My thoughts on “LOOKiE”, the latest studio album from Brand-new Idol Society.
Release Date: February 5th 2020
1. STUPiD (NEW TYPE Ver.)
2. BiS -Douyara Zombie o Demashi- (NEW TYPE Ver.)
3. SURRENDER (NEW TYPE Ver.)
5. KiSS MY ASS
6. LOVELY LOVELY
7. BASKET BOX
8. LAUGH AT ME
9. FUCKiNG OUT
11. FOR ME
12. SPiLLED MiLK
13. FOOL PROOF
Well, we’re not that far into 2020 and we’ve already had a couple of new release from the WACK collective. I suppose it’s not that surprising given how many entities they’re producing and managing these days, they could probably have at least one new release every month of the year if they so wished to. Maybe I should shut up before I start giving anyone ideas on that bit. In any case, if you’re a WACK fan then I’m sure this year will be very bountiful in terms of new music. I mean heck, they had 2 new releases in February alone.
Today it’s the turn of BiS to add another entry into their discography. I still don’t really know what to call this current line-up so I guess we’ll stick with BiS and forgo any of that “X Generation” stuff. You might remember that I wasn’t overly impressed with the group’s self-titled re-re-debut album (review here) when it came out because it kinda just did a bunch of stuff that the previous incarnation had been doing and didn’t really have its own voice. Their follow up single “DEAD or A LiME” (review here) was a much more compelling release but as things stand I just don’t have enough data to judge the group on right now.
Well, that should hopefully change after this review. BiS are back with their second studio album featuring this line-up (well, they lost two members but whatever) and yes it is indeed a pun on Green Day’s “Dookie” in more ways than one. That album played a big part in my life in my formative years so no pressure girls. Seems a couple of older songs get the rework treatment and we get 10 all new ones to check out too. I’m personally hoping for more of a “DEAD or A LiME” vibe than a self-titled one but this is WACK and I know better than to come in expecting anything at this point. Let’s just hit play and see where this album takes us, shall we?
We crack the seal on this album with “STUPiD (NEW TYPE Ver.)”, which is one of the aforementioned songs that was given a rework for this album release. It makes sense, it is the first song to be released by this version of BiS so it’s kind of important. They’ve also had a line-up change in the time since it came out so lines have to be redistributed and all of that good stuff. If you’d like to read my initial impressions of the song when it first came out you can do so here. It’s a pretty energetic song right from the off with a pretty catchy drumbeat and some great hooks coming from the guitar riffs they used. Things do get a bit muddied when the song gets into full swing but it’s not the worst example of it from a WACK group in the past year or so. I was perhaps a little harsh in my original assessment of the song because it does a lot of things right. Vocally things are still pretty raw so that’s definitely more of a stylistic choice it seems but if you’re into that very impassioned style of vocal delivery then there are some great example of that on this track. I still think the song could do with a slightly stronger or at least fresher sounding lyrical hook but if the goal was to have a sense of familiarity to things then fair enough, they’ve more than achieved that here.
“BiS -Douyara Zombie o Demashi- (NEW TYPE Ver.)” continues the theme of reworked songs and keen observers will note that we’re starting out this album in the exact same song order as we did on the last one. As ever, you can read my initial thoughts on this track here if you’d like to. This one sits in a kinda tough spot for me as it is a bit paint by numbers in that it does adhere to that WACK Ballad sort of style pretty closely. I definitely enjoy the percussion angle they went with and generally do so on most WACK tracks that feature it. It’s blended well with a soft Rock instrumental to give a little bit more energy to the composition and apart from a few moments where things were getting a little washed out there’s nothing really bad to say with regards to the instrumental. On the vocal side of things it’s almost like listening to a BiSH song which is both high praise and also a bit of a criticism I suppose. A lot of nice melodies going on throughout the track but you know, very familiar sounding, which is I suppose is a good or bad thing depending on how you want to look at it. It’s a very solid slower song for sure and any group should be happy to have it in their discography. In the context of the wider WACK family though, it’s not really bringing anything to the table that we haven’t heard before.
