My thoughts on “LOVE PARADE”, the first major album from GANG PARADE.
Release Date: November 13th 2019
2. BRAND NEW PARADE (AL ver.)
3. Wake up Beat!
5. Youthful Hero
6. Ready Go!
7. FAKE and FANTASY
9. Plastic Smile
10. Wonderful World
11. LOVE COMMUNICATION
I know it’s some kind of joke/rib/malicious characterization of me as a person/etc to paint me as some kind of big meanie who just hates on WACK groups and their music for no reason at all. Well, hopefully the last few reviews I’ve put out will have cleared that misconception up because I’ve been finding more than a couple of things to enjoy when it comes to the various groups under the production juggernaut’s umbrella of late. Granted not my favorite of their works but more enjoyable than earlier in 2019 at least.
GANG PARADE are the latest group from the collective to attempt to wow me and hopefully not in the same sort of way that their recent EP “THE MUSIC AND THE GAME CREATES MAGIC” (review here) did. I’m happy to chalk that one up as an outlier due its tie-up nature but for me the musical output from the group in the 6-12 months prior had been decent but nothing really all that spectacular. Their major label debut “BRAND NEW PARADE” (review here) was pretty standard stuff and likely not the major statement maker that I and others had expected from the group.
“LOVE PARADE” is GANG PARADE’s first major album release and it’s also the subject of today’s review. There’s a couple of familiar songs featured but for the most part this is rocking all new material so it should be a pretty good indication of what sort of direction the group is heading in now that they’ve got all of the trappings of a major record label to contend with. I’m definitely interested to check out these tracks and I suppose my only real hope is that there isn’t too much fuzz and distortion flying around. Well, only one way to find out so let’s give this thing a listen.
The album hums into life as the synthesizer instrumental of opening song “LOVU” gets things underway on a pretty bright and upbeat note. The rumbling drumbeat that accompanies it provides the song with a rather pleasing tempo as well as some needed depth. Vocals are introduced into the mix fairly early on and it’s a nice clean performance, which when you have a group with as much vocal talent as GANG PARADE is never a bad idea in my opinion. It’s a bit of a slow build as the tempo and energy start to creep higher as we progress through the verses but eventually it’s all paid off as the song hits its first chorus. A bit more anthemic than the super energetic switch up I was expecting but hey, it works just about as effectively and I suppose it was nice to be somewhat surprised for a change. Things calm down once more as the song transitions back into its verses which was pretty effective at creating a nice contrast between the song’s two base components and really letting the chorus stand out from everything else. That’s pretty much the story of the song really, they didn’t try to do anything too fancy here with a bunch of transitions and tone changes. It’s just a really pleasant sounding performance in a Ballad-ish style. Not how I expected this album to open but I liked it well enough.
Up next we’re treated to an album version of GANG PARADE’s most recent single “BRAND NEW PARADE”. I reviewed it when it originally came out and you check that out here if you’d like to. There’s isn’t a great deal of difference between the two versions from what I can hear, though I’m sure one of you out there is just itching to correct me. They’ve maybe tightened up the production on the vocals a little but nothing super earth shattering. I still rather enjoy the marching band elements that this track has, being the huge My Chemical Romance fan that I was back in the day it sorta took me back a little. Unfortunately my issues with how distorted and blown out much of the rest of the instrumental track is still remain and should come as no surprise to any of you who have been following along for the past year or so. It’s always kinda weird for me when I really like one aspect of an instrumental and then really don’t care for another part of it. The vocals are still great though, with well structured verses, some nice hooks and a good energy underpinning another solid vocal performance from the GANG PARADE members. I still can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard the chorus somewhere before but it’s still pretty decent so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.
I really wasn’t sure where things were about to go when I first heard the opening instrumental of “Wake up Beat!”. The synthesizer and accompanying beat sounding like they could be the start of some crazy Trap banger or something like that, very uncommon to hear from an Idol group at any rate. We didn’t quite get there though, with the song quickly transitioning into this sort of funky Synth Pop style with some light rapping coming in from the vocal side of things. It has a pretty infectious beat to it and I’m definitely down with these retro sounding horns that they’re making good use of to drive that Funk element. One small critique I have is that depending on how much is going on it can start to sound a little bit muddied at times but on the whole, instrumentally this one is right up my alley. On the vocal side of things it’s a bit more of a mixed bag. I’m not super into the Rap style stuff used in the opening or in the bridge but the verses have some nice, genre appropriate lower pitched delivery and I thought the lyrics were quite catchy there too. The chorus is also rather catchy but I kinda feel like they went too bright and high pitched with it. I suppose it does differentiate things from the rest of the song but it’s not really what I think of when it comes to this style. Still, a rather enjoyable song despite my couple of gripes.
