Queens are trumps had, Taiyou Scandalous sounds much worse than it does as a stand-alone track. It's nothing more than another summer song with a rock-edge to it. I admit, at times it's a pretty fun and happy song, especially when the chorus hits, but I've heard better and cooler summer songs. I feel like at times the song worked and when it worked, it worked quite well! But then there are parts where the song just sounds awkward... there's something about how the song flows. For the most part, Taiyou Scandalous is a pretty forgettable track for me; it's not bad but it's good in a way that I won't remember it in t-minus 5 minutes.
3. Pin Heel Surfer
So apparently this is one of the most polarizing Scandal songs because of the accompanying PV; fans criticized that it strayed too far from the "band" image the group had. All I remember from the PV is they ripped off the foot dance from Nee so it must not have been a very interesting PV to me. But I have listened to the song and my impression of the song is that it's about as memorable as the PV. It's not a bad track but it really doesn't stand out and continues on the same level of mediocrity Taiyou Scandalous has. You could argue that it's a pretty upbeat and happy song with a fairly catchy chorus. On some days, it's actually a pretty fun song to listen to but it still doesn't trigger much emotion from me. If I was confronted by Mayuyu the Fantastic Creeper and told that if I wanted to keep my life, I could never listen to Pin Heel Surfer again, I'd be pretty chill with that. In fact... I can feel myself forgetting the song as I type this very review! Adios, Pin Heel Surfer!
4. Rock'n Roll
Well hello there, energetic track! Finally the album is picking up the pace again! Something I tend to emphasize is that even the worst of songs can be slightly listenable if there's a lot of energy put into them and this song is filling over the top with energy! Rock'n Roll definitely lives up to its name with a pretty guitar-driven sound and overall rock-ish instrumentals. In fact, I think the instruments shine more than the vocals here (although they're still very nice and fit well with the song). I always like Scandal most when you can hear their incorporation of the instruments they play into their songs and with Rock'n Roll you can really hear there musical talents. I'll bet this song would sound killer live... Anyways, this song reminds me a slightly happier Love Survive; I'm just happy that we get another song that matches the rock'n roll energy that Queens are trumps had! I'm sure the next song will continue that energy!
5. Bitter Chocolate
...And just when you think the songs are going to start picking up, the album slows back down with Bitter Chocolate. The best way I could describe this song is a borderline-ballad; it's slow paced still energetic enough that you can't really call it a ballad. I don't know, I'm really not feeling this song; it sounds too much like Pin Heel Surfer to me if that song were slowed down. There's really nothing wrong with it but I feel like I've heard this sound a lot from Scandal in the past. Not to mention that most of the vocals go to Tomomi, a singer whose squeakiness could rival Watanabe Mayu and all her Warota 7 minions. Every once in a while, Haruna pops in to sing something but it's mostly Tomomi. I think if I switched the placement of Bitter Chocolate and Rock'n Roll, I would like this song better but coming after such an energetic track just drags the album down along with my energy.
6. Kill the virgin
Well. What an... interesting title. Now I'm not going to judge a song simply by a starting title but this song is... not good. I was thinking with a title like that it would be something similar to hard rock or borderline metal but now that I have listened to the song... god, I wish it was. I've listened to this song several times and I'm still not sure what the hell I just listened to. It's like somehow the band mutated into this Autotuned group of leprechauns that started writing music. The vocals are also really weird and really bad; I'm not sure if it's Tomomi or Rina who's singing but whoever it is, she sounds awful with the Autotune and squeaky voice combined together. The vocals aren't the only thing that bogs this song down though; the instrumentals are incredibly weird, whipping back and forth from slow to fast serious to perky. The song is a hot mess that doesn't know what genre it wants to be and probably my least favorite track on the album.
So after digging myself out of the plane crash that is Kill the virgin, next up on the track is Koe and it's a fairly enjoyable track. Then again, I just listened to Kill the virgin and let's face it: that song could make every other song on this album sound like Shunkan Sentimental. Mami's voice has always been very hit-or-miss to me and for this song in parts of it she doesn't sound at all good, particularly in the verses. I don't know why, for some reason to me she sounds like she's straining her voice a lot to hit certain notes. The song shines the most in the chorus since it fits Mami's voice the best and it's definitely my favorite part of the song. The song isn't covering any particularly new sound or experimenting with anything new but after the experimental mess of Kill the virgin, once again, I'm pretty okay with that. I like that it brings the listener back to the Scandal we know and love so I think if you like Scandal, you'll enjoy this song!
8. Rising Star
For me, Rising Star is when the album starts to pick up and deliver consistently good songs. When I first heard the song, it reminded me a lot of a more energetic and upbeat Harukaze. But that's okay because I really enjoy that song and this is like a new-and-improved version of it! One of the strongest feelings I had about this song was that it made me feel very... nostalgic. It's like one of those songs that you would be driving in your car and looking wistfully out the window while the song plays. Except not really because if you did that, you would crash your car. You know how you have those songs where you just wanna stare out the window and pretend you're in a music video, right? Well, this is one of those songs for me. In fact, these next tracks are all songs like that for me. But this was good start to a more cohesive second half of the album!
