Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let's Talk about Standard

This review's only what? A month late? To tell you the truth, I completely forgot about reviewing Standard Scandal's fourth album. It's not like I hated the album so much I actively tried to forget about it, I just... did! I mean, I did kind of have justified reasons? Most of them have to do with college applications. It probably didn't help that another album I was anxiously waiting for also came out the same time that Standard did. And several other albums I've been waiting for also came out in October, and Standard just happened to not be one of them. But at the behest of one of my lovely readers, I have decided to give Standard a proper album review! After all, I'm always in the mood for some idol rock! Or pop rock depending on what sound direction Standard goes in. It always seems to go back and forth for Scandal's albums. Baby Action was more pop-oriented, but Queens are trumps -Kirifuda wa Queen- was more rock-oriented. I prefer the latter when it comes to Scandal's musical, but I never know what I'm gonna get with their albums. I always seem to like one song from Scandal's albums though. Will that be the case with Standard? I think the only way to know is to give my long-delayed review of Standard!

1. Brand new wave

So what's opening the album? A wave! A brand new wave to be exact. That kind of sounds like New Wave music. Seriously, Brand new wave is less of pop rock and more of... pop. I'm always pretty iffy on Scandal's poppier songs, Brand new wave actually sounds pretty okay to my ears. Having listened to the whole album though, I think another song would have worked better to open Standard. It's not that Brand new wave is a terrible song, it's just not a very strong opener. I always think that the best album openers are the ones that get you pumped for the album. Brand new wave just kind of makes me bob my head and tune it out. It's just not energetic enough. Like the opening to Scandal's last album? That was an awesome opener. Brand new wave pales immensely in comparison. I guess it is a nice-sounding song though, and considering that Scandal's ventures into pop have been much worse, I can take Brand new wave.

My Rating:

2. Over Drive

I guess the New Wave-ness of Brand new wave was just preparing us for that hardcore electronic dance song that is Over Drive, huh guys? Sarcasm aside, Over Drive is the first of the three Standard A-sides on this album! Not a bad choice in my opinion. I like Over Drive, for some weird reason I can't quite put into words. I think because it's so gosh-darn happy sounding. I still don't think it's because Nakata produced it, although the harmonica bits in the instrumental are very Nakata-esque. Over Drive is a happy Scandal songs, and it's a song that easily gets stuck in my head. It's weird, because there's nothing in the song that should be able to stick, but the chorus just does for some unfathomable reason! I can't say I mind; I think Over Drive is a fun song! And the PV for it is a lot of fun too, although I did a full review of that if you want to know more. Overall, not a bad A-side for the start of this album!

My Rating:

3. Uchiage Hanabi

You know what Uchiage Hanabi? A Whiteberry song, of all things! I guess that's not much of a surprise since Whiteberry was also an all-girl rock band from the 90s. Whiteberry's schtick was that they were happy-go-lucky teenage girls who just so happened to love rocking out. The result was some pretty awesome and energetic pop-rock music. Uchiage Hanabi is a very happy song, in that special Whiteberry kind of way. Even Haruna and Tomomi's vocals sound like they're mimicking Yukki's in some parts of the song. As a fan of Whiteberry, I do like the happier sound of Uchiage Hanabi. However, it is very hard to replicate the Whiteberry sound and the energy in their songs. And Uchiage Hanabi is kind of lacking in both. I think it's because Scandal's more of a Zone-type band than a Whiteberry-type band. Still, props to Scandal for putting in a little effort!

My Rating:

4. Orange Juice

Riding the wave of happiness is Orange Juice, another fast-paced rock song! Like Uchiage Hanabi, this is a pretty happy song. Think The Ramones only female and Japanese. Yeah, Orange Juice is quite the head-bobber too, especially when you get to the chorus! I think what I liked most about Orange Juice was the energy in this song. It's just the right tempo, and the vocals sound so energetic! It's quite refreshing! I think the verses and chorus maintained the right amount of momentum and energy levels too! Like the verses always felt like a build-up to the really catchy chorus. I always like when Scandal does happy rock songs, instead of vaguely happy-sounding pop-rock songs. I stand by the fact that Scandal always excels when they lean more toward energetic rock music in lieu of pop-rock. Orange Juice is about as happy as Standard gets; shame because I wouldn't mind an album with more of this sound at all!