As most of you will remember, GANG PARADE provided several songs to the browser game “Magicami” by way of their “THE MUSIC AND THE GAME CREATES MAGIC” (review here) EP. Well I guess they’re providing a few new ones, the first of which to feature on this album being “ALONE”. Much like the other tracks in this…series I guess we’ll call it, things are a bit more experimental right out of the gate here. Wailing synthesizers are accompanied by a dense, low drumbeat and some pretty heavily distorted guitars to create a pretty chaotic atmosphere. It’s not too dissimilar to say an anime opening theme for something like…Death Note for example. I suppose that makes some amount of sense given the tie-up nature of this track and the rough gist I have of what the game it’s for is about. The vocals are a bit more Poppy than perhaps you’d expect them to be on a song like this but I actually kinda like the contrast, it also vaguely reminds me a little of the sort of thing Maximum the Hormone did back in the day and are still doing now…funny that. The lyrics are quite catchy too which is always a plus though I really do wish they’d gone a little lighter on the grain filter but what can you do. As far as tie-up songs go, this is easily the most entertained I’ve been by a WACK one in quite some time. High praise, I know!
“Youthful Hero” continues the theme of dense drumming, which leads to the song having a very high intensity pretty much right from when you hit play. While the dense, pounding beat might ease up by the time the vocals are introduced the intensity doesn’t really drop that much which gives the song a pretty interesting energy. It’s a bit of a shame that the guitars get so washed out with distortion as I think if they’d been just a little bit cleaner then it would have really taken the instrumental to another level. It would have also meant that there wouldn’t have been that really unpleasant static sound sitting on top of everything which I really didn’t enjoy having to listen to while trying to pick out the other elements of the song. Different strokes for different folks and all that but I think when you’re filling out both channels with static you’ve probably gone a bit too far, especially for an Idol song. The vocal performance is once again pretty strong on this track, from what you get to hear under all of the distortion anyway. The verses are perhaps a little bland when it comes to vocal hooks but they more than make up for it with the chorus which is super catchy and has some really good energy behind it. This is more the sort of thing that I expected from this album so the fact it only showed up for the first time about halfway in is a pretty good thing in my opinion.
Up next is the second of this album’s tracks to feature in the aforementioned “Magicami” browser game. “Ready Go!” features some pretty similar themes to “ALONE” in that it’s pretty heavy in tone, with the instrumental coming off not too unlike something that you might hear from a Metalcore band as opposed to an idol group. High intensity, thundering drums and distorted guitar riffs will certainly do that and to their credit it all sounds pretty good. There’s also a low growl that I can neither confirm nor deny is from one of the members but it sounded pretty good so if it was one of them then they’ve been practicing since last time at least. From there the vocals turn more towards Rap which is fine if you’re into that Nu-Metal kinda of thing I suppose. There’s some pretty cool guitar riffs accompanying it though so I had that to enjoy at least, and it got a little Djenty in places too which was interesting. The chorus sounds like it’s in more of the typical WACK style, from what you get to hear of it under all of that distortion at least. The lead-in was pretty fun though, with that bouncy drumbeat and groove coming from the guitars. The song in general is pretty chaotic and all over the place, which I’m assuming was the goal so they definitely achieved that. Way too much distortion on the vocals for my tastes but you all know that by now anyway. A pretty interesting one outside of that though, definitely something different from WACK/GANG PARADE.
“FAKE and FANTASY” is a little bit weird because on the surface you’re probably expecting a track that’s a little over a minute and a half in length to be some kind of interlude/instrumental/whatever. I suppose in the end it kinda is, but there is actually something of a song happening here at the same time. Deep, pounding bass is the dominating feature of the instrumental with a background synthesizer melody that is slowly pushed further to the front as the song progresses. It eventually becomes the main feature with about 30 seconds of the track remaining and it makes for a pretty funky composition. The vocals on the other hand are delivered in this low, almost sultry style and at times feel like they’re being whispered into your ear. It makes for a pretty interesting listening experience and it doesn’t hurt that they’re also fairly catchy too. I’m not really sure what else to say about this one really. It’s a pretty short song but they do a lot with the time that they’re given here. I honestly wouldn’t mind hearing something a bit longer in a similar style at some point down the road.
