My thoughts on “KiLLiNG IDOLS”, the latest EP from BiS.
Release Date: February 24th 2021
1. HiDE iN SEW
2. COLD CAKE
3. GOiNG ON
4. I ain’t weak maybe..
5. Dokkyun Bakkyun
Lately I’ve noticed something of a change in my Idol fandom in that I really have reconsidered a lot of my priorities when it comes to following this stuff. I have several groups that now get the majority of my attention and everything else sort of just comes up if/when it comes up I guess? That probably sounds pretty normal to all of you guys but I’ve been trying to follow as much of this stuff as possible for the past however long its been, so this is something of a major change in how I’m consuming this content. Man, maybe I really am getting ready to retire huh?
BiS and I suppose WACK in general sort of fall into the “everything else” category for me these days which is unfortunate but time moves on, people and their tastes change and all of that fun stuff. I have enjoyed BiS’s recent output in particular however, their “LOOKiE” album (review here) being one of the standouts in that format from what was a pretty rough 2020 admittedly. Their more recent “ANTi CONFORMiST SUPERSTAR” release (review here) didn’t wow me anywhere near as much, but it did still have a track or two that I found rather entertaining so by no means was it a complete bust either.
So BiS are back with the rather inflammatory-ly titled “KiLLiNG IDOLS”, a new EP featuring 6 tracks and I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize this was coming out until a couple of days before it released. My bad, but it’s here now and considering the group has been doing alright by me recently when it comes to putting out entertaining music I’m pretty hopeful that said trend will continue on this release too. I mean, there’s 6 tracks so at least a couple of them will hopefully jive with me at least. You never really know when it comes to BiS or WACK though, so the best way to find out really is to just hit play, sit back and see where the journey takes us. Let’s get into it.
The EP isn’t off to the most lively of starts with “HiDE iN SEW” but the track does have a nice, bright, positive energy in the form of your more typical WACK Ballad style. Very bright guitars, some light piano melodies and natural sounding vocals give the song’s emotions a very authentic feel which is definitely something that I know a lot of people out there enjoy. Fairly low tension stuff until we start building up to the choruses where everything gets a bit rougher around the edges instrumentally and the vocals enter this space where some of the higher, more emotionally driven delivery kinda started to grate on my ears a bit if I’m being honest. The payoff is a middle of the road chorus in a familiar WACK style that has some catchy lines and a nice flow but we’ve heard this a lot before so it’s a bit difficult to really get into it fully as it does end up sounding like a lot of other songs from the agency’s various properties. The track does develop a bit more energy as it progresses though to be fair, which does give a nice sense of progression while not straying too far from the base style for better or worse. Not a whole lot else left to say about this one for me, it hits all of the expected notes from a WACK song like this and doesn’t really try too hard to rock the boat. I wouldn’t have personally led off the EP with something like this but we have 5 more tracks so let’s see where things go from here before rushing to any judgement on that aspect at least.
We do end up getting something a bit different out of the EP’s second track “COLD CAKE” at least, though depending on what you’re looking for out of a WACK song then this one might not be playing to your particular tastes. Very deep, ambient synthesizers flood the ears and are accompanied by a pretty catchy beat and some mildly ethereal sounding lead guitar notes which all comes together to make for a fairly chilled out vibe. Given the rising popularity of Chill Hop in the J-Pop space in recent years none of this really surprised me, nor did the rapped vocals when they eventually made