My thoughts on “Brand-new idol Society”, the…first(?) album from BiS…3?
Release Date: August 14th 2019
2. BiS -Dōyara Zombie no Odemashi-
6. this is not a love song
8. absolutely meeeeee!!
10. thousand crickets
11. teacher teacher teacher
12. strawberry girl
13. LET’S GO Dōmo
I’m honestly not really sure how to start this review but here goes nothing I guess. WACK has been having a pretty awful 2019, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The music has been lackluster at best and downright terrible at worst and everything else just seems very complacent I suppose. By all means enjoy the major label fruits of your labor but for me personally, my engagement with and enjoyment of WACK and its output is at an all time low. Given how many people disagreed with my views on the recent BiSH album however, I expect I’m in the minority here.
I’ll be more honest still and admit that I haven’t been paying much of any attention to whatever iteration of BiS this is that we’re on now. I’m vaguely aware that they did the tired gimmick of “X number of Twitter followers = face reveal” and that they were drip feeding out songs from the release I’m reviewing today for a month prior to its release, but that’s about it. I guess my main query coming in is that, outside of brand recognition, I don’t really get why we’re still calling it BiS if the group isn’t performing any of the old material and features a line-up of entirely new girls.
Anyway, today I’m checking out “Brand-new idol Society” which is the…first album from…whatever we’re calling this incarnation of BiS. Pretty sure they’ve used that album title and a similar cover before but I guess at least there’s 13 new tracks to check out so hopefully a few of them can live up to the ones featured on the “original” version of this album. I’m probably doing a terrible job of selling you on this review but whatever. I don’t really know what to expect but it’s BiS, it’s WACK and the Scrambles production team are involved in some capacity too. Let’s see if this new thing is any better or worse than the old thing they’re trying to replace shall we?
Leading things off is “STUPiD”, which kinda has a similar looking and sounding name as well known BiS song “STUPiG”. It’s a pretty lively start, with a Rock inspired instrumental that’s very much in line with the style that the previous incarnation of this group were putting to good use across several releases. It’s familiar, almost trying to reassure us that while the faces might have changed that this is still somehow the BiS that we know and love…or something like that. I really do like the guitar work on this track and I feel like they did a good job of sprinkling in some pretty interesting riffs and such throughout the course of the song, it helped to keep things interesting. Well, that’s when you could hear it over the very present drums and bass that’s going on that contribute to the song’s energetic and a little bit off the wall nature. On the vocal side of things, it’s pretty good as long as you’re cool with the kinda raw and at times a little bit shouty style that’s once again fairly familiar when compared to work from the previous line-up. I could have done with a bit more of a lyrical hook if I’m honest, not that this song is particularly bad without it but it’ll struggle to stand out from the crowd I think.
The rather amusingly titled “BiS -Dōyara Zombie no Odemashi-” follows and while I try not to let things like that color my opinion, I did somewhat dread the slightly over 5 minute runtime being displayed next to the track title. In any case, the song starts with some light synthesizer before there’s a teenie, tiny drop and some drums and piano enter the equation. I think there might be a couple other percussion elements too but the filler guitar chords sort of wash that out a bit unfortunately. Oh, this is a Ballad by the way so the instrumental is pretty pleasant to listen to and there’s a few different movements so the song flows pretty nicely but at the same time I just sort of feel like I’ve heard this before from the likes of BiSH. It’s kind of a similar feeling from the vocals too, which I suppose might actually be considered high praise if you think about it. There’s some nice melodies, both in the lower as well as higher pitches and the power and control behind the delivery during the more emotive moments is pretty impressive for such a new group as well. It’s a solid slower song that every group probably needs at least a couple of in their discography. It’s not really bringing anything new to the table in a wider WACK context though.
