My thoughts on “LETTERS”, the third (and a half) major album from BiSH.
Release Date: July 22nd 2020
3. Super hero music
4. Rock n’ Roll
6. Buchi nuke
7. I’m waiting for my dawn
We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a flurry of WACK related releases of late, as the production company begins to bring all of its properties out of hibernation after the world shut down for much of the first half of 2020. One of the advantages of having your acts backed by several major record labels is having the luxury of hitting the pause button for a bit and then resuming where you left off once things aren’t looking quite so bleak financially…or something like that.
BiSH, the flagship group of the WACK empire, are the next in line to be spun back up and into life and coming hot on the heels of both GO TO THE BEDS (review here) and PARADISES (review here). I know I’m in the minority here but I think the group had a pretty mediocre 2019 from a musical standpoint but then so did most of WACK I suppose. Their sisters have been turning it around in 2020 though so I’m hoping that BiSH are going to follow suit, but history has told me to be cautious when it comes to expecting anything out of WACK these days.
“LETTERS” is the group’s 3.5th album because it’s only half of an album, get it? Isn’t that just the quirkiest thing you ever did hear? Anyway, I’m personally hoping that it isn’t another “CARROTS and STiCKS” (review here) and a little bit more interesting than “KiND PEOPLE / Rhythm” (review here) but I guess I’d settle for the latter if I had to pick only between those two options. I dunno man, it’s either going to be pretty radio friendly or some crazy noise thing is what I guess I’m getting at. Anything more will be a very pleasant and welcome surprise but we’re not going to find out sitting here speculating about it are we? Let’s get this review started.
The (half) album’s title track “LETTERS” gets things under way, which makes sense seeing as how it’s being used as the main promotional song for the release. There’s a bit of a fantastical feel to the song’s opening instrumental which makes use of the sort of orchestral elements that have become increasingly more commonplace in the group’s compositions over the years. It’s all very soft and mellow sounding, so not exactly the roaring out of the gates start that you might expect after the group’s last album outing. That’s the vibe that the vocals are giving off too, delivering their lines in a very clean and natural way as the instrumental subtly shifts into a soft Rock style as the track starts to get going. Well, I say get going but it’s a fairly low tension, Ballad-y sort of affair but it is quite nice to hear all of the members’ distinct voices for a change so that’s cool. The chorus is bringing in a bit more intensity but not ever to the point where we completely break away from that light, serene atmosphere that has been built up right from the start of the track. There’s a lot of nice melodies involved though and I thought it was nice that they brought the orchestral element of the instrumental back to the forefront for a bit too. That’s kinda all there is to this one folks, if you’re into the softer more emotional sort of Idol Pop stuff then I think you’ll probably like it a good amount but if you’re looking for something a bit more lively and chaotic then you’re definitely not going to get that out of this one I’m afraid.
Speaking of lively, that’s how the (half) album’s second track “TOMORROW” opens up. With a quick tempo drumbeat accompanying some pretty cool sounding guitar riffs to wake us all up from that dream-like state of the album’s opener. I’m not really sure how to describe this, but it kinda sounds like your typical BiSH Rock number but with a bit of a futuristic sort of thing going on. I’m assuming that’s something coming from the synthesizers but it’s giving the track this kind of metallic ring to it I guess? Vocally it is very much your BiSH style with a lot of familiar lyrical structures and melodies being very easily recognizable among the fresh coat of paint that has been applied to them. It’s especially apparent in the chorus, which features Aina the End doing what she does best and unlike a few of the past BiSH releases she sounds very comfortable in doing so here which is definitely good to hear. Things do start to get a bit more chaotic towards the end of the track which while it did give it a little extra oomph, I’m not really sure that we needed it all that much to be honest. It made for an interesting moment or two around the song’s bridge but I feel like maybe a guitar solo or something could have fit a bit better given all of the riffs sprinkled throughout the track. A decent enough effort from BiSH in 2020, much more along the lines of what I like to listen to them for but I wouldn’t go updating your Top 10 lists or anything like that.
“Super hero music” is bringing the Punk element of the BiSH sound to the party on this album…kinda, and it’s doing so by way of a pretty upbeat sounding instrumental with a bunch of pretty cool solo guitar parts to catch the listener’s attention early on. I must admit that I was a little disappointed by how much they toned everything down when the vocals were introduced because while not a true Punk instrumental in the strictest sense it was doing quite a lot of things that I was enjoying. By comparison the vocals in the opening verses are really lacking in intensity and color, settling into this very mid-tempo kinda gloomy sort of mood that would be at odds with the instrumental had it not been muted to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Ayuni does pop up from time to time to attempt to rouse her groupmates from their sleepy state but never quite manages to pull it off until we get to the chorus. There we get a bit more personality out of the vocals and the guitar riffs and other stuff that got us off to such a promising start are also allowed back into the picture. From there the song really does kick on, blending the two very opposing styles into something a bit more energetic and engaging to the listener and just about turning what I had initially thought had become a rather boring song into something quite fun and entertaining. I need to learn to be more patient I guess.
