My thoughts on “HALLO PIGGS”, the debut album from Pour Lui’s new group PIGGS.
Release Date: July 1st 2020
2. PIGGS -Mona Lisa-
3. Velvet shisōka
4. Love Cats
6. PIPE FICTION
8. Suicide Marie
9. Hone dendō massive
10. Moonage Driver
12. Tobenai hebi
The typical shelf life of an idol group, or an idol in general I suppose, is usually about 1 to 3 years or so in my experience. Granted there are several well known exceptions to that rule but yeah if we average it out we’re probably sitting somewhere on the low to mid range of that scale. Not every group or performer is an enduring fixture of the scene, so you’ve got to enjoy this stuff while it lasts.
One person who is an enduring figure of the scene however is Pour Lui, who just celebrated her 10th anniversary as an idol. To mark the occasion she’s set up her own company and is now producing a group of her own…while being player manager of course. The group is called PIGGS (short for “Produce Idol Go to world is Good Society” apparently) and features a total of 5 members having debuted officially in mid-April…so not the best timing there I suppose.
“HALLO PIGGS” is the group’s first album and boasts a very respectable 12 tracks. They all appear to have been written and composed by one “Ryan.B” who I’m not familiar with, but hopefully it’s not just Matsukuma Kenta under an alias. They were drip feeding the tracks out on YouTube for a couple of months before the official release but I decided to hold off so I could experience it for the first time as one complete package. I’m hoping for something a bit different than the norm from this one but who knows, it could just be more WACK style stuff under a different coat of paint. I suppose there’s only one way I’m going to find out though, let’s check this thing out.
The album leaps into life with the opening, overdriven riff of lead track “KICKS” pouring on some fuzz and a fairly catchy tempo to set the tone for things to come. Vocals are introduced fairly quickly into the equation in the from of some “Lalalas” and I kinda got a bit of a My Chemical Romance vibe at this point for some reason, it’s weird how the mind makes connections like that sometimes. We then transition into the first few verses where the vocals get given a bit of echo-y reverb which I thought was kinda neat and played into the Lo-Fi, kind of retro Rock feel that the track had going for it anyway. Lots of personality on show from the vocals, which you should expect from a Pour Lui group at this point, and some really nice lyrical flows to the point it almost turned into rapping in a few places. The instrumental is fairly subdued during these parts comparatively, but it still contributes a nice riff or drum fill every so often to hammer home a particularly impactful line. The chorus is then a bit of a mix of the opening stuff and the verses which I think is the logical place to take things. It’s super catchy, really fun to sing along to and has some great energy. That’s pretty much how I feel about the whole song actually, if this is the first impression someone is going to get from picking up your debut album then it’s a damn good one in my book.
Right, that was entirely too much hype and energy to be getting by on so along comes “PIGGS -Mona Lisa-” (yep, your guess is as good as mine) to make sure the party doesn’t get too far out of control. It’s a decently long track at a bit over 4 and a half minutes and I think it would be fair to say that it skews more towards the Ballad end of the spectrum than the previous track did. There’s definitely a bit of a WACK influence on this one too, from the way the lyrics are structured to how they ramp up the dramatic-ness of the delivery for the choruses and in a few other places as well. It’s oddly energetic in its own, muted sort of way with a fairly relentless but softly stated drumbeat and some turned down guitar riffs helping to drive the song along as the vocals provide some slower melodies into the mix. It’s not my favorite kind of style given how much I’ve heard it from WACK groups over the years but it’s well executed here so fair enough and I guess it also makes sense why this is the lead promotional track with its own MV. That said, the chorus is a definite highlight for the vocal performance alone and it would appear that Pour Lui has found some rather talented singers to collaborate with. I also thought the vaguely gothic slant to the song’s atmosphere was pretty interesting and added an extra layer to things. Interesting stuff, if not a little played out at this point for long-term Lui followers.
