My thoughts on “RIOT”, the first mini-album from BURST GIRL.
Release Date: June 19th 2019
1. Cell Number 8
4. All lie
6. BURST GIRL
7. GREAT FXXKING MY WORLD
I’m sure most of you out there reading this have experienced this at least once, but man does it suck when you really like a group but it’s kinda hard to pick up their music either physically or digitally. Things are quite a bit better now in 2019, but we still have a ways to go before we reach a utopian future where every Idol release ever is available at your fingertips for download the second it gets released in Japan. Well, that’s a nice fantasy at least.
So as you guys probably know, I’m rather partial to a bit of BURST GIRL. I really dig the Punk Rock thing and they’re more than happy to provide me with a heaping helping of it from time to time. Be it their self-titled debut single “BURST GIRL” (review here) or the slightly more recent “Nancy” (review here) it seems like we’re all just on the same wavelength when it comes to what we think makes for a good/fun song. Unfortunately, up until now hasn’t been that easy to get your hands on a BURST GIRL CD if you don’t want to jump through several potentially flaming hoops.
Well, that all ends now. BURST GIRL have recently release “RIOT”, their first ever mini-album and also their first ever widely distributed CD release. You can find it in stores all over Japan and on the usual online shopping sites too. No digital downloads (yet anyway) but I’ll take what I can get for now. The CD features 7 tracks, some of which should be familiar if you’re already a fan. There’s a couple I’m personally not so familiar with though so those should be pretty interesting to check out. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to giving this one a listen so let’s cut to the chase and do just that.
The mini-album kicks things off with “Cell Number 8”, a cover of the theme song for the 1982 science fiction action movie “Bakuretsu Toshi BURST CITY”. The same movie that gave BURST GIRL the inspiration for their group name, so that’s a pretty cool little factoid for you all there. The song takes no time in getting going, coming out of the gate swinging with a thrashy Rock style that has some pretty repetitive drumming and guitar riffs but it’s super catchy and that’s a big thing when it comes to Punk Rock music. I really like the chaotic energy that it brings to the song as well. I much prefer this take on the song than the original, though there is almost 40 years between the two and the music world has changed a lot in that time, especially in terms of production. Vocally, you’re pretty much getting exactly what you would expect out of BURST GIRL. Very raw delivery, lots of screaming and in my opinion really great energy. The lyrics are fairly catchy, though somewhat overshadowed by the infectiousness of the instrumental. If you’re looking for super clean, highly polished Idol Pop then I don’t know why you’re here in the first place, but if you’re looking for a high intensity performance from a group that is clearly passionate about what they’re doing then I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start here.
“Battle” should be pretty familiar to most if not all BURST GIRL fans, seeing as how it’s basically their theme song for lack of a better term. I suppose in some ways it might also be a battle cry if you really want to try to make that sort of connection. It’s a fairly short song at a little over 2 minutes in length, but that’s fairly typical of Punk Rock and considering this whole Idol thing seems to be favoring 5 minute songs these days I have to say this makes for a nice change. I really liked the build-up at the beginning of the song with the drumbeat before it really got going with what I would personally describe as a “rough and tumble” instrumental. It’s very loud and distorted which can be kinda hit or miss with me, but I think they pulled it off well here and didn’t let it get in the way of the vocals too much, so apparently it’s only groups on major labels that manage to fuck that up. Speaking of which, the vocals on this song sound like they could have been ripped from the soundboard at a live house, and I mean that in the best way possible. They’re fiery, show off a ton of personality and attitude, oh and once again they’re also pretty catchy which will never get any complaints from me. You want a song that perfectly encapsulates BURST GIRL? I think this one is a pretty damn good example.
The opening guitar riff for “Shōdō” should definitely make a lot of people sit up and take notice of what’s about to enter their ear holes. If not that then perhaps the immense bass tones that follow along soon after, all making for a song that has a much denser, and dare I suggest even a more darker tone than what we’ve been treated to thus far. Granted there’s still some pretty rocking guitar riffs and a flashy solo or two, we’re deviating totally from the script here, but yeah a little bit more of a serious mood to this one which I think is a fair enough thing to go for as a bit of a change of pace. Oh yeah, BURST GIRL also do a decent amount of “real singing” on this track, just in case anyone didn’t think they were perfectly capable of doing so. It’s actually incredibly well done in my opinion, with each of the girls showing off some really nice tones and melodies. Not as many hooks as we’ve seen previously, though given the more serious mood I think that makes a lot of sense. They did still manage to fit in some more chaotic moments where everyone comes together for a good old shout along though, and there’s a pretty cool crowd participation moment or two towards the end as well. Like I said, this one is a little bit different from what many peoples’ perspective of BURST GIRL probably is but I think it’ll probably surprise those people in a very positive way.
