Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Talk about Who Killed Idol?

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. And you know what I was thinking? Wouldn't it be simultaneously the best and worst thing if BiS got to the day of their disbandment and revealed that it was just a joke? And that they were still continuing on as a group? Yeah. I could totally see them doing that. But I can also see them disbanding. Sigh.

Why is BiS disbanding? Actually, I know why they're disbanding; that's just a question I'm asking more to the cosmic forces of the future. I knew for awhile that BiS's days were numbered, but I kept thinking they'd put disbandment off. They're on of my favorite idol groups. I loved Idol is Dead. To this day, it's one of my favorite idol albums! So I was obviously going to review their third album, Who Killed Idol? Funny how those two sound like follow-up sentences at a crime scene investigation... Anyways, I freaking loved Idol is Dead. So Who Killed Idol? had quite the standard to live up to. Not only that, but this is BiS's last album. Their swan song. Their last complete album before they disappear forever and I have to find a new group that's just as interesting and not-bland as they are. BiS had an interesting mix of A-side leading up to Who Killed Idol? and the artists who contributed to the album is pretty impressive. So is the bar set high? Hell yes. Can BiS reach up to it? Hell maybe. Let's dive in and see if we can figure out who did kill idol, all right?

1. Primal.2

Opening the album is a sequel song to Primal., one of BiS's best songs. Okay, I'm a little biased, but I really love that song. So Primal.2 has quite the bar to reach if it wants to strive as the sequel to Primal. And in some ways, it succeeds. Unlike Primal., which was a loud, raw song crammed with emotion, Primal.2 is a ballad that sounds like the calm aftermath of Primal. I do like that Primal.2 isn't just a rehash of Primal. but... it's just a ballad. Part of what made Primal. such a great song was that it went to these uncomfortably levels of energy and music and emotion. Primal.2 is much more tame and restrained, except for maybe at the end when the key change happens. I think maybe the song could have been a little bit... louder? It's missing something. However, Primal.2 is still a very pretty song, and by no means is it a dull ballad. The chorus is beautiful and the guitar player, Hisashi, does a great job. As a continuation to Primal. though, Primal.2 falls short.

My Rating:

2. DiE

After the slow ballad, Who Killed Idol? kicks into high gear with DiE! I really like this song, and I like the music video that went along with it. Even if it was a little bit unnerving. What's always struck me about DiE is how similar in style it sounds to Primal. Both sound very post-rock and both are loud with a bunch of emotion pouring from the vocals. The vocals are both my favorite and least favorite part of DiE. Structurally and lyrically, they're great. Notes-wise? Not so much. The weakest aspect of DiE is the vocal range. There are some high notes in DiE and not every member of the group hits them... gracefully. I'm not expecting vocal perfection though, so it doesn't really bother me. But it was quite jarring the first time I listened to DiE! Now it doesn't really deter my enjoyment of listening to DiE, and the song is still one of my favorite singles of this era. That and the amazing B-side which we will get to in a few tracks...

My Rating:

3. StupiG

To the left here we have the most recent A-side! And their next-to-last A-side. Sigh. Well, I'm a little glad BiS isn't going out with StupiG, because this song is weird. And I listen to some pretty effing weird music, so I mean that. The song starts out so abrasively, with screaming and a headphones-breaking instrumental. But then the chorus comes in, and it's so melodic. Then more electronic-cyberpunk grunge madness! It takes a few listens to enjoy StupiG, and even then I have problems with the song. The biggest being how disjointed it is. Nothing flows well, the chorus and verses sound like different songs. Each has its own merits (the harmonizing in the verses being one of them), but StupiG sounds like such a scattered, insane song, and not enjoyably insane. It strikes me as a song that probably works better in concerts. But if I want to listen to electro-grunge (is that even a genre) than I'll just stick with Ash from Idol is Dead.