Fourth track “Rock n’ Roll” throws the first true curveball our way from the release, and not just because the track doesn’t sound very Rock n’ Roll either. Can’t say I’ve ever heard a BiSH song quite as Jazzy sounding as this one, although I could be wrong on that and it’s not like we haven’t heard this sort of thing crop up in other WACK groups’ music from time to time over the past few years. There’s a great flow to the instrumental here, as is usually the case with this style, and I’m loving the personality coming from the vocal side of things too. It adds a bit of bite to what would otherwise sound like a much too classy sort of track from a WACK group, though I guess that is usually the sort of angle most Idol groups go for when they bring out a song like this to be fair. I would have personally liked it to have had a bit more of a distinct chorus but what they’ve done here works well enough so it’s not like I’m knocking the track too badly for it or anything. Just a bit more pop or something wouldn’t have gone a miss in my opinion is all. Other than that, it’s a track full of really cool instrumental moments, a vibrant vocal performance and the type of atmosphere that I really enjoy from songs like this. It’s also something a bit different from BiSH, which this far into their career and given how safe they have the luxury of playing things now is always nice to hear. My highlight from this release so far for sure.
Fifth track “co” has a pretty simple and kinda boring title if I’m being totally honest. I dunno, it just doesn’t really stand out or anything which is kinda weird to me given that this is a major label group trading on a lot of name value these days. I guess the title is actually kinda fitting in a lot of ways because this track is about as middle of the road of a WACK style Ballad as you’re probably ever likely to hear. Lots of very familiar instrumental progressions and timings make for a fairly predictable listen on that side of the equation. Nothing particularly bad about it, but there’s only so many time you can hear a piano melody over some Rock riffs before it starts to get a little tired. Vocally BiSH are pretty much going through the motions as well, though I guess that they’re kinda painted into a corner thanks to the instrumental. The chorus has some nice intensity to it however, as well as a few really strong individual displays of vocal talent so there’s definitely a couple of highlights here and there. The problem is this song is still just kinda there and there are many examples of it already in the BiSH discography and a lot of them much more compelling to listen to as well. Filler is fine on an album and that’s pretty much what this track feels like to me personally.
“Buchi nuke” then comes along and attempts to inject a bit more pep and energy back into the album, and does a pretty decent job of doing so I suppose. The instrumental has a pretty nice Punk dynamic to it though it’s definitely not this super wild and raucous affair like I would imagine a lot of people might be hoping for at this point in the proceedings. Instead it sets a pretty middling pace while playing off of a few more Punk leaning riffs as the basis for the instrumental, which keeps well enough out of the way during the verses to let the vocals have plenty of room to do their thing. Speaking of which, it’s another fairly classic BiSH performance with the group making use of a lot of once again very familiar tricks and techniques to make for an enjoyable listen but again you’re kinda left wanting for something just a little bit out of the ordinary to spice things up some. I feel like they could have done something with the chorus on that front but it never really got out of second gear for whatever reason, quite content to just go with the flow of things and not try too hard to steal the show. I don’t dislike anything I heard here but having been a listener of BiSH for years at this point, I can kinda tell when they’re trying and when they’re not at this point.
I guess depending on how you want to look at it, technically we reach the midpoint of the album with “I’m waiting for my dawn”, but since BiSH only decided to release half of an album it’s instead closing the show here. It’s a nice, fuzzy Indie Rock style instrumental that’s doing a bulk of the work when it comes to developing the track’s warm atmosphere and you kinda get coaxed along into this dreamy type of flow as things start to get going. It’s all a bit unassuming and maybe a bit slow out of the gate for some people but I really found myself starting to enjoy this track more and more the longer it went on. Vocally the verses are a bit subdued which kinda works with the instrumental but does make it a bit more difficult to get into the track initially, at least for me anyway. It’s a really nice performance overall, there just isn’t a ton of super standout moments. Well, until we get to the chorus at least because that has a bit more urgency and intensity to it, along with some catchy vocal hooks insofar as a mid-tempo track like this can have such things. Definitely a standout moment though and you can tell the whole point was to build up to these parts as everything else outside maybe the last 20 seconds or so definitely isn’t on the same level, and that’s perfectly fine. Hit a bit of a dry spell there but we finished strong with this one.
On the whole “LETTERS” wasn’t really anything too unexpected from BiSH. It’s kinda like the polar opposite of their “CARROTS and STiCKS” release, offering up a much safer and more mundane selections of tracks than that album did. Sort of like two opposite ends of the spectrum, which is great if you like extremes but if you’re like me and prefer something more towards the middle then that seems to be in short supply from the BiSH camp currently.
Who knows what’s coming next from BiSH and in a lot of ways neither my or your opinions matter honestly. They’ve hit that point where they can pretty much do whatever takes their fancy and the sales will be there. A pretty cynical view for me to take I admit but that’s the state of play. Harsh, melodic, chaotic, mundane, as long as the BiSH brand is on it then I’m sure they’ll be doing just fine. See you on the next one folks.