“SURRENDER” opens on a sort of lowkey vibe, with some clean solo vocals being accompanied by some equally clean guitar riffs. It’s pretty pleasant to listen to but it’s obvious that this is just the lead-in before the song properly begins. Apparently that involves bringing in drums and harsh vocals of all things. Can’t say that I saw the latter coming if I’m being honest but I suppose this is sort of WACK’s thing right now so maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised. They’re not great in my opinion, especially when they get all shrill coming out of the chorus, though the chorus itself is pretty good so every cloud has a silver lining and all that. I just feel like if WACK want harsh vocals they need to hire or train someone who can make it their thing. The song sort of flip-flops between a cleaner, more melodic sound and a heavier, more distorted style until it settles mainly into the latter for the final third of the runtime. For me the clean, melodic stuff is the more compelling of the two sides of this coin but I do think the lyrical content of the chorus is pretty good too and would probably be even better if they cut the screaming but hey, that’s just me. It’s still very much the nu-BiS style but I think this one has done the most to catch the ear thus far…for both good reasons and bad ones.
We return to the land of 5 minute plus songs for the album’s fourth track “Refrain”. The piano makes a return here, and much like “BiS -Dōyara Zombie no Odemashi-” this song is pretty much a Ballad for the most part. They dress it up a little bit with some epic sounding guitar solos which to their credit do fit the overall mood that this song is going for. Outside of that though it’s a fairly sedate affair with some warm basslines and a steady, reassuring drumbeat. I have no idea what they did to the snare drum though because it sounds really sharp for some reason and it kinda messes with the atmosphere that they seem to be going for with the instrumental. I’ll just chalk up to the growing list of questionable production decisions that I’ve been attributing to WACK lately and leave it at that. Otherwise, the instrumental is fine for what it is and seems to accomplish everything that it sets out to do. The vocals are the fairly usual WACK Ballad style, going for lots of lower tones in many of the verses before cranking up the power and emotion for the pre-chorus and chorus respectively. It works well enough but after a while of listening to J-Pop this sort of song just doesn’t really excite me that much anymore. It’s by no means bad at all really, there’s just so many other songs out there just like it that you’re spoilt for choice at this point.
I suppose “BiS3” would be considered something of a self-titled track depending on what sort of naming convention we’re going with for this new era of BiS. If that’s the case, I’d kind of expect this song to represent what BiS would be about, perhaps so you can point a casual observer to it for reference. Well, I don’t think this BiS is necessarily about funky Pop Rock but that’s certainly what this song is bringing to the table. Guitar noodling and basslines are the order of the day here and I can certainly get behind that way of thinking myself. The guitars do get a little bit too self-indulgent towards the end of the song there but everyone’s having a good time so I’m not going to be harping on that too much. The vocals on this song are probably the most interesting that I’ve personally heard so far, they have this really nice flow to them that matches up with the mood created by the instrumental really well. It’s also just something a bit different which can lead to incredibly mixed results of late as far as WACK are concerned but it worked out pretty well here. The chorus, while not a major departure from how the verses are sounding is pretty catchy and I think the slight change of energy made it pop, so some enjoyable stuff there as well. This is probably my favorite song so far, so make of that what you will.
Well, my Japanese is still nowhere near good enough to tell any of you if the album’s sixth track “this is not a love song” is actually a love song or not, but I guess I’ll take BiS’s word for it. It certainly doesn’t sound too much like a Ballad at least so it has that going for it right away. Opening with a fairly catchy synthesizer melody that’s backing clean solo vocals, something that WACK seem to love opening songs with I’ve been noticing. Things gradually build up a head of steam before really exploding into life with some pretty loud and passionate vocals being delivered over an instrumental now featuring drums and moderately fuzzed guitars as part of the chorus. It’s a bit of a shame really because a lot of the time the guitars are smothering the pretty interesting synthesizer stuff that’s going on in the background but it does come through pretty cleanly for much of the verses so it’s not the worst thing in the world. The vocals during the chorus are almost catchy enough to make up for it and I thought the structure was pretty key in achieving a lot of that. This is another pretty enjoyable song in a fairly familiar style and it’s really hard for me not to draw comparisons to BiSH vocally for that reason. Though I suppose given BiSH’s current sound this song would wipe the floor with them right now.