My Rating:

4. No regret

So No regret kind of sounds like merry-go-round music. Deranged, BiS merry-go-round music. It's kind of cool starting out in the beginning. Reminds me of a Shiina Ringo song. And the verses all sound very lilting and weird; again, it's kind of cool. After the loud, energetic DiE and StupiG, No regret serves as a nice cool-down song. Or... it does until the chorus. No regret suffers to a lesser degree what StupiG does in that the chorus and verse do not fit well together. It's like jamming two puzzle pieces from different puzzles together. But the transitions in No regret are a teensy bit better. But when the loud, abrasive chorus comes back in, it's still jarring. I guess I got used to it after awhile, but I wish No regret could have kept with the more relaxed, carnival-esque sound. Overall, I enjoyed the song. The riff in the instrumental is insanely catchy (just like carnival music!). No regret isn't my favorite album song but... I don't regret it being on there. HA!

My Rating:

5. Magumato

Nerve 2.0? That's pretty much what you could call Magumato. Although it doesn't have that catchy opening that makes Nerve so memorable... Still, I like Magumato (more than I liked No regret). It's one of the calmer songs on Who Killed Idol? or as calm as BiS can get. Honestly, I get major 80s vibes from Magumato. I blame the synthesizer. There's a synthesizer melody prevalent throughout the entire song. It makes me feel like I should be watching a cheesy music video with Magumato playing in the background! I'm a fan of 80s music (or at least the good 80s music) so hey, Magumato's cool with me. I guess you could call the Magumato new wave? It sounds like new wave to my ears, which again, I am totally 100% cool with. I just like how chill Magumato sounds. No one's sing-screaming, and it's nowhere near as packed with instrumentals as the previous three songs. Magumato's not my favorite new song, but it's still pretty neat.

My Rating:

6. Get You

You know, I'm really bummed that neither one of the B-sides from Get You made it to the album. I mean, Sayonara Demo would have fit perfectly! At least Get You did, the oddest of collaborations BiS dabbled in. The song resulted from a collaboration with Dorothy Little Happy, the idol group trying to usurp Super Girls from its position as blandest idol group on the block. The results were... interesting. In a good way! Part of the fun of this collaboration was having literally no idea what it would sound like, and Get You turned out to be one of the lighter BiS songs. But it still fits nicely into Who Killed Idol? without sounding out of place. The song is untouched and keeps the Dorothy Little Happy vocals in (along with Wacky, Yufu, and Mitchel's). Get You is actually a pretty cool song, and it's nice hearing BiS veer into straight-up pop every once in awhile. There are a few parts that are a little iffy (that talking) but for the most part, I think Get You is great!

My Rating:

7. Mura-Mura

Skaaaaaaaa!!! Not Maji Desu ka Ska, skaaaaaaaa!!! I will never understand why ska declined after the 90s. It's such a happy genre of music, how could people just dump it so easily!? I particularly love all the brass instrumentals in ska music and they are wonderfully present in BiS's take on ska, Mura-Mura. Songs like Mura-Mura are when I really appreciate BiS going across multiple genres of music and not sticking into one that's "unconventional" compared to idol pop like metal or rock. Mura-Mura is such a perky song, as many ska songs are. So if you don't like ska, then you're out of luck. But I like ska, so I like Mura-Mura. Actually, Mura-Mura is one of my favorite BiS B-sides in general. Maybe I love the fact that BiS experimented in a genre like ska. I don't know how as a ska song Mura-Mura holds up, but as a BiS song, I think Mura-Mura has all the energy and fun that I like about BiS. I mean I love when they're being menacing, but them being perky is just fun!

My Rating:


What does MMGK even stand for? Is it like PPCC and that initials make perfect sense in Japanese? Whatever MMGK stands for, the song is awesome. Even the opening is awesome; it's this explosion of electronica that perfectly sets the tone of MMGK. I really like the vocals of this song, and I have no idea why. Vocals are never exactly the strongest part of BiS (not compared to the instrumentation), but I really like what the producer did with the vocals in MMGK. I almost want to say MMGK is electronic, but it's very loosely electronic. It's like... electro-rock? Not Fruits Clipper electro-rock, more like rock with some synthesizer and other electronic effects mixed into the song. The end result is one of the most memorable songs on Who Killed Idol? There's just such a great amount of energy in the song; it leaves quite the punch. MMGK left the strongest impression with me when I first listened to the album, and it's one of my favorite songs on Who Killed Idol?