My Rating:

5. Metronome

Yay, more energy! I'm just going to go ahead and say Metronome freaking rocks. Do I also hear a little bit of electro thrown into this song? If so, it's very minimally done. I think Metronome was a good song to follow up Orange Juice. Both songs have about the same energy levels, although Metronome sounds much more serious and intense. There's still an element of fun to it that's more prevalent in the verses. It's mainly the chorus that sounds more serious and intense. Not that I mind, this song totally rocks! I like driving in my car to this song; it makes me feel like I'm caught up in a violent and close car chase! I think this is one of the more musically interesting songs on Standard and feels a little different from the Scandal mold of music a majority of their album songs fall into. Despite somewhat lacking in metronomes, Metronome is probably one of my favorite songs on this album. 

My Rating:

6. Weather Report

This song exists. That's important to note. Other than that, there's not much else I can say about this song. I guess it's all right sounding? In my opinion, Weather Report is the most forgettable song on Standard though. It's a soft-rock song, which is probably why I don't care for it that much. The energy levels are just so low and even in the chorus, there's no punch to this song. It's one of those songs that I have a hard time writing about, because there's only so much I can say before I start repeating myself. Eh... Haruna's vocals sound fine? She carries the song nicely and tries to add some life to it. Other than that, I feel like I've heard this instrumental in like twenty other Scandal songs. It's kind of like that Zone-type sound they always default back to at some point or another in each album. On the up side, Weather Report isn't a god-awful song like Playboy or Scandal in the House so I guess that's a good thing?

My Rating:

7. 8-gatsu

It annoys me just a teensy bit that 8-gatsu isn't track 8. I mean, come on, how perfect would that be!? Then again, that's nitpicky. The song itself sounds like it could fit on Queens are trumps -Kirifuda wa Queen-. I say that because it's one of Scandal's softer, nostalgic-sounding rock songs. Think Harukaze, Rising Star or hell, most of Zone's discography. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I like Zone, and I like the general sound of 8-gatsu! It kind of sounds melancholic, but in a very upbeat manner. I will say though it brings absolutely nothing new to the table for Scandal. I've heard this sound a lot from them. This song style seems to be Scandal's default sound to go to when they need a B-side or another album song. While I do like it, if 8-gatsu was a song that was never created, I can't say I'd be sad about it. Still, it's a pretty-sounding song. I'm saying that as someone who likes that Zone-type sound though.

My Rating:

8. Awanai Tsumori no, Genki de ne

Look here, the first A-side to start the Standard era! Wasn't Awanai Tsumori no, Genki de ne used in an anime? Or was it a movie? I think it was either the opening or ending to a movie. Either way, it sounds like an anime song. I'm wouldn't be too surprised since Scandal's done a lot of theme songs for animes. For some reason, I really like writing to this song. I guess because it's easy to tune out? I'm not sure what that says about the quality of the song, but it makes for a lot of very productive writing. In fact, I'm listening to it right now! But that's mainly just to review this album. What can I really say about Awanai Tsumori no, Genki de ne that I didn't say in my single review of it? I think it's a pretty decent song but by no means the best Scandal song I've ever heard. I think there's a decent amount of sentiment in the song though, and hey, I'm always looking for music that helps me write!

My Rating:

9. Kagen no Tsuki

And here's my least favorite A-side of the Standard era. Admittedly, it's not a horrible song, but the flaws in it are still prominent enough. My biggest nitpick with Kagen no Tsuki that I went over in great detail is the arrangement. I feel like I'm listening to two different songs every time I play Kagen no Tsuki. First of all, the verses have this very cool, kind of edgy sound reminiscent of the Shoujo S verses along with a pretty awesome riff. Then the chorus comes in. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the chorus of Kagen no Tsuki completely drags the song down. It's way too happy and doesn't match with the feel initially portrayed in the verses. Not to mention, this chorus is downright bland for Scandal, like something I'd hear off their Baby Action album. It's totally lame, and when the chorus is the weakest part of a song... that kind of drags everything down. Needless to say, I'm not a huge fan of Kagen no Tsuki.