The rather simply titled “1,2,3!!!” takes us over the halfway mark of what has been a somewhat predictable album in some ways and not so predictable in others. Speaking of unpredictable, I wasn’t expecting this song to be a midtempo club banger but I guess that’s what it is. I was hoping for a fast paced Punk Rock song myself but here we are. The synthesizer and drums that drive the song are pretty stompy in nature which makes for a fairly catchy hook actually while guitar and louder, brighter synth parts give the song a bit more melody and pop. It’s pretty catchy and fairly energetic in its own way, but it’s not really where I’d like it to be personally but again that’s just me. There’s a lot going on with the vocals too, and I’m not just talking about the effects that they’re using for distortion and other such things. Parts of the verses have a bit of a Rap-like flow to them which is different from everything else we’ve heard here so they’re not afraid to experiment a bit on occasion. The chorus is actually fairly clean which I though was pretty good call, though the delivery does feel like it’s plodding along a bit which is partly the fault of the tempo of the instrumental I must admit. I dunno, I feel like this one could really grow on me but as of writing this I’m still in that feeling out process. It’s pretty interesting at least, I’ll give it that.
“absolutely meeeeee!!” is an interesting song to me, not just for its title but because if you stripped it down to its base components I really do like what they’re working with here. A kinda stompy Rock instrumental is pretty fun I’m sure we can all agree but then you start adding stuff to it and I’m just left wondering if keeping it simple might have been a better decision. I like the energy and thumping drumbeat that the opening instrumental brings with it, and the guitars are fairly straightforward but used to good effect for what is basically a Rock song at the end of the day. The first chorus is where things sort of stop working for me and it’s for a couple of reasons. The main one being that the bass from the drums just disappears, which sure you’re going for a change in tone as evidenced by the rather unpleasant, gaseous sounding synthesizers they layer in for this too but I dunno I just didn’t care for how they went about it I guess. Thankfully this is mostly contained to the choruses and the rest of the song is stompy drumbeats and cool guitar riffs so it’s not all bad news. My opinion on the vocals sort of mirrors the instrumental as well, with the verses featuring some decent clean singing even though the delivery isn’t really doing it for me. The choruses though just sound a bit whiny, which probably isn’t helped by the backing track but it’s still kinda catchy so credit where it’s due. It’s another alright song, but it didn’t really fully click for me.
Things take on a bit of a theatrical, old-timey feel for ninth track “Nandesuka?”…which they wrote in katakana on the tracklisting for some odd reason. It’s almost as odd as the song’s instrumental, which kind of had me thinking we were going down some creepy circus kind of path when things were starting to get going. Then some bass guitar comes in and the song takes on a more funky sort of feel to it but doesn’t quite shake the uneasy energy that it was giving off initially…or maybe I’m reading too much into it. I do quite like the instrumental on this track though, it has a nice rhythm to it and a catchy beat which are both always pretty good things in my book. I did also really enjoy the piano that they brought in during the…I guess it’s a bridge and things just got a tiny bit psychedelic for a minute there. I kinda wish maybe they’d upped the energy a bit more in the chorus, maybe even just a bit more power to the vocals even, but it worked out pretty well the way they did it anyway. Speaking of the vocals, they’re also pretty catchy and well they should be given how most of the lines are delivered in symmetry with the beat. There’s a bit of a bite to them too which is nice to hear though like I said earlier, the chorus could do with turning everything up a few more notches. Apart from that though, I really like this song and think it’s one of the more interesting ones so far.
I kinda want to make a joke that “thousand crickets” is sort of my reaction to a lot of this album so far but I don’t think I can be that mean even if I am just joking about it. It would also be rather unfair to this song’s grand Symphonic Rock instrumental that is anything but boring if you ask me. It’s a pretty impressive piece, though I think it is slightly spoiled by the distortion that’s creeping in from the guitars as it does muddy things up a bit and I don’t think it really adds more to the composition than it ends up taking away by obscuring the softer orchestral elements. The chorus also sees the song transition into a slightly Poppier, distorted synthesizer style which kinda works but I wouldn’t call it the most exciting thing in the world even if the vocals in that particular part of the song have some decent melodies and are fairly catchy. Outside of the chorus though, the vocals are a bit dull in my opinion and I kinda see that they’re trying to match the mood being created by the instrumental but it all just ends up coming off feeling a bit lifeless. Credit to them for dressing up what is otherwise a Ballad in a different, certainly more interesting way but it just feels like this one is missing something and that feels like its been a recurring theme on this album now that I think about it.
