God, Bellring Shoujo Heart is such a cool name for an idol group. It just sounds to creepy and weird and psychedelic. I think of decaying mansions and abandoned theatres and foggy mornings in a graveyard and bats and all this other spooky shit when I hear the name Bellring Shoujo Heart!
Guys, meet Bellring Shoujo Heart. They're one of the many "unconventional" idol groups that's emerged since BiS got popular. But what separates them from all the BiS/Babymetal wannabes? Well, Bellring Shoujo Heart's music is inspired by the psychedelic rock bands of the 60s like The Velvet Underground. Their songs are cool, retro, and have endearingly terrible production quality. Seriously, the vocal mixing on some of Bellring Shoujo Heart's songs sounds intentionally bad. I think for some of them it is, but the production quality does add to that genuine 60s rock sound. Bellring Shoujo Heart can also be a rather creepy idol group. A lot of their songs range from psychedelic and dreamy to discordant and nightmarish, and I've heard their lives are pretty unsettling too. As I said, of all the BiS-wannabe groups that have emerged into the idol market, I think Bellring Shoujo Heart is the most promising. They're not trying to copy BiS' sound, but they still maintain a very distinct, unconventional image of their own. Their Bedhead album is awesome if you can dig unconventional idol music. I wish I'd reviewed it! To make up for not reviewing Bedhead though, I've moved on to their first single of 2014, titled Untouchable EP. It'll be strange, it'll be moody, and probably very, very retro. So put on your heart-shaped sunglasses and grab some magic mushrooms (Please do not, that was a joke and I do not want to be responsible for encouraging drug use) and let's dive in!
There's not too much to say about the cover for Untouchable EP. It's cool. The girls are all chilling on their grungy couch with their shoes off. Maybe they're watching television! And then there's a bunch of retro filtering done over the picture so that the picture looks like it was dropped in a lake, fished out, and blow-dried. I think it's a decent cover; nothing iconic, but it fits with the look and feel of Bellring Shoujo Heart. Same for the outfits. It's hard to see them anyways, but I wager it's the black uniform I keep seeing in group pictures of Bellring Shoujo Heart. Said uniform consists of a black school uniform along with crow wings. It's pretty creepy, but again, it works for the group. Okay, I'm bored, moving on to the first song!
Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita
So starting off Untouchable EP is Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita, a title so long I copied and pasted it! Well, nothing can beat Suzukake Nanchara but that bland single of blandness is behind us. Now here's the not-bland, super-60s Bellring Shoujo Heart song with a long title! I guess Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita is the leading track off the EP but...? I'm not sure, it maybe c.a.n.d.y. since that song got a PV, although I couldn't find a HQ version of the PV anyways... Oh well, Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita is a mostly-familiar trek into the weird, trippy rock music of the 60s with a few twists. What immediately grabbed me about Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita was the opening. Was that 1920s swing music I heard? It sounded quite old and I almost thought Bellring Shoujo Heart was going to do explore a music period even older than the 60s! But after that, Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita went into the style of music prevalent on the group's Bedhead album. So if you dug Bedhead (as I did), then you can definitely get into Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita. However, the song doesn't bring anything new to the table for Bellring Shoujo Heart, even if it is an enjoyable song to listen to.
It depends on how much you like the retro sound of Bellring Shoujo Heart. If you were sick of it after Bedhead, Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita may seem as a retread of everything on that album. If you were completely entranced by the 60s sound of the album and are craving more, then this song is a nice continuation of it. Personally, I am more than okay with Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita. It does have its really nice moments. Again, the sampling at the very beginning of the song was really cool. And there's a small instrumental break in the middle that sounds like someone's playing a music box. It's enchanting in a very, very creepy way. I think that's the best way to describe Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita: delightfully creepy. It's a perky song but perky in the way that Kyarypamyupamyu is perky: served with a side dish of unsettling strangeness. Honestly, I think that's why I've taken to Bellring Shoujo Heart; because they don't just do solely dark, loud, scary stuff. Their music is a quieter, uncannier kind of scary. And Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita perfectly embodies that sound, even if the song may not showcase anything too new for Bellring Shoujo Heart.