My Rating:

10. Koi no Gestault Hokai

This is my second favorite new song on Standard! It's such a breath of life after Kagen no Tsuki too! Koi no Gestault Hokai is thankfully a more rock-oriented song, and by god, does Standard need more of those! After all these easy-listening tracks, Koi no Gestault Hokai brings some energy to the table. Seriously, this song is so energetic and fast-paced; I love it. And the instrumental's are so loud and prevalent in this song; I'll bet it'll sound great at Scandal's live concerts! I really wish more of the songs on Standard sounded like Koi no Gestault Hokai: catchy, fun, and memorable! I think this will be one of the few tracks that I keep listening to after I'm finished reviewing Standard. I really wish this was the sound that Scandal gravitated more towards to with their music, but oh well, I'm not some puppetmaster who can control their every move. For now, I will content myself with Koi no Gestault Hokai.

My Rating:

11. Kimi to Mirai to Kanzen Douki

And here's the one B-side that made it to the album! I honestly wouldn't have minded 24 Jikan Plus no Yoake Me being on Standard either. I'm happy that the hot mess that is Scandal in the House didn't make the cut though! I said in my single review of Kagen no Tsuki that Kimi to Mirai to Kanzen Douki is a better song than the A-side, and I still stand by that claim. So I am happy that this song was included on the album; it kind of makes up for Kagen no Tsuki being on there. Kimi to Mirai to Kanzen Douki reminds me very much of the kind of song I'd hear on one of Scandal's earlier albums like Best Scandal or even Temptation Box. It reminds me a bit of Shoujo M from Temptation Box, although not quite as raw. Overall, I think Kimi to Mirai to Kanzen Douki a pretty good song. It doesn't really offer any new sound for Scandal or musical evolution, but it's still a strong song. I can still jam to it!

My Rating:

12. Namida yo Hikare

This song is kind of like a faster paced Uchiage Hanabi. My criticism of Uchiage Hanabi was how energetic it was so if Namida yo Hikare improved in that, surely that means this is a better song, right? Eh... not exactly. I think the chorus for Namida yo Hikare is absolutely unforgettable. I do like the instrumental for it, but everything else in the chorus doesn't grab me at all. I guess the end part is kind of catchy but everything else just doesn't grab me for some reason. I'm not sure about Namida yo Hikare; for some reason, I just can't get into this song. I don't think it's a horrid song, but there's nothing about it that makes me want to listen to it again. Maybe the problem with Namida yo Hikare is that there isn't really a hook? It's just a constant assault of sound that probably could have used a clearer arrangement. I don't know, it's still a pretty decent song, and I like that it's more rock-sounding.

My Rating:

13. Standard

Bring Standard to an end is... the title track! Kind of cool having it at the end of the album. But if I had to pick any of the songs to close this album, I'd keep Standard. Why? Because I think Standard is the best song on this album. Nothing like saving the best for last! Standard is in my opinion the most interesting and different song for Scandal. It's kind of like a more serious Scandal in the House but only a thousand times better than that heinous B-side from Over Drive. You could also compare it to some of Scandal's more serious songs like Nanka no Buttobase and maybe even Love Survive. Standard features a lot of talk-singing but it works in this really weird way. The call-and-response parts in the song help. And the guitar riff in this is awesome, very hardcore and intense. Standard is a short song, clocking in at a little over three minutes, but they're an explosive three minutes bringing this album to a close.

My Rating:

The Verdict

There were no horrible tracks on Standard. That isn't always the case with Scandal albums. The weakest tracks were Weather Report and Kagen no Tsuki, and even then those aren't bad. However, there aren't any truly excellent tracks on Standard either. The title track comes the closest to being something really interesting. Everything else ranges from easy listening to somewhat decent. Honestly, I would only bother replaying about half of the songs on this album. The biggest problem I had with Standard was that the general sound wasn't energetic enough. Sure, tracks like Orange Note, Metronome and Standard are really energetic, but they're drowned out by 8-gatsu, Brand new wave, Weather Report, and Kagen no Tsuki. There are just so many songs on this album that you can tune out really easily. For some situations that's great, but if I want to listen to an album solely for listening, Standard isn't going to hold my attention.