Things go in a pretty interesting direction on the CD’s fourth track “All lie”. Not so much with how the song sounds compared to everything else so far, but because the lyrics are for the most part all in English. Yurapiko is responsible for this and I have to say she did a pretty good job, granted they’re not perfect but I wouldn’t say we’re reaching “Great fucking my world” levels of questionable either. The lyrics are actually pretty damn catchy too, despite their understandably rather simplistic structuring and use of vocabulary. It’s a Punk song though so you don’t really need to get too complex to make something catchy and fun, with this song being a pretty good example of that. Instrumentally there’s definitely quite a few influences being worn on sleeves, with the opening guitar riff being annoying familiar to me but I can’t seem to place it. Outside of that, bass guitar is a very present feature of the track and given all of the distortion there would be some instances where I would say that it’s a bit too much. Thankfully there are some rather nice guitar melodies on this track that really cut through all of that stuff I just mentioned and the main riff itself is pretty catchy even with a thick layer of distortion on top of it. Definitely a song to get the crowd involved with in a live setting but BURST GIRL do a damn fine job of making the song translate onto tape as well.
A song with the title “DISTORTION” makes me imagine that it’s probably going to have…well, a lot of distortion going on I suppose. That is the case for this particular track, it’s true, but there’s also quite a lot of other interesting stuff happening in the instrumental. Is that some synthesizer that I hear attempting to break through the roil of the guitars and drums? I think it might be. The instrumental also takes on this sort of Power Metal vibe at times which was rather unexpected but also pretty cool. It’s quite a bit to be taking in on the first listen but I kinda like that BURST GIRL did something different than what you’d maybe normally expect from them here. It also rewards repeated plays, well I found myself picking out new stuff for a while anyway but YMMV on that. The vocals once again take on a bit more of a serious tone, but I don’t really want to give people the wrong idea by overstating that. It’s still very much BURST GIRL, just a bit more clean on the singing and dare I say there’s a sort of emotive Rock song quality to this one too. I also liked the call out part where the members all get name dropped, a little awkward if anyone were to end up leaving down the line (heh) but I’m a sucker for that kind of thing in Idol songs in general. On the whole though, the lyrics are structured really well and I love the flow to the delivery, so while this isn’t a typical Punk Rock banger it’s still super enjoyable.
The mini-album closes out with a couple of songs that should also be pretty familiar given that they’ve been released before, the first of which is the self-titled “BURST GIRL”. To be fair, this song did only get a fairly limited CD release so it hasn’t been that widely available, especially outside of Japan. I did write a review for when it came out last year however, and you can read that here if you’d like to. As best I can tell they haven’t done much, if anything to this song between its first release and now. Yes, that does mean that those rather unfortunate Miyako harsh vocals are still present but outside of that this is a really good song. A bit more synthesizer heavy than some of BURST GIRL’s more recent output but when you pair it with some crunchy guitars and a bunch of double-kick drumming it’s pretty hard for you not have a good time really. It’s loud, it’s in your face, it’s BURST GIRL so what more do you expect really especially considering this was one of the first songs they released after deciding to go it alone. The vocals are catchy when they need to be and also raw and a bit rough around edges at other times. While I personally believe BURST GIRL have done better since, this song more than holds its own with the rest of their slowly growing discography still.
Which brings us onto the mini-album’s final track. The rather unfortunately but also amusingly titled “GREAT FXXKING MY WORLD”. I’m not really sure what more needs to be said about the title so we’ll leave it there. This song was actually a b-side that accompanied “BURST GIRL” when it came out on CD and like I said, you can read my original thoughts here if you’d like to. It’s definitely a much more melodic song by BURST GIRL standards, especially for the time when it was originally released. They’ve of course gone on to do a song or two in a somewhat similar style since though so it’s a bit less jarring than it might have been originally. That being said, the song definitely has a Punk Rock sort of energy to it, a lot of which is provided by the drums and to a decent extent the vocals too to be fair. The guitars maybe could have had a bit more definition to them but we’re going for that rough Punk aesthetic I suppose so I can at least see what they’re going for. The vocals are worth hearing, both because they’re pretty catchy and have that BURST GIRL spirit behind them but also because man is it kinda funny to hear “Great fucking my world” get a few repeated lines during the chorus. It does kind of give the song this comedic angle if you really want to think of it like that, but really it’s just great song in my opinion. Come for the comedy, stay for the quality.
I really enjoyed this mini-album in case you couldn’t tell. I was pretty familiar with a lot of the songs coming in but it was still great to hear some of them get the studio treatment for the first time. There was also a good variety of styles presented, though of course they did sit firmly under the Rock umbrella. I think some of the songs definitely should convince a few people that BURST GIRL aren’t just a group that gets by on chaos screaming too, so that’s pretty cool in my book too.
Yeah, I’ll take more BURST GIRL songs as soon and as frequently as they want to give them to me. Though with Rei deciding to leave to focus on her band project and them soon to be adding new members(s), it’s unclear when that might be. I believe that with the release of this CD that’s pretty much BURST GIRL’s entire live repertoire committed to disc now though, so I guess they are going to have to brainstorm some new material here in a bit…maybe. I just hope we don’t have to wait that long to hear it, though as long as they don’t randomly disband like all of my other favorite groups this year I suppose I can be patient.