Ballads are very hit-or-miss to me. The biggest weakness an artist has when taking on a ballad song is making sure that they can keep the listener's interest and trying not to make the song too boring. Luckily for Scandal, Bright is a very well-done ballad and I think that's partially because it's a rock ballad. There's a lot of energy to the song but it's projected in a more wistful and melancholic tone. It also compliments the previous track nicely, carrying over that nostalgic feeling I got. You know what song it reminds me of? Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ by Zone. Okay, a lot of rock ballads remind me of that song but that isn't necessarily a bad thing! I love that song! And Bright just has that same tone and triggers the same feelings form me that Secret Base does! It's a very pretty rock ballad with a tinge of nostalgia that matches up nicely with the previous track!
10. Welcome home
This was the track where I felt like the album started to have a more consistent style of sound. Which is strange because this was a B-side from Taiyou Scandalous. Is it ironic that I find myself liking this B-side more than the fantastically forgettable A-side? At parts it reminds me of a very slowed down version of this song called Aoki Hikari no Hate by Mizuki Nana, an artist I listen to frequently. I could picture this song being an ending to a really cliched anime which makes sense. Actually, this could just play at the credits of any cliched movie or TV show. Hey... hasn't Scandal done a lot of songs for various animes anyways? Maybe Welcome home was made for one too! Still, I like it and I like that it's continuing the nostalgic sound I've felt from the past two tracks! It picks up the pace after the slower ballad that is Bright and puts a smile on my face just by listening to it!
Wow, a song by them I actually reviewed! Yep, many moons ago I reviewed this song and the PV and my opinion pretty much hasn't changed since then. I do admit, the song got a little old for me after awhile but overall it's still a very pleasant song to listen to! It's one of the band softer songs but it still maintains a good amount of rock that you see in the band. The nice thing about Harukaze is it fits right in with the nostalgic tone the past few songs have been going with! After listening to it awhile, the song drags a teensy bit but even then that doesn't bother me too much. It sounds a lot like Bright to me because has that same pretty but nostalgic instrumental coupled with equally dreamy and distant vocals! I'm always a sucker for pretty songs and that was why Harukaze appealed to me back in March. Now months later, Harukaze still holds the title for the song that piqued my interest in Scandal!
12. Right Here
I feel like I should hear this song playing in the end-credits of a really cheesy rom-com high school movie. I guess sounding like a credits song works in the song's favor since it is the closing song on the album. I suppose the song isn't bad but I have this horrible feeling that after awhile I'm going to get very irritated whenever it comes up on my iPod. It's not bad album closer but it doesn't end the album on a bang more like a light tap on the shoulder. If I'm in the right mood (and by "right" I mean, happy and stress-free) then I can probably listen to and enjoy this song. But much like Maji Desu ka Ska! if I'm in a bad mood, then I won't last long with this song playing on my iPod. I feel like when closing an album, you should end it with a bang because that's the last song and the last impression the listener has. If impact were rated on a 1-10 scale, Right Here would be at 4 or 5.
So the big question is does this album trump their previous ones? Well... I feel like I can't give an accurate answer since the only other Scandal album I've really looked at is Temptation Box. However, as a stand-alone album, I'm pretty split down the middle about it. The biggest problem with the album is the opening. I'm not saying the opening is bad because Queens are trumps is freaking awesome but an opener is what helps set the tone for an album. After hearing the first track, I thought the album would be harder and more rock-ish but then it whiplashed to tracks like Taiyou Scandalous and Pin Heel Surfer. When the songs are really good, they're really good but on the flip side, when they're bad, they're incredibly forgettable. I think the second half (from Koe to Right Here) flows better than the first half and it feels like the songs fit better back to back. The album had very poor musical transitions and just didn't flow very well until the latter half. Once we hit Koe, I felt like we were getting a more steady style of sound, that being nostalgic. So to sum it up, the first half is all over the place and the second half has a more refined and consistent style.
Hence I'll give it 3.5 apples out of 5.
It's an overall decent album but it could be better. Still, I really should get more into Scandal because I am a fan of Zone. From what I've seen, they're a lot like Zone and they've even covered Secret Base. Maybe in 2013 they'll release something that catches my eye!
And this is incredibly off topic (and possibly illegal) but does anyone know where in the hell I can find Brand-new Idol Society's new album, Idol Is Dead? I'd buy it off iTunes but considering I have zero yen and it's not available on the US iTunes, I'm being forced to look at other alternatives. I really, really, really want to review the album but I can't work off the little snippets I've heard off iTunes. I need the whole album but I can't buy a physical copy and searching has also produced nothing because for some reason, this group is painfully obscure. If you have a solution to this, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry to spam, but I seriously can't emphasize how badly I want to hear this album.