My thoughts on “LAST ALBUM”, the latest and potentially last album from BILLIE IDLE®.
Release Date: November 22nd 2017
1. MY WAY
2. Sayonara Romantic
4. Tokyo Marilou
5. Sorette Guuzen!
7. Lesson Time
8. Ai SUNSUN
10. Last Song
It’s a very interesting time to be a BILLIE IDLE® fan as I’m sitting here typing up this review. As you can see this album bears the title “LAST ALBUM”, which to most people would appear to imply that this is going to be the last BILLIE IDLE® album. The group have also been on a tour titled “LAST TOUR” so again, one would be forgiven for thinking that things are coming to an end. However, they’ve also just announced a new single that’s penciled in for March and the two people behind the project (NIGO and Watanabe Junnosuke) recently did an interview where it was heavily implied that the group may be getting a makeover of sorts. Man, talk about a whole lot of mixed messages going on here.
I’ve been a fan of BILLIE IDLE® and their music since their debut so I personally don’t see a problem with what they’ve been doing up until now. However, from the sounds of that aforementioned interview it seems like the group hasn’t really caught on in Japan as well as its producers had hoped. I kinda figured the Japanese public would have been on board with an Idol group doing throwbacks to all manner of classic (I feel old) music genres but I guess not? I would also personally argue that perhaps not being under the WACK umbrella and benefiting from the extra attention and collaboration opportunities afforded to those groups might also be a factor. What do I know though, I just write about this stuff.
So here we have “LAST ALBUM”, whatever that ends up meaning. Looking at the tracklist and not counting the hidden bonus track or the iTunes exclusive track, things are looking pretty lean at 10 tracks but I’m not here to judge this thing on the runtime. Obviously I wouldn’t expect anything other than the retro goodness that BILLIE IDLE® have been providing us for the past few years but again going forward is anyone’s guess. If this does end up being a sendoff for this current iteration of BILLIE IDLE® then I expect them to go out with a bang and not a whimper. Guess it’s time to find out what’s in store.
We kick off proceedings with “MY WAY”, which came out a couple months back and somehow ended up being BILLIE IDLE®’s first single despite them having more albums than most active groups at this point. I wrote up a review of it that you can check out by clicking here. It’s a pretty fun sounding summer song with some Punk elements along with another influence that I still can’t place for the life of me. This song has grown a lot on me since I wrote that initial review and I think if you’re looking for a song to open an album then this is a perfect fit for that. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
“Sayonara Romantic” is up next and as far as I’m aware this is the song that’s being used to promote the album, it got a music video anyway. It’s hard not to hear the 80s Pop influences in the synthesizer heavy instrumental right out of the gate. Vocally, and especially when Uika is singing, things are a little bit more modern sounding, which I think was a good call personally. The chorus is pretty interesting on this one because it’s sort of this mid-tempo thing but it’s incredibly catchy at the same time. Putting “woo hoos” and things of that nature into studio versions of songs can be a bit hit or miss but they definitely hit on this one. Some people might knock the song for being too repetitive but I’m definitely not going to be one of those people. This song is great.
Track three is simply titled “Rider”, in Japanese though and not English so I guess somehow one word Japanese song titles have become counter-culture…in Japan, where they speak and write in Japanese. Anyway, that guitar solo at the start just speaks to my soul but then the song morphs into this sorta Ska sounding arrangement…unexpected but okay, sure. I’m beginning to notice a bit of a theme developing with these choruses. The hooks are really simple but it’s not something you hear very often lately so it actually ends up sounding rather fresh, to me anyway. The delivery of the verses is perhaps a little jarring if you’re not familiar with the genre that’s borrowed from but does it really matter once you hit the chorus? I’d say probably not. 3 for 3 on my scorecard.
We’re heading back to the 80s for another serving of Synth Pop in “Tokyo Marilou”. I’m not totally sure if that title is a reference to something or not so if anyone wants to fill the class in I would appreciate it. The song opens up and you’re getting a bit more of a “ballad” kind of vibe, with some pretty…sultry sounding vocals during the verses which was certainly interesting. Maybe it’s just me, but the chorus of this song really reminds me of an anime theme song or something. After listening to the whole thing I’m a bit surprised they didn’t go with this one as the promotional track because I feel like it would have a pretty wide appeal. A song like this probably wouldn’t normally be my thing but once again I’m hooked by the chorus…and maybe just a little bit by the other vocal efforts too.