The A-sides from this era ranged from lackluster to pretty solid. Kagen no Tsuki is obviously the weakest with its clumsy arrangement and lame chorus. Awanai Tsumori no, Genki de ne falls in the middle being a decent song, albeit offering nothing new for Scandal. And Over Drive was my personal favorite due to its sheer happiness and the little bit of musical manipulation from Nakata. My favorite new tracks were Metronome, Koi no Gestault Hokai, and Standard. Even then, none of those songs draw really passionate opinions from me. Everything else on Standard is okay. If you're a fan of Scandal and enjoy their more Zone-type music, then you'll probably like Standard. I'm a fan of Zone, but I have to admit, I wasn't that impressed by Standard. I never seem to like every single track on any Scandal album, but this is the first time that I've gotten such a neutral opinion of one of their albums. Standard doesn't offer much new material of growth from Scandal as a band. If you're just looking for some generic Scandal music though, this album has that in spades! As for me, this album didn't impress me but it didn't disappoint me either.

Hence Standard rests at a middling three apples. I thought Queens are trumps -Kirifuda wa Queen- was a stronger album, even if that had its pitfalls. Standard is a very safe release for Scandal musically, with songs that don't deviate very far from their song formula. Still, there are a few decent tracks on the album, and there's nothing outright terrible. I'll wait for their next album though and hope that offers something with a little more substance.


  1. Thank you for reviewing the album! Haha most of your favourites are also my favourites too!

    I felt similar things towards the slower songs but after I looked up the lyrics, I understood why they were that pace. One of the stronger points of scandal imo is their lyrics, especially the fact that the girls themselves are mostly the writers. I remember just brushing off their songs until I saw the meaningful lyrics orrrr seeing them rock it live (scandal baby was an example for me). Hachigatsu's lyrics are actually about themselves and their origins (the band formed when in August). It's really nice. :) I totally agree that Hachigatsu should totally be the EIGHT track though! Lyrics if you're interested:

    I find it amusing as well how you find Uchiage Hanabi a happy song. I did too before I read the lyrics! I had that OMG face when it turned out this song was very melancholic and sad... Lyrics again if you want:

    LOL I really love Haruna's voice in Weather Report though xD It's like when she first breaks into the song, it's so... soothing and melancholy. I really love it, it's extremely unique. Like I doubt I'd ever hear anybody else sounding similar to Haruna. Ahhh what do you think about her voice in scandal's songs?

    As much as I love your reviews, I'd have to politely disagree on the statement of not much new material of growth from scandal as a band because to date, it's actually their most technical album yet in terms of skill. Tomomi's basslines during Orange Juice was really amazing, and as you pointed out, so was Mami's sick guitar riffs in Standard. And the drums were just all-rounded good in the album, especially on Koi no gestalt houkai and namida yo hikare.

    Once again, thanks for the awesome review! Please continue to review scandal's future releases! You're awesome~

    1. I probably need to read more of Scandal's lyrics, I just have a bad habit of not doing that with a lot of J-pop. I guess it's because I focus more on the music than the lyrics? Especially since the girls of Scandal write their own lyrics, which is always a plus in my book.

      I LOVE Haruna's voice. She's one of my favorite singers in J-pop! I think that's why even my least favorite Scandal songs I don't 100% hate because of her voice. I just love how distinct her voice is; when you hear her you just know that's Haruna!

      I can kind of see your point about Standard having musical growth. I guess it's just a little more subtle. I get the feeling this album will grow on me; it probably just takes a few more listens.

      And you're welcome! I'll do my best to review Scandal's future releases and thank you for your input! It's always nice to hear different opinions on the Wonderland!

  2. Yup! The music itself no matter what genre or artist always captivates me first too. Music transcends language!

    EXACTLY! That's how I feel about her voice. It's amazing. Sometimes I just want to have a break from the normal girly poppish voices of some Jpop groups; not that I have anything against them. It's just that it's awesome to hear something... different.

    Yeah; quite a few songs do need time to grow-- I felt the same way for some of scandal's songs and other groups too. But at the end of the day, there'll always be songs that you just dislike for maybe even no particular reason you can't pinpoint.

    It was my pleasure :) Thanks again~