Rounding out our selection of reworked material (What is this? A Zenkimi album?) for this release is yep, you guessed it it’s “SURRENDER (NEW TYPE Ver.)”. It was the third track on BiS’s last album and it’s the third track here too apparently. Check out my initial impressions here by the way. So yeah, this one starts on a fairly lowkey note with some nice clean vocals and bright guitar, very pleasant stuff if not a little uninspired if you’ve been listening to Japanese music for as long as I have. This all ends up being intruded on by some not so great harsh vocals in my opinion but it was pretty surprising so I have to give them props for catching me off guard at least. They seem to have reworked them a bit for this new version but they’re still more of a negative than anything in my opinion. The chorus on the other hand is a strong positive as is the instrumental which provides that shot in the arm and color that the song definitely was lacking initially. Bit of a mixed bag this one for me, the brighter melodic stuff is really solid but the screaming and harsher elements just don’t really feel like they fit in and the execution does leave a lot to be desired. It definitely turned what would have been a perfectly passable track into a bit of a letdown as far as I’m concerned.
The first salvo of new material from the album comes in the form of the rather simply titled “TRAP”. That’s a word that has a bunch of different meanings but in a musical context I suppose logically you might be lead to believe that this song might be borrowing its cues from the “Trap” genre. Well, this song comes screaming out of the gate quite literally with a rather rough and unhinged sounding vocal performance from the BiS members. Accompanying the performance is a pretty thrashy and distorted Rock instrumental that packs a lot of punch and a very violent sort of energy. A far cry from the Trap beats that I was half expecting but I suppose that’s on me for expecting WACK to do something obvious for a change. The chorus is a much more melodic affair, from a vocal standpoint at least with some brighter notes and clearer lyrics being very effective at changing the mood some. The vocals are still pretty raw but it gives them a nice charm I think and the instrumental gets a little bit more synthy while still holding onto the attitude and energy it’s brimming with during the verses. A little bit schizophrenic in terms of the signals it’s giving off at times but I think this is a fairly fun song that’s easy to jump around to and the more melodic component is also there to break it up and prevent things from taking on too much of a “wall of noise” dimension. Not too bad there BiS, not too bad.
Up next we have the rather amusingly, in a confrontational way anyway, titled “KiSS MY ASS” because why on earth wouldn’t we have a song titled like this on a BiS album. Boy did this track go in some directions that I really was not expecting it to. It opens with a pretty fun sounding Garage Rock style instrumental with a nice beat and good clean vocals but then in comes this piano element and my brain almost ground to a halt for a second. It’s not a super big component of the composition but it peeks in from time to time to provide a more melodic dimension to what is otherwise a very catchy Rock instrumental with some really ear pleasing guitar riffs. This one is sure to be a crowd pleaser. On the vocal side of things it’s a fairly typical WACK style performance I suppose. Quite dramatic in tone and fairly heavy on putting a lot of emotion into the lines being delivered. Despite how rough many of the vocal performances from this line-up have been it’s tracks like these that show they can do something a lot more technical if the need arises. There’s some great notes being hit and held here and the lyrical content while not quite as catchy as the instrumental has enough hooks to be getting by on quite comfortably. As far as Garage Rock Piano Ballads are concerned this is definitely up there as a fine example of one in my opinion.
After being told to kiss their asses, BiS follow that up with “LOVELY LOVELY”. Guess we’ve got something of a tsundere dynamic going on here on this album it seems. The opening instrumental once again brings some piano into the equation but this time in a much more prominent position for what is a pretty…lovely sounding composition when paired with a light Rock element. The Rock side of the song asserts its dominance the more things get going and before long things turn into a fairly stompy but restrained sort of style of Rock tune. A pretty catchy beat serves to enhance this and as far as instrumental hooks go this song’s might be pretty simple but they’re very effective at the same time. The vocals bounce along in rhythm with the instrumental, which gives them a punchy delivery despite the relatively mid-tempo style of the track. It’s a pretty well worked out formula at this point, for better or worse depending on how you want to look at it. The chorus does insert a bit more urgency and brightness into the equation however, with the piano element making a return and the vocals being allowed to be a bit more raw and impassioned in their delivery. It’s not bad but it got a little muddy and could have done with a slightly better vocal hook too. Perfectly serviceable besides that though.