Given the retro sort of feel this album has had so far, I wasn’t totally surprised that third track “Velvet shisōka” set out in a very 80s Dance music kind of direction. It’s something that I certainly welcome with open arms as a fan of that era and the harder style synthesizers that were not exactly uncommon but a less frequently employed dynamic that I thought was pretty cool to hear here. It gave the track a bit more of an edge, which it needed to properly compliment the tone in which the vocals are being delivered. Not sure I would have gone in such a sneering direction myself but there’s plenty of personality on show once again despite all of the fuzziness that’s being layered on on top of things. There’s a nice build up and drop before the first chorus hits but from there I’m kinda left wanting by the rather blown out nature of the vocals and instrumental. It’s making for an interesting atmosphere but I kinda feel like it’s a bit too similar tonally to everything else and would have benefited from having more of a pop to it. Things do lead into a rather fascinating mid-song instrumental meander though which I thought was pretty cool before we’re back to building things up once more in the verses. Great atmosphere being crafted and some really strong vocal performances once again, it’s just a little bit repetitive in a lot of ways I suppose. Probably a bit unfair of me to say but it’s how I feel.
We’re sticking with that retro vibe into the album’s fourth track “Love Cats” but we’re going back a little bit further to the 70s for this offering. A very mellow Synth Pop style kicks things off, creating a very mellow mood outside of the drumbeat which has a little more of a sharp edge to it. The vocals are fairly well vocoded once again here, with more echo-y reverb to attempt to capture that light, floaty feeling that the instrumental is also giving off. It works pretty well I think and it makes for a pretty relaxing listen and there’s some nice interplay between each member and their individual vocal lines. The chorus kinda pushes things along a bit more, but not by a whole lot admittedly. There’s definitely a bit more loudness to everything going on and there’s a bit more urgency behind the vocal delivery too. It stands out in its own way, helped along by some fairly catchy lines and some nice harmonies to punctuate every couple of lines or so. It’s not a dramatic change of pace though so don’t come in expecting the song to end up going anywhere too crazy. I guess that’s the main knock on the song if you really want to look for one, it kinda meanders along at its own pace and doesn’t really go anywhere but you still feel like you had a good time anyway. That’s where I ended up with it at least though I feel like you could do this one in several different styles and have it sound pretty good if you wanted to.
“Toraeru” is a bit of an odd one for me because while I can kinda get what they were going for with the Lo-Fi treatment they gave everything, I just feel like maybe it did a bit more harm than good here? I’m a fan of the sort of Punk Ballad style that this song being performed in, but there’s a rather disturbing lack of bass here which again I can see is coming from that Lo-Fi idea but it makes the instrumental sound pretty hollow as a presumably unintended consequence(?). I like the other stuff though, like the warm fuzz from the guitars or the catchy beat being provided by what there is of the drums on this track. It’s just feeling a bit incomplete to my ears is all. Vocally it’s a nice performance in that Ballad type of style that has been proven to work well over the years when smashed together with Punk leaning instrumentals. The chorus freshens things up a bit by incorporating a mild symphonic element and also pushes the vocals higher on the octave scale for a pretty emotionally charged performance. It’s nothing terribly different lyrically but it’s a good example of how you can put a lot of different spins on the same material. While I wouldn’t really recommend anyone go out of their way to check this particular track out, if you’re into Punk Ballads or Lo-Fi kind of sounding stuff then you’ll probably find something of interest here perhaps.
