Today in the magical land of Time Capsule Reviews, we're traveling back to 2006. Do you guys remember what happened in 2006? I was in middle school so pretty much everything from 2006-2009 has been blocked out of my memory. But at the very same time, Perfume was releasing their first album ever... and at the time, what could have possibly been their last album ever.
Yep, it's Perfume ~Complete Best~!
Before Polyrhythm, before GAME, before the World Tours, Perfume was a quirky little technopop group with a few singles under their belt and a label threatening to drop them. It was a different time back then for fans, a time which I was not present for. I discovered Perfume around the GAME era, so everything from Perfume ~Complete Best~ ended up being material I perused later on in my entrance to the sphere. But I have always wanted to review Complete Best on the Wonderland, so the Time Capsule Review poll worked out perfectly! I also haven't reviewed a single album since Pika Pika Fantajin (then again, I've been a little lax on reviews since college started). Still, Complete Best is such an important time in Perfume's career; it's almost crazy to think that this album was released eight years ago. I feel like I'm going through a museum! So let us hop in a time traveling fish (one that's actually from the era!) and go back to a strange time. A time of quirky dances, cheap music videos, and strange costumes, this is the Complete Best era.
Perfect Star Perfect Style
The only original song on Perfume ~Complete Best~ is Perfect Star Perfect Style. So it makes a little sense having it be the song to kick off this album! Now you've gotta remember that at the time Perfume ~Complete Best~ came out, Perfume was on the verge of disbandment. Had Amuse not given them one more chance with Fanservice [sweet], Perfect Star Perfect Style would be the last Perfume song they'd ever record. I bring this all up because when I listen to Perfect Star Perfect Style, it sounds like a farewell song. Even the lyrics read like Perfume is saying goodbye. Instead of being a sad song though, Perfect Star Perfect Style is an uplifting song. There's such hope and kindness in the lyrics, and the piano arrangement is perfect. I'm happy that the Perfume we know and love is still around, but this would have been a great sendoff otherwise. Perfect Star Perfect Style is one of Perfume's best; if you just listen to one song on Perfume ~Complete Best~ please let it be this song.
Linear Motor Girl
After the nostalgia-trip that is Perfect Star Perfect Style, we go back in time to Perfume's first major label A-side! I love watching the promotional material for Linear Motor Girl. Something about those funny looking outfits makes me smile! The Perfume of 2005 was quite different than the Perfume of now, and you can really hear that in Linear Motor Girl. Linear Motor Girl is a song full of bleeps and bloops with the girls sounding more chiptuned than ever. Admittedly, I used to hate this song. I thought it was annoying and weird and not as awesome as Perfume's later music. Now I have a much softer opinion of Linear Motor Girl. I like how fun and upbeat the song is, and the song has a very distinct, almost 8-bit sound. I'm not always in the mood to listen to Linear Motor Girl, and I completely understand if not everyone can get into this song. The song even grates on me sometimes... But for the most part, I think Linear Motor Girl is futuristic fun.
So you now how I was saying early major label Perfume was a marketed a little differently than they are now? Well, their main gimmick was being a futuristic technopop unit with quirky dances and music videos that look like they came out of Battlestar Galactica. That's the most evident with Linear Motor Girl. Computer City though is a more serious take on Perfume's futuristic image. It's still a very upbeat song, but the lyrics of Computer City hint at something a little more somber. Computer City centers around the singer's experiences in Computer City, a utopia that's a little too perfect, and her desire to break free from it. I am a huge fan of science fiction and utopia/dystopia fiction, so Computer City is definitely one of my favorite Perfume songs. The lyrics are a big part of why; I think they're so well-done and highly recommend reading them if you need a translation. Lyrics aside, Computer City is still a great song and I love its placement on Perfume ~Complete Best~.
Electro World (Album version)
And after two great Perfume songs and a good one, we get the the one. The crown jewel, the pinnacle of the whole album, we descend from Computer City into Electro World. Warning, I freaking love this song. Behind edge, it is my second favorite Perfume song and until I transferred my library, my most played Perfume song. I did a full single review of Electro World so you can fully understand why this song is so awesome, but I'll just glaze over the highlights. What makes this version of Electro World so great is that it includes about twenty extra seconds in the beginning. It's only a small intro with an ambient hum and simple melody, but just that little touch adds so much more to this song. Electro World has a perfect delivery, a forcibly upbeat melody, and some of the most depressing Perfume lyrics I've ever read. Electro World is about a dystopia. It's kind of amazing and sad at the same time. Look, I'm not doing this song justice, go listen to Electro World.