So as we established earlier, the title and cover of this particularly album are both one big…homage to Green Day’s seminal Pop Punk album “Dookie”. Considering they went as far as that already it should probably come as no surprise that BiS and WACK also decided to pay a little tribute with one of the song titles too. “BASKET BOX” is of course a tribute to the song “Basket Case”, though musically both songs are very distinctively different. This track opts for a Punk influenced instrumental still, but instead decided to go in the direction of chugging, mildly distorted guitars and a steady drumbeat to tie it all together. The verses do have that “Punk Ballad” quality to them in a sense and the lyrics practically drip with personality and attitude…and also sound a little like BiSH at times too. I feel like the intensity of the chorus was maybe a little bit too much personally, though I’m in two minds as the thunderous drumming is kinda cool but maybe a little heavy on the distortion overall. Some of the high notes being hit during the more emotion packed moments of the song are also a little rough depending on who is delivering them but I did enjoy the catchiness and energy being brought to the song on the whole from the vocal side. It’s a punky kinda Ballad thing in a somewhat familiar WACK style, if you’re down with that you’ll be down with this too.
Despite what the title requests you to do, the album’s eighth track “LAUGH AT ME” is a far cry from being a hilariously crazy affair. Instead BiS flip the script on us because of course they did and we’re presented with what I think most would consider to be the first full on Ballad of the album. I did sort of wonder if the mildly symphonic instrumental that opens the track would eventually make way for some wild fun but no folks, this is about as straight laced as you can get. You get a really pleasant, very melodic instrumental that flows with a nice smoothness and the composition radiates warmth by way of the aforementioned symphonic elements along with a bit of piano and some light guitars and drumbeats. The vocals are also very rich in tone and it was kinda nice to hear the BiS girls get a chance to do their thing without having to do anything too crazy that pushes their vocals into what in my opinion can sound like somewhat uncomfortable places at times. None of that here though, just some nice melodic singing that pairs well with the overall tone and flow of the instrumental. It’s not the most exciting thing you’re going to hear from this album but it’s a pretty nice reprieve from a lot of the harder songs that have featured up to this point. Every album has to have one (or more) of these types of song and they made a pretty good go of it here I think.
With that out of the way, along comes the rather amusingly titled “FUCKiNG OUT”. That’s not the only thing of note about this song however, as it’s also one of if not the only time that BiS have ever really gone for a Digital Hardcore style of sound on one of their tracks. It’s not really something you hear a whole lot from WACK in general I suppose but when the synths whir into life at the beginning of the song my ears definitely pricked up. Even more so when the Hardcore side of the song eventually joined in making for this sort of vaguely Industrial Electroncia sound. The synths are pretty catchy and the drums and guitars hit pretty hard with some violent energy being added into the mix as a result. It’s not as balls to the wall as they could have gone with it as they do ease back on the instrumental when the verses are doing their thing and also in the choruses where the song takes on this groovier style which I thought was kinda cool and worked probably a lot better than I just described it. The vocals are interesting enough I suppose, matching up with the different tones the instrumental takes on and the lyrics in the chorus are decently catchy too. It’s a little predictable I suppose but I think they struck about as best the balance between melodic and harsh styles as they could. Something a bit different to the norm so definitely check this one out on that fact alone.
I was pretty well hooked by the opening instrumental of “TELEPHONE” right from the moment I pressed play honestly. Intense drumming and some pretty awesome sounding guitar riffs will do that to me I suppose. What can I say, I am a simple man in that regard. It’s bringing a lot of energy to the table early though and I was a little worried that maybe they’d have to tone it down quite a bit as things progressed on the track. They kinda did once the first verse hit but the funky guitar riffs persist and the tempo of the beat remains energetic and pleasing to the ear while the BiS members do their thing vocally. It’s a pretty nice melodic Punk style of vocal that matches well with what’s going on with the instrumental. Of course the lyrics are suitably hook laiden too with a small but adequate amount of attitude laced into them to further tie things together. The song’s chorus is basically just a more sped up version of the style heard in the verses and the vocal performance also gets a bit more shouty and energetic too. I’m not a huge fan of the call and response stuff they do here though, as the responses just sound really distant and muddy when layered into the instrumental. Apart from that though I rather enjoyed this track, definitely a highlight from the album for me personally.