I think I'll give Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita four and half apples with my handy-dandy shiny new Apple Rating System (again, thanks to Kioku). The song is a delightful trip back into the 60s that thankfully doesn't require hallucinogenic drugs.
Veering from the 60s and going into the 90s is c.a.n.d.y. a grunge-rock song inspired by Nirvana! Ah, I remember my own grunge phase. It was about 20 years too late from the 90s grunge era, but still. Fond times those were indeed (although I mainly just listened to Garbage and The Cardigans on repeat). I actually haven't listened to much Nirvana, other than the expected songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, All Apologies, etc. But I like c.a.n.d.y. a lot! It's a short song (less than three minutes) but it was probably my favorite song off the single! I love how it starts with this music box-like opening, then the guitar starts, and then the song explodes. The riff is great and I love how it keeps building and building as the song progresses. Honestly, I feel like the instrumental is more emphasized in c.a.n.d.y. than the vocals are. The vocals are pretty minimal for such a short song. It still keeps the verse-chorus structure, but it's all very fast and quickly segues back into the grungy instrumental. I mean, I'm perfectly okay with that; that was just an observation. If anything, that adds to the 90s grunge feel of the song! Man, I wonder what the idol market would have been like back in the 90s if all the groups were emulating Nirvana... pretty surreal, I'd imagine.
Personally, when it comes to idols and rock, I always like when idols stray more towards grunge and alternative than metal music. I guess because those are the genres of music I've liked for a really long time, and neither one is quite as abrasive as metal is. C.a.n.d.y. has a fantastically grunge-rock feel to it, which is probably why I like the song so much. I don't even mind the song's short length because it works so well. I do wonder if Bellring Shoujo Heart will do another song like c.a.n.d.y. or if this was just a one-time experiment. I kind of hope it isn't. I love the group's 60s sound, but I am all for experimentation into other decades of music. Maybe they'll explore other eras like 70s rock or the 50s rock! Maybe even jazz... or just more grunge! I'd love to hear more grunge-rock in idol music in general. Well, if this was just a one-time thing, I think Bellring Shoujo Heart pulled it off very well! As someone who jams to grunge, c.a.n.d.y. plays straight to my musical tastes and will do the same for any other idol fan into grunge-rock! It's definitely the highlight off Untouchable EP for me despite being such a short song.
So yeah, c.a.n.d.y. totally gets five apples from me. I wouldn't change a thing about the song. It's got a lot of energy, explores grunge-rock well while still maintaining the creepier sound of Bellring Shoujo Heart. Also, did I mention the mixing is slightly better? Not much, but at least a little bit better than Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita's.
Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix)
The final track on Untouchable EP is a remix of a song from Bedhead, the group's first album. It's done by some guy named Sange, and the original song can be found as track #6 on Bedhead. Admittedly, Rice to Tuning was one of my least favorite tracks on Bedhead. Now I use the term "least" subjectively, because I liked most of the songs on Bedhead quite a lot. Rice to Tuning is a good song, but in comparison to many of the other songs on Bedhead, it doesn't stand as my favorite. Still, the original was a pretty fun song. The deadpan rapping was kind of quirky, even though I'm not a huge fan of rapping in general. It was a fun song, but I never would have been begging for the song to be remixed. So what does the Sange Mix change in Rice to Tuning? Well, the song is much shorter and faster. At first, I thought it was kind of cool... but then the male backing vocals kicked in. I assume that's Sange's voice I keep hearing in the background? Whomever's voice it is, I don't like it. If I want to hear gratuitous male backing vocals, I'll just go listen to a Morning Musume song. In Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix) they just sound really annoying. I guess I just don't like the vocal distance between the girls' voices and these really deep gravelly guy voices.