After what doesn’t feel like very long at all we’ve hit the midway point of the album and with it comes the rather amusingly titled “PIPE FICTION”. I’m assuming that’s a parody of some sorts, so I guess old habits really do die hard on that particular front. A fairly high pitched, squealing (heh) synthesizer is the dominating element of the instrumental early on and provides a pretty catchy melody regardless of your own particular tonal preferences. It eventually makes way for the track’s first few verses, which see some moody and somewhat melancholic vocals being accompanied by some mildly distorted guitars and a steadying but also quite catchy drumbeat. A bit of a departure from where we started off from I’m sure we can all agree but I kinda liked the gloomier mood being woven here. They try to brighten things up for the chorus and it’s definitely sounding distinct in its own way but there’s a lot going on here that I’m not super into. The general distortion on everything just doesn’t really do it for me anymore, I’d much prefer something a bit crisper than this blown out style especially with the vocals and then you have the relentless hammering of a tambourine or some similar instrument that’s giving everything this weird harshness. It’s far from a bad song, there’s just a lot of decisions that I wish had been made differently. I rate the verses and the synthesizer melody but the chorus is a struggle, at least in my opinion.
If all of that has been just a bit too sedate for you then “Exterminator” leads off the back half of the album with a very promising, stompy Rock style instrumental. There’s a lot of attitude behind those riffs and it definitely gives the song this very cool persona. The drumbeat is nice and punchy which drives the point home a bit further and I found myself having a pretty good time with this one. The vocals come in eventually and they’re maybe not quite as raw and edgy as you’d expect them to be, but they’re still bringing plenty of personality to the song despite their intentionally low definition style in which they’re being presented. Definitely a feature of the album at this point I’m sure you’ve all noticed. There’s a pretty nice build to the first chorus, after which point the instrumental gets super distorted and blown out while the vocals come together to try to smooth it all out with some admittedly rather nice harmonies. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air into the track, I guess it just depends how you feel about the production. I’m not super crazy about it but it’s still a pretty fun chorus with a bit of an anthemic feel to it. The bridge is pretty interesting too in how they brought everything down a few notches before bringing everything back up for one final closing salvo. I think this one would have worked just as well if not better with cleaner vocals personally but what they gave is still some pretty great stuff.
“Suicide Marie” was one of maybe only two or three tracks from this album that I’d checked out fully before writing this review and to be fair it’s also the track that got me most excited for this release. It’s a pretty short one, both by today’s Idol standards and just compared to the rest of this album in general but I’ve never let that stop me before. There’s a bit of a slow build as Pour Lui provides a solo vocal over what is heavily hinting at being a Punk Rock inspired instrumental that has a decent amount of kick to it by the time they’ve built in all of the guitars and drums. From there the vocals turn quite a bit more melodic than perhaps one might expect but man if they don’t have a catchy hook or two that more than make up for any disappointment I might have been feeling. It’s almost like they flipped the ratio of verses to choruses on this one and it makes for a very simple but effective track that is very memorable if only for how repetitive in nature it is. Not a bad thing in this case though, as there’s plenty of cool riffs and such to keep it feeling fresh and I kinda got this Maximum the Hormone vibe from it somehow too. Maybe that’s just me though, let me know. Either way, this is a clear highlight of this album and highly recommended listening.
After that little bit of rocking fun it’s back to the more Synth Pop inspired stuff on the album’s ninth track “Hone dendō massive”. It has a pretty interesting opening instrumental comprising of distorted synthesizers, some pretty emotionally charged lead guitar parts and pounding bass. It makes for a pretty intense atmosphere that’s only amplified by some light wailing vocals. We eventually settle into this mid-tempo sort of paced instrumental that’s being driven along in part by the still consistent, thumping bass beat as well as some fuzzy guitar which doesn’t really make for the most interesting of listens for me personally but it’s keeping that intensity going pretty effectively so there’s that at least. The vocals have a pretty nice tone to them though, which cuts through the instrumental well and provide a bit more a dramatic element to things in how they’re being delivered. The chorus thankfully takes things in a bit more of a bright and melodic direction while still trying to keep the general theme of the track intact. It’s definitely not my favorite chorus on this album but the vaguely choral style of the vocals at times was kinda neat and different so there’s that. The extended instrumental interlude and resulting spacey vibe the track took on was also an unexpected but welcomed twist and at least for my money we ended up with something a bit more interesting than where we started out from.