The third and final song from the album to feature in the “Magicami” game is the rather aggressively titled “POISON”. It has a fairly similar overall feel to it as the other two tracks I’ve talked about previously, but they’ve done it in a different musical style which I think was probably the right call to avoid things getting too repetitive. This time out they opted for undulating synthesizer beats and Techno melodies to give that dense, intense atmosphere which also lends itself pretty well to the overall dark mood that the song is giving off. Things do brighten up a good deal as the song progresses and we get to experience a bit more of the underlying rhythms that the composition possesses and a bit more energy too to liven things up a bit. The vocals are a bit all over the place on this one, at times dripping with attitude, at others kind of amusing as they pronounce words in over-exaggerated ways, then we get to hear the sort of GANG PARADE performance that we’ve come to expect once the chorus rolls around. Sadly there is a decent amount of post production in play, which I actually think is okay for the verses but they probably could have just let the girls do their thing naturally for the choruses. I have said I wanted more experimental stuff from GANG PARADE though and these three songs have definitely provided me with some that.
When the album’s ninth track “Plastic Smile” first started playing I figured we’d finally hit the point in the album where the obligatory sentimental Ballad card was going to be played. I was perhaps a bit hasty in my judgement however as there’s quite a bit more to this song than what I was initially expecting. It starts off with some soft, melodic vocals which are quite lovely I must say and they’re accompanied by a fairly interesting and vaguely City Pop inspired Synth Pop instrumental. Pretty cool stuff, and definitely something that I’m into when I’m not spending the vast majority of my free time writing for this website. The song really comes alive after a somewhat subtle drop of sorts and if it isn’t just one the most relaxingly energetic songs you’ve heard. That probably doesn’t make much sense on paper but the softness of the synthesizers and vocals paired with the tempo of the accompanying beat give the song a calm but also rather energetic vibe. They’re beaten by a decent margin by the vocals however, which seem to be the main source of actual power behind the song. The lyrics are pretty catchy and delivered in a fairly natural tone which is what you want from a song like this. There’s a few times they maybe lack a bit of enthusiasm but they more than make up for it in the choruses and a couple of other places. Lots of great hooks both vocally and instrumentally and just an overall really nice song.
Turns out I was about one track too early on my sentimental Ballad prediction as that’s pretty much what the album’s penultimate track “Wonderful World” is. It opens up with a pretty nice and decently energetic Melodic Rock instrumental that has synthesizers providing those bright, soaring notes that are pretty typical of songs like this. The verses are fairly muted though, which does give some piano the opportunity to make an appearance which I rather liked as I’m sure you all might have already guessed. The choruses are a bit more energetic on the instrumental side of things, and indeed the vocals too, bringing in a string section and taking things in a slightly more orchestral direction which is a little at odds with the upshift in energy but hey it worked out so what do I know. Vocally it’s once again sounding pretty much like what you’d probably expect a song like this to. The verses feature some lower, more natural vocals which pair well with the instrumental and make for quite a calming listen. Then the choruses hit and the energy starts pouring out a bit more and the delivery gets more emotionally charged and gives the song a shot in the arm which you can argue if it needed or not in your own time I suppose. There’s nothing super standout about this track but there’s nothing super wrong with it either. It’s a solid song in this style, we’ve just heard a bunch of them before is all.
Closing things out is “LOVE COMMUNICATION” which would already have been pretty familiar to most people, either because it was released a few months before the album or because a bunch of people on Twitter were kicking off about something to do with music video…I think? Whatever, we’re not here to talk about that anyway. After a bit of a slow but rather pleasant and melodic start, the instrumental introduces a pretty energetic and bright drumbeat which is rather at odds with the much more deliberate and measured vocal delivery that’s happening while it’s galloping away to…well the beat of its own drum I suppose. Things eventually come together for the song’s pretty fun and quite catchy chorus which sort of has this feelgood, party atmosphere to it. I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say it has a Summer vibe, despite what the MV says, but they’re definitely on a similar wavelength. I’m a bit disappointed with the fuzz on the synthesizers as it’s not really adding much to the overall mood of the song and did they really have to mute the call and response parts quite as much as they did? It sort of ended up making what should be a pretty hype moment feel rather flat to me. I dunno, it’s most of the way there but like a lot of WACK this year there’s a few production decisions that leave me scratching my head.
“LOVE PARADE” certainly ended up being a much more interesting album than I was afraid it might have ended being coming into this review. There’s quite a decent amount of experimentation going, something I’d knocked the group for moving away from in the past year so I’m happy with that development at least. Was it all gold? Not exactly, but there was definitely some cool stuff on show. I still think the overall application of fuzz/distortion/whatever is a bit too liberal but this certainly isn’t the most egregious case I’ve seen from WACK this past year.
GANG PARADE seem to have escaped any major hangups that being signed to a big record label might bring…for now at least. Its only been a couple of releases after all but we haven’t gone totally in the opposite direction to where everything is a bit safe and bland either. We’re somewhere in the middle and that’s pretty much where my thoughts on the group and WACK in general are right now. They have their good moments, they have their bad but I’m definitely still interested enough that I’m looking forward to hearing what 2020 brings us.