My Rating:

9. BiSimulation

Another one of the many A-sides featured on Who Killed Idol? and also Wacky's last. Nice to see that they kept her vocals in the track and didn't re-record the song! Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of BiSimulation. Oh, it isn't a horrible song. BiSimulation is... kind of just there. It's a shorter song that suffers from lack of a clear structure. Well, on the first listen it's hard to pick out the song structure. On further listens, it gets easier. But BiSimulation still feels very unstructured. Like all the vocals were just strung together one after the other without any discernible break between either the verses or the chorus. It's kind of cool, but not super-cool. BiSimulation is also about as close to the hard rock sound BiS embraced in Idol is Dead and Idol. I'm glad it doesn't go into full-out metal, but for such a loud song, BiSimulation still underwhelms me. I can't fault the energy of the song, but compared to the other A-sides on Who Killed Idol? BiSimulation isn't one of my favorites.

My Rating:

10. Error

So after the very loud BiSimulation is the very loud Error. But at least Error is more cohesive than BiSimulation. Error is another song that's more heavy on the electronica. In fact... there's a Dubstep break in the bridge of Error. Why do I keep running into those in idol songs I review!? Sweet Refrain, Invader Invader, why does it keep showing up like an uninvited guest in my house!? It's weird because other than that, Error remains relatively rock-ish. Or electronic rock-ish. But then it's like, bam! Random Dubstep breakdown! I don't understand it one bit. Then again, maybe I'm not supposed to. Admittedly, the Dubstep break is the thing that sticks out most with Error. Everything else is pretty much your typical BiS sound, very loud and abrasive. I mean, I enjoyed the song, but it wasn't like I was screaming for joy at the wonders in the song. Error is by no means an error! And honestly, I just really wanted to make that pun.

My Rating:

11. Nasty face

Nasty face? Isn't that what angry elementary-school kids call each other? Oh well, how does the song hold up? Nasty face starts out with such a sinister sound; I thought it was going to be similar to BiSimulation. But Nasty face turned out to be... I don't want to say happier, but more upbeat. Actually, Nasty face is one of my favorite album songs. I think there's such an awesome amount of energy in the song, and all the different parts work surprisingly well together! Nasty face sounds like something BiS might have released in their later indie era or maybe even their Idol Is Dead era to me. There's so much going on in this song, but it doesn't sound overcrowded the way StupiG did. All the instruments in this song end up sounding like this giant hodgepodge of noise that still somehow has a melody in it somewhere. Nasty face is scattered in a good way, and it has all the bite that makes BiS such an enjoyable idol group to listen to.

My Rating:

12. Fly

It just dawned on me how many A-side BiS had to cram into Who Killed Idol? I mean, I guess they had to, but damn, it makes the album long. Well, at least Fly is an awesome song! And it was also Mitchel's farewell song, so she gets a nice little solo between the second and last chorus. But what else sticks out with Fly? I said it in my single review and I'll say it again: Fly sounds so much like a Paramore song. Early Paramore, not the current Paramore; I have no idea what the hell current Paramore is doing with their music. As a middle-school fan of Paramore, I am 100% okay with BiS sounding like Paramore! Ah, it takes me back. Even though I enjoy Fly a lot, I always feel like I can never say much about the song. I think it's structured nicely, and the chorus serves as a great high note along with Mitchel's (surprisingly poignant) solo. It's just generic BiS, but since it's generic BiS, I am totally okay with that.

My Rating:

13. Hi

Back to back with Fly is the other A-side from that single and admittedly my least favorite. Well, it's between that and BiSimulation. I don't think either song is terrible, and Hi does have its strong points. It's a pretty energetic electro-rock song. But there are parts where Hi gets very annoying. Mainly just the chorus which consists of repeated background vocals over the main vocals. It's not the most annoying thing I've ever heard in idol music. I guess Hi just weirds me out as a song. Hi isn't something abnormal for BiS, but it sounds so... peppy. But not normal-idol peppy. Like being-on-drugs peppy. Whatever that feels like. And Hi is so short, the shortest song on the album! It starts and ends so quickly that every time it pops up on my shuffle, I'm not sure what I just listened to. I don't know, Hi is a fun song, but it doesn't grab me the way some of BiS's other A-sides have. So yeah. My opinion hasn't changed much from when I reviewed the single, huh?

My Rating:

14. Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.)