I don’t know if they’ve said anything about this or not, but when I saw the title of the album’s 11th track was “FOR ME” the thought that it could be a(n albeit vague) reference to Pour Lui immediately jumped into my head. I’m probably reading far too much into things, as usual. Anyway, the track opens with a pretty ominous sounding synthesizer and dense, pounding beat as the key components of its instrumental. Distorted guitars are then added into the mix along with vocals which have that grain filter effect going on with them. Not my favorite thing as you all know, but I think it works quite well for the mood they’re developing here. Before long the tempo really starts to pick up with more guitars and drums being the driving force behind that. It makes for a very pleasing rhythm to things and that’s even more the case when the song’s chorus hits. Very energetic vocals are a big feature during these parts, though the supplementary backing vocals are kinda fuzzed to the point of losing a bit too much definition. The same can be said about certain aspects of the instrumental overall too but they’re going for a slightly scaled back version of that big, “brick walled” sound people seem to love so much and doing stuff like adding distortion and blowing up the drums are easy ways to achieve that. Despite that though, I quite liked this track actually. It does stuff I don’t particularly care for sure, but not to the point where it’s knocking too much out of my overall enjoyment of the song.
The album’s penultimate track “SPiLLED MiLK” gets under way in a fairly Ballad-ish sort of style I suppose. A mild piano style synthesizer accompanies some clean vocals that are pretty heavy on the emotion when it comes to the delivery side of things. It’s a nice, clean sort of style and the melodies are great which doesn’t hurt either. Guitars come in fairly quickly to spoil the vibe we had going, along with a fairly energetic drumbeat and then the song is really off to the races. It’s an interesting composition, sort of a Piano Rock thing going on but kinda roughed up a bit and not quite as melodic as you’d probably expect things to be. The vocals maintain their style throughout the course of the song so we get a pretty nice clean performance with a bunch of nice melodies and hooks as well as the aforementioned strong emotions behind the delivery. The vocals and the piano are very much the stars of the show on this one, which I’m assuming is by design because the Rock component ends up getting pretty muddied as things go on and you start to lose a lot of the definition on the beats and riffs. If it’s intentional to showcase the vocal and instrumental melodies then no problems as far as I’m concerned and I’m thinking it probably is. I quite like what they did here for the most part, it’s certainly a much more interesting take on a Piano Ballad than most groups might have attempted.
The album draws to a close with its final track “FOOL PROOF” which shares a lot of similarities with the track that came just before it. It also shares quite a few similarities with several BiSH songs as well which I guess one again is a positive or a negative depending on how you’re looking at things. It’s a bit more of a Ballad style than “SPiLLED MiLK” was but not overly so. There’s a ton of SCRAMBLES calling cards all over the song though, be it from the structure of the lyrics to their very emotionally charged delivery. The instrumental also makes use of piano once again, in a much more typical way in that it’s more a complimentary element of the track than one of the main features. The beat from drums is fine I suppose, nothing super flashy outside of maybe the chorus a little bit but it gets the job done and it compliments the very heavily fuzzed out guitars too so yeah, it’s fine. Over the course of the track you pretty much get the entire range of vocals from the BiS girls, from the more subdued to the highly charged it’s a solid performance for sure but it is all a bit too similar to BiSH a lot of the time. That’s sort of my main takeaway from this track I suppose, it’s a solid song and the vocal performance is really good but it’s not really bringing much to the table that you haven’t already heard from other WACK properties. Still, being compared favorably to BiSH is no bad thing in my humble opinion.
In case you couldn’t tell, I had much more enjoyable time listening to “LOOKiE” than I did BiS’s self-titled re-debut that came out last year. I feel like this album while still holding onto a lot of the typical WACK party tricks did have more of its own personality and that we got to hear songs that were more distinctly “New Nu-BiS” than them performing an album that could have been written with the previous line-up in mind for all we know.
It seems like WACK is slowly but surely clawing me back into being a more active fan of their groups. We’re still super early into 2020 though so let’s put the balloons and streamers away for a bit longer yet. Let’s give each group another release or two to see how things go, but as things stand I’m actually quite looking forward to what BiS specifically are going to be doing next as far as new music is concerned. Who would have thought we’d be at this point six months ago, right?