“Sorette Guuzen!” sees us hit the midpoint of the album and we take the opportunity to flip this many sided BILLIE IDLE® record back over into Punk territory. Other Idol groups take note, this kind of song is all I want in life. Uika and Momo absolutely kill it on the verses in this song although I do have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure where we going during the build-up to the chorus. That thought quickly flew out of my mind though because holy hell the chorus on this song is so good. Fill a venue full of people and get this song going and I promise you it’ll be a good time. You guys know I love this Punk nonsense, if you like any kind of Punk (well maybe not Post-Punk) music even a tenth as much as I do then you’ll love this song.
The back half of the album kicks things off with “Hikkurikaeshite”, which opens with a pretty fun sounding Garage Rock style instrumental so I had fairly high hopes for this one. However, it doesn’t quite deliver what you might expect. Instead we get a more “ballad” style vocal performance which does work pretty well but I’m not totally in love with it. My main reason for that is there’s pretty obvious sections of the song where it feels like it’s building up to something but then the chorus sorta falls a bit flat. I suppose what I’m saying is that this song feels like it’s missing a gear. It’s fine the way it is, the instrumental is great and I love it but I’m not sure where we were going vocally. No big deal, there’s still 4 more songs to go.
I hope everyone brought their textbooks, because now it’s “Lesson Time”. Yeah okay, not my best work but it can’t all be A material. I’m trying to think of an eloquent way to describe this song, but “Scuzzy Rock” is the best my brain can come up with right now. Fuzzy guitars and a boot stomping drumbeat are the order of the day here…well, there’s a bit of synthesizer in there too I suppose. Turning to the vocals and I think the script for this one probably read “show as much attitude as possible”. That’s what it feels like when you listen to the delivery of a lot of the lines anyway. I kinda like it, I kinda like it a lot. Not sure how many other groups could pull a style like this off, but then again other groups don’t have Uika or Momo.
I’m not sure why, but “Ai SUNSUN” kinda sounds like it could be some kind of greeting in a foreign language or something…just me? Anyway, for this one we’re going with a pretty fun sounding Ska-Punk composition. It sounds like a song that would be perfect for the summertime so I guess the title is very fitting in this case. I’m reminded quite a bit of You’ll Melt More! with this one, especially so when it comes to the vocals. The way the chorus is structured sounds very similar to some previous YMM! offerings too. For my personal tastes, the chorus could have maybe been a bit more lively but it’s not like I’m looking to knock the song for that when everything else is on point as far as I’m concerned. Can we get a few more like this please?
Okay, so you guys know that I’m a huge fan of Oyasumi Hologram right? Well, this album’s penultimate (I say this way too much, I know) track “STAY” sounds like something lifted straight out of an Oyasumi Hologram setlist. Now granted, this is still a BILLIE IDLE song so they’ve cleaned things like the vocals up a good bit more than they would be if this was an Oyaholo song. It still sounds fantastic though…although I would like to hear a cover I won’t lie. If you’re down with powerful, emotion packed vocal performances then this song should tick that box for you for sure. This is easily one of my favorite tracks from this album, but I can’t help but feel it might not be a good thing to be constantly reminded of Oyasumi Hologram while listening to it. Oh well.
It would appear that if this is to be BILLIE IDLE’s last album that they are indeed intending to go out with a bang, because the album’s final track “Last Song” is as the kids are saying these days, “a banger”. This song is total ear candy and I would challenge anyone to make a case for the chorus not being catchy as all hell. The way the verses are structured is also absolutely perfect in my totally unprofessional opinion. Looking at the instrumental side of things and it compliments everything really well too. It’s not particularly flashy save for a few moments here or there, but it doesn’t have to be. The vocal hooks are the stars of the show on this song and it does a fantastic job of getting them well and truly stuck in your head. I’ve been humming this song for days I tell ya.
Also included on the album is a hidden bonus track that I can’t find any information on, so leave a comment if you know anything about it. It’s a pretty Punk sounding song with a bunch of fuzz so well worth a listen in my book. Buy the album on iTunes and you get “Kamisama Help!”, a totally different bonus track that’s a dramatic sounding throwback to 70s Glam Rock and also very much worth your time to check out. Man, why did they have to make this so confusing? Idol albums aren’t usually like this guys.
As mentioned at the start of this review, BILLIE IDLE have already announced a new single and tour so I honestly have no idea what’s going on in their camp currently. At least it appears they’re going to keep going under one guise or another so that’s a positive that I’ll take from this and cling to for dear life. That being said, if for whatever reason this album does end up being their last then they’ve definitely gone out in a blaze of glory. Hopefully that won’t end up being the case though.
Buy on Amazon JP: Regular Edition
Buy on CDJapan: Regular Edition