It took us 11 tracks, but we finally found a song on this album that I can say I really enjoy…for the most part. “teacher teacher teacher” brings the kind of energy that I was hoping we might have had a lot more of on this album and by that I mean it’s a slightly Punk tinged Rock song that actually sounds like it’s fun. Serious sounding stuff, emotive Ballads and all that other junk is cool and all but this is the sort of BiS stuff I grew up loving the group for. The lyrics to this song are also kinda suggestive so that adds an extra bit of amusement to the whole thing. I do wish the guitars were slightly sharper than they come off when there’s vocals being delivered but it’s a minor bone of contention with what is otherwise a super energetic, catchy and fun sounding instrumental that actually has me bouncing up and down and bobbing my head for the first time since sitting down to start writing this review. Lyrically this is a real earworm, the chorus especially so and it’s helped along a little by some “yaaaay!”s to punctuate a few of the lines which I thought was pretty fun. The verses are a bit more tame by comparison but they work well with the slightly more abrasive tone that the instrumental takes on during those parts. Really fun, really enjoyable and more along the lines of what a BiS song should be in my opinion.
“strawberry girl” brings things back down to earth with a bump, but I was expecting it honestly so it’s not that much of a disappointment. After opening with a rather lovely piano piece, this song takes on a similar style to a lot of the material BiSH have been putting out lately along with all of the issues that I have with it as well. Guitars that are heavily distorted to the point of losing almost all definition provide the bulk of the instrumental’s noise wall with a drumbeat and some light synthesizers being the only other features of any real note coming through. The bridge sees the song switch to an under water sounding synthesizer which sounded pretty interesting before launching back into the roil for the remaining minute or so of its duration. I know that a lot of people love this style of instrumental but it’s just not doing much for me. The vocals get abused by various filters in a similar but not quite so egregious way as the recent BiSH material so again if that’s your thing then you’ll probably like the treatment here too. Underneath all of the gunk it pretty much sounds like a lot of the other songs from this album in tone and delivery so in some ways I do kinda appreciate that they changed it up a bit on this one. It’s still not really for me though but I’d probably take this over most of the stuff on the BiSH album so there’s that.
“LET’S GO Dōmo” closes out the album and it closes things out on a high note as far as I’m concerned. Remember that thing I said earlier about wanting more fun songs? Well, this song is pretty darn fun with its energetic Rock instrumental that once again has just a hint of Punk bubbling its way to the surface. The beat is catchy, the riffs are pretty fun and on the whole it just has a really nice energy to it. Sure, the guitars could maybe be a little less fuzzy if there was one thing that I could change about the instrumental but it isn’t really a deal breaker or anything like that. Add in a couple of pretty cool sounding guitar solos and I’d say that the good vastly outweighs the bad here as far as I’m concerned. The vocals are similarly energetic which like I’m pretty sure I said earlier is a nice change of pace from a lot of the other songs we’ve heard here and once again I thought the little, almost child-like response calls they put at the end of some of the lines were nice and light hearted while also adding just a tiny bit more to the song’s already fun atmosphere. Nothing in this song is that complicated or overly fancy but I’ll take it over pretty much everything else on this album because sometimes less really is more. Or I’m just not mature enough to appreciate more complex works than this. You be the judge on that one.
I’m not really sure how to feel about “Brand-new idol Society” as an album honestly. It kind of feel like we’ve picked up right where we left off, so if you were really liking that “nu-BiS” sound then there’s plenty of that here for you. If like me you were hoping for something a bit more fun and more old school then “teacher teacher teacher” and “LET’S GO Dōmo” are probably going to be your best bets for that. There’s not really that many standout songs on here in my opinion and I’m left with this feeling of this having just been more of the same but with a new set of girls.
We’ll have to see how things go though. This new iteration of BiS has already lost a member and are currently a 4-piece at the time of writing this so the shenanigans seem to have already started. Whether this new line-up ends up living up to any of its predecessors is something that only time will tell but as things stand the phrase “the sequel is never as good as the original(s)” keeps flashing in my mind. Overly pessimistic of me I’m sure, but the whole WACK shtick has been wearing thin with me lately as I’m sure you all can tell by now.