So after that string of A-sides is our first B-side on Perfume ~Complete Best~. And honestly... I just need to come out and say it: I don't like Inryoku. In fact, do you guys remember that post I did about my least favorite Perfume songs? Take Spending all my time off of that list and put Inryoku in its place. So what made me develop such a negative opinion of Inryoku over the course of two years? Actually listening to the song. Inryoku was one of those Perfume songs I tended to glaze over, never paying much thought to it. Then one day with Perfume ~Complete Best~ on shuffle, I realized that Inryoku kind of annoyed me. And then from there... it just got more annoying. The distorted, chiptune-style that sorta worked in Linear Motor Girl grates on me tremendously in Inryoku. In fact, most of the song just sounds unpleasant. I think it's the way Perfume's vocals were edited. They sound more chipmunk-y than usual in Inryoku. So yeah, not a fan. Next song please!
Oh yeah, here's the song that kicked off Time Capsule Reviews in general! I suppose I owe some gratitude for Monochrome Effect. But that doesn't mean I have to love this song now. Also known as the American Dad song, Monochrome Effect pretty accurately sums up Perfume's sound during their indies era. Cute, quirky, idol-ish, Monochrome Effect is downright nostalgic. And how can I possibly forget that music video and all its groundbreaking technology? I think that CGI even beat The Last of Us. As a song alone though, I've never seen much in Monochrome Effect. I mean yeah, it's cute and everything, but I've never been able to formulate many other thoughts about it. I guess the instrumental's kind of funky, and Monochrome Effect is a slight shift away from Sweet Donuts and closer to technopop. A big emphasis on the pop there, because Monochrome Effect sounds very much like an idol pop song. Still, it's a decent song.
I always found the placement of the indie singles a little weird on Perfume ~Complete Best~. Their second single's first, their last single's second, and their first single's last. Why? Because... that was the magic combination to keep Perfume around for another year, that's why! Okay, let's talk about Vitamin Drop. Vitamin Drop is actually my favorite A-side of the three indie A-sides and probably the closest to sounding like the Perfume we know and love today. Vitamin Drop still has this perky, almost retro idol sound; I kind of love it. I think the fun animated music video helps too. Admittedly, Vitamin Drop doesn't grab me like some of Perfume's later A-sides, but the bubbliness of the song is strangely endearing. And it's catchy! This song could have totally been used in a commercial, maybe endorsing Chocola BB. It was used to endorse a Nintento Game, so there's that. On its own, Vitamin Drop is a fun, offbeat song that I really like for reasons not entirely known.
And here at the middle of the album is where Perfume started. Okay, Omajinai Perori was where it all started, but Sweet Donuts was where Perfume and Nakata started. Funny enough, Sweet Donuts sounds nothing at all like the Perfume of today. It's kind of fun to compare sounds with Sweet Donuts; it's at least a great way to gage just how far Perfume's strayed from their original sound and concept. Sweet Donuts has almost a Shibuya-kei sound, like something Capsule would have released at the time. And it also sounds very much like an idol song. A traditional idol song that just happened to have a bit of technopop in it. Sweet Donuts is a very much a cute song, almost saccharinely cute. It gets stuck in your head very easily, and who doesn't love donuts? As much as I love Krispy Kreme, I've always found Sweet Donuts to be a simply okay song. Can I appreciate what it stands for in Perfume's history? Of course, but as a song, Sweet Donuts never held strong replay value for me. It's a little too cutesy for my tastes. Still, Sweet Donuts is... well, sweet!
The first of Linear Motor Girl's two B-sides, Foundation lacks the cutesy, futuristic sound of Linear Motor Girl, instead opting for a calmer approach. Foundation always sounded to me like it could be featured in a makeup commercial... which makes perfect sense considering the title of the song. Getting into Perfume, I don't remember having a strong impression of Foundation; it was one of those Perfume songs I kind of forgot about. I mean, Foundation made it to my song library, but it's never been close to one of my most played Perfume songs. Still, I think Foundation has its strong points. Those soft synths and whispers give Foundation this very cool and soothing feel. I think the weakest aspect of Foundation is that the vocals sound kind of monotone, even for Perfume. Foundation will never be one of my favorite Perfume B-sides, but of the two on Linear Motor Girl, I like Foundation better. Computer Driving on the other hand...