There's also the tempo of the song; it's much faster than the original. What made the original Rice to Tuning an interesting song was the nonchalantness of the Mizuho's rapping combined with the laidback sound. The song sped up a bit during the chorus, but for the most part, Rice to Tuning is pretty chill compared to the Sange Mix. In contrast, Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix) is practically bouncing off the walls. The sped-up tempo gives the song a lot more energy, but in my opinion, it's too much energy. There are a few parts where the faster-paced beat of the song works (like in the very beginning, the song sounded awesome until the chorus ended). It does make the song sound perkier, but perky in the way a three-year old child is perky at six at night when you're trying to get them to go to bed. The original Rice to Tuning wasn't a huge hit with me, so the Sange Mix of Rice to Tuning won't be a song I constantly replay on my iPod. In fact, it's probably my least favorite track on Untouchable EP, and I could have done without it. I just don't like the changes made to it. I guess in a weird way though the changes made me appreciate the original more! Gosh, I'll never get why artists feel the need to remix songs, especially songs that are good enough that they don't need a remix.
Rice to Tuning would have been perfectly fine without a remix, and the Sange Mix is far from my favorite remix. I do like the idea of speeding up the song, but the extra male vocals were unnecessary. I'm afraid I can only give Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix) two and half apples. In comparison, I would have given the original song four apples had I reviewed the album...
I think I'm going to like reviewing Bellring Shoujo Heart. Yes, they are becoming a staple on my Idol Whitelist (opposite of Idol Blacklist, you do the math) as long as I can get my hands on their singles and they continue releasing music. Bellring Shoujo Heart is an indie group, and I'm not a huge fan of following indie groups. My problem is that it's difficult to follow them since they usually have smaller fanbases. Still, I'll do my best because the group's music is worth it. Untouchable EP proves that! And so does Bedhead. Did I mention you should all listen to that album? I just love the sound of Bellring Shoujo Heart; I like their aesthetic and how it's still unconventional but without trying to be like BiS. Who knows? Maybe Bellring Shoujo Heart can fill the void that BiS is going to rip out of my heart when they disband. As long as they keep releasing stuff like Untouchable EP, I think they will! The two new songs on Untouchable EP are both awesome. Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita plays to the strengths of the group's musical style, and c.a.n.d.y. is a well-done grunge-rock song that I can absolutely jam to. Together, both songs are great. This single is great- oh wait, Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix) is still on this single, isn't it?
Right... Untouchable EP would be great. If Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix) wasn't on it.
Yep, of the three songs on Untouchable EP, the one that I could have done without was Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix). I'm not completely against remixes, but most of the ones I find in idol music end up being kind of unnecessary and not as good as the original song. That isn't more obvious than it is with Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix). The original Rice to Tuning was a good song (maybe not my favorite, but still a good song), and while I do acknowledge the mixer for trying a different direction with the remix, it doesn't work for me. It's too fast, sporadic, and the extra vocals don't mix well with the original vocals. And I should mention that like Bedhead, Untouchable EP's production quality is... kind of bad. The girls still sound like they recorded their voices with a potato and sloppily mixed them with the instrumentals. The production's a little bit better with c.a.n.d.y. than Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita. Still, the production quality can be a little jarring when you first listen to Untouchable EP. However, over time it kind of works, especially with the more 60s-oriented Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita. If you can look past that though, Untouchable EP is a single with two really good songs and one not-so-good remix that I'll just pretend doesn't exist. Well, except for averaging out the Apple Rating for Untouchable Ep.
In total, Untouchable EP gets four apples from me. The only thing I would change about the single is removing Rice to Tuning (Sange Mix), but the other two songs on the single are great. Tsuki no Mashita de Ookami-san ni Tazunemashita is delightfully trippy and strange, and c.a.n.d.y. is a nice foray into a later genre of music for Bellring Shoujo Heart. In short, give this single a listen if you're craving something darker and grungier from an idol group!