I am so happy Hide out cut made it to Who Killed Idol? Well... a version of Hide out cut made it to the album. Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.) is the same song with vocals from the new members. They basically did to Hide out cut what they did to Primal, My Ixxx, Idol, and Nerve on Idol is Dead. And I'm not completely sure I'm okay with that. Look, I love Hide out cut. Even with its really poorly written English lyrics, I still think it's a wonderful song. The piano is gorgeous, the chorus has the right level of emotion, and even the English lyrics grew endearing after awhile. And I listened to the original version so much that Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.) is a little jarring. The original B-side is better, but this album version of Hide out cut isn't horrid. There still are parts where I think I should be hearing Wacky or Yufu's voice and instead hear Uika's or Tenten's. The new vocals don't destroy the song, but if I had final say, I would have stuck with the original version.

My Rating:

15. Primal

No, don't confuse this with the Primal. from Idol is Dead! Or Primal.2. This Primal is actually a cover of The Yellow Monkey's song. I hadn't listened to the original version until after I'd listened to the BiS cover. My initial reactions before listening to the original was that BiS's Primal is a pretty cool rock song that sounds like a very appropriate sendoff for Who Killed Idol? My impressions after listening to the original? The original song is pretty great! I like The Yellow Monkey; I may listen to more of their stuff. Okay, okay, back to the BiS cover. Honestly, both songs are pretty much the same; the only difference is who's singing. And I think BiS's vocals fit with Primal. The song sounds like a farewell single, and it was for The Yellow Monkey. I guess it fits then for BiS to have Primal be their last song on their last album before disbanding and leaving us forever. Sigh. I think Primal may have tugged more at my heartstrings than the other Primal...

My Rating:

The Verdict

Listening to Idol is Dead was an experience for me that I don't think I properly emphasized. I was listening to previews on iTunes Japan for nearly a month because I couldn't find the album anywhere else. That was how pumped the album got me. And then when I listened to the full album? It blew my freaking mind! Keep in mind this was 2012 and I still had a long way to go in discovering idols. Idol is Dead was such a superb collection of sounds that, save for two songs I didn't care for, was quality on every single track. So Who Killed Idol? had a very high standard to reach. I didn't anticipate Who Killed Idol? with the same zeal I did Idol is Dead. I acknowledged the album was coming and was excited, but I wasn't clamoring to listen to the album. And after listening to Who Killed Idol? the first time, I didn't get the same feelings of euphoric bliss that I got from Idol is Dead. Is it because I'm used to BiS's music now? Part of me thinks that's what happened. And I also think that's also because this album was long. Fifteen total tracks, eight new is a lot of songs to pack into one album, and I think a few of them like Hi and BiSimulation could have been cut. Despite being A-sides. I love BiS, but Who Killed Idol? didn't leave as much of an impact with me as Idol is Dead did.

But what about as a stand-alone album? I always feel like a bit of a cheat when I go solely to the ol' "Compared to X, Y isn't as good!" complaint. Can Who Killed Idol? be a good album at least? Fortunately, yes. It just took me a few listens to get to that point. Who Killed Idol? is an album that you will either not care for or tolerate for the first few listens then reach a point of enjoyment. I think BiS tried their hardest to get as many different artists and sounds into the album, but there are parts where Who Killed Idol? sounds like an absolute clusterfuck. A train running onto a broken off track, if you get what I mean. The album still has some great songs on it though like MMGK, Nasty face and Primal. And even the weaker songs on Who Killed Idol? are still listenable. I can't fault BiS for trying, and Who Killed Idol? sounds so ambitious. Like BiS really wanted to go out on their last album with a huge, grand farewell. A lot of the songs on the album sounded like farewell songs, and overall, the album has this aura of... saying goodbye. Maybe that's just me thinking about their upcoming disbandment again. The last song on the album was the perfect track to close it out. Who Killed Idol? has its high points, its slightly-lower points, but overall, it still maintains all the weirdness that makes BiS such an interesting group to follow.

For those reasons, I give Who Killed Idol? four apples. BiS may not have killed idols, but they tried to, just like they tried to make Who Killed Idol? their ultimate farewell. While they may have tried a little too hard on some songs, the album overall still has an interesting mix of odd sounds and styles you don't find in many current idol groups. If you like BiS, then I'm sure you'll like this album. I did, even if I don't find it quite as good as Idol is Dead. Either way, I'm definitely going to miss BiS.


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