There was just something about the tone and overall lightness of the opening synthesizer instrumental of “Moonage Driver” that told me things were probably heading in a Ballad sort of direction. We also haven’t had many on the album up to this point either so probably to be expected I’d say. That’s pretty much the direction we do end up going in when vocals are brought into the equation too, being sung in fairly light and mid-tempo style that’s quite pleasant to listen to but not really trying to push the envelope too much. The instrumental is kinda just hanging out while the verses meander their way to the chorus, providing a steady beat and a bit of synthesizer ambiance while the vocals are left to color in the lines so to speak. The choruses are a bit more upbeat comparatively but they’re not diverging too much from the style that the rest of the track is setting out. It’s pleasant, melodic stuff with a couple hooks that make it all easy to listen to but if you’re looking for something a bit more personality driven or high tension then you’re unlikely to find it here. It does pick up a little bit the more we get into the track but it’s not going to suddenly burst to life or anything dramatic like that. If you like the opening 30 second or so you’ll love the rest of it, if that’s not your thing then this one won’t be for you most likely.
And just like that we being the process of winding down the album with penultimate and somewhat amusingly titled (to me at least) track “Snatcher”. Unlike its somewhat aggressive title, the song looks to continue the slower and softer vibe that was brought into play by the album’s previous track. There’s a bit more pep to this one however, in large part thanks to a slightly more uptempo beat which is accompanying a very pleasant and almost playful synthesizer melody that has this vaguely retro vibe to how it’s being presented. Vocally things match up to the atmosphere of the instrumental pretty well, with the PIGGS members putting in an energetic but still somewhat softly spoken performance with a heavy focus on the melodic and harmonizing dynamics of said performance, while also making sure to include a few ear tickling hooks for good measure. There’s a playfulness to it in a way but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security because the chorus is here to remind us that these ladies are more than happy to let the emotion flow into their words and the result is a charged although perhaps a slightly pitchy at times delivery that certainly stands out from the rest of the track. I think this one strikes a nice balance between the softer Ballad style and the energy seen on a good chunk of the rest of the album. I rather enjoyed it at least.
With that we reach the conclusion of what has been a rather sonically diverse release with “Tobenai hebi” having the honor of closing things out. I’m not sure what direction I was really expecting them to take with this one, but a heavily Pop tinged Dub track was not at the top of my list. I mean, what Idol group even comes close to something like that anyway? Very chilled out stuff early on here with a nice smooth beat providing the skeleton upon which various intermittent riffs and such are woven. The vocals are even appropriately reverb’d for the style as they weave their way through the instrumental almost without a care in the world. They do get a bit more lively for the choruses though, where the emotions are allowed to bubble to the surface a bit more as the instrumental also finds a few extra gears to shift through. It’s not a terribly drastic departure from the style and tone of the rest of the track however, nor should it be because it would just sound out of place and silly if it was. If it’s all a bit too boring and lazy sounding to you then at least we’re treated to some pretty epic guitar soloing for the last minute or so of the song, where things head off in a mildly psychedelic direction as the album eventually fades to black. Not what I expected but boy did I enjoy the journey we went on with this one.
“HALLO PIGGS” is a very entertaining album though I do feel like it kinda lost its way a little bit in the middle there. That said, if anyone was doubting if Pour Lui still “has it” then this should lay those doubts to rest I think. She’s got a good group of girls around her and plenty of influences to draw from be it 70s J-Pop, Punk Rock, BILLIE IDLE, WACK or otherwise. Still, having a killer singing voice doesn’t either too.
It should be pretty interesting to see where PIGGS go from here. They’ve got all of the gimmicks and what have you, as well as Pour Lui’s 10 years of industry experience at their disposal so in theory the sky should be the limit. I guess we just have to hope that Lui doesn’t get bored one day huh? In the meantime the scene gained another interesting group with a retro Pop vibe and I’m more than alright with that.