...you know, I used to really like this song. I'm not sure when (around JPN era maybe?) but I recall I time when I liked Computer Driving a lot. Maybe didn't love it, but by no means did I dislike this song. Now I think it's an okay song, not one of Perfume's best though. I know a lot of fans strongly dislike Computer Driving, and I can kind of see why. There is something about the cuteness of the vocals that can be a little irritating. Ironically, Computer Driving is one of Perfume's least vocoded songs, which is especially surprising when you consider the time this song came out. It would be years before we got to hear Perfume sound this natural again. So what is it that makes people dislike Computer Driving so much? For me, there's just not much that stands out about Computer Driving. Yes, it's a cute song, and the dance is adorable, but what else is there? Even Foundation had a more distinctive sound. It's not a horrible song, but Computer Driving is still pretty blah.
What a more fitting song to transition to after Linear Motor Girl's B-sides than Computer City's B-side? For sanity's sake, I'm calling this B-side Perfume the Song to distinguish from... well, Perfume. Anyways, Perfume the Song is a curious little song. Honestly, I've never thought that Perfume fit on Computer City. Computer City is so much more serious, that Perfume the Song comes off as major mood whiplash. After Computer Driving though... I think its placement on Perfume ~Complete Best~ fits much better. Still, this isn't high on my favorites list. It's not even on there at all. Perfume the Song is an extremely peppy song, probably Perfume's peppiest. Perfume the Song sounds like something you'd hear playing pinball machine and is just about as scattered as one too. Not to mention that it's surprisingly long for such a fast-paced song. If I'm in the right mood, I can enjoy Perfume the Song, but most of the time, this is one of those B-sides I tend to skip.
Ah, wonder2, we meet again. Closing out the album rather appropriately is Perfume's final B-side of this era. I don't love wonder2 quite as much as I love Electro World, but this is still one of my favorite Perfume B-sides. I love the tranquility of wonder2. The beginning of wonder2 starts on this soft hum and Perfume singing a sweet, memorable melody. That melody's repeated throughout the rest of wonder2, and I think it works well. Wonder2 is one of Perfume's calmer songs, and it never really picks up the energy. Still though, it strangely works. I think it works even better on Perfume ~Complete Best~. This is such a perfect song to close out an album, a single, a concert, they could play this song at my graduation and I'd be down for that. There's a reason this was Perfume's go-to encore song for such a long time. I'd actually love to see wonder2 come back, because it is such a pretty song. Definitely a perfect close to a chapter in Perfume's career.
Whenever I'm recommending Perfume albums to new fans, I tend to shy away from Perfume ~Complete Best~. Why? Well, because GAME exists but why else? After all, it is a good compilation of Perfume's early work. As Perfume's first compilation album (and only compilation album for a very long time), there's a pretty good variety. All the major-label B-sides are there, along with the one indie B-side, and every A-side excluding Omajinai Perori and Kareshi Boshuuchuu. If you're looking to hear what Perfume sounded like in their early days, Perfume ~Complete Best~ is a good place to start. But Perfume ~Complete Best~ is very different from the Perfume of today. It's almost nostalgic how much Perfume has changed since the days of Complete Best. During Complete Best, Perfume's image was different from their polished, classy look, and their music was much closer to idol music than their GAME and onward work. Because Complete Best has such a different sound, I don't like pointing fans to that album first. The album doesn't give you as good of an idea of Perfume's general sound as GAME or even Level3. Don't get me wrong, I think anyone interested in Perfume should listen to Complete Best, but not right away. Give yourself some time.
Enough about other people, let's talk about me. Or how I feel about Perfume ~Complete Best~. Well, I guess it's kind of hard to say that since Complete Best is just a compilation album. But it is the only album to include the indie singles, so I've always seen it as an album with a lot of A-sides and B-sides. Kind of like JPN! There's almost this innocence to Perfume ~Complete Best~. I mentioned that idol sound earlier, and it's incredibly prevalent in Perfume's older work. Mainly their indie A-sides and nearly all of the B-sides. Computer Driving was even a major label B-side and that really sounded like an idol song. My favorite part of Perfume ~Complete Best~ is the first third, from Perfect Star Perfect Style to Electro World. Everything from there onward ranges from great (wonder2) to skippable (Inryoku). So while I can acknowledge Perfume ~Complete Best~ showcases an important era for Perfume's music, this is probably my least favorite Perfume album. I know, I know, it's a compilation album but still. Even if it's my least favorite Perfume album, Perfume ~Complete Best~ isn't without strong points, and it's a nice trip down nostalgia lane.
Even though I'm giving Perfume ~Complete Best~ three and half apples, I really do recommend it. If you're more into Perfume's idol side, then you'll definitely prefer Complete Best over their later work. For me, I think Complete Best is okay. Again, the first third is the best part of the album for me. Vitamin Drop and wonder2 are also pretty good. Other than that, I got nothing else! Oh, except that with the month of September upon us comes another chance for another Time Capsule Review... I wonder which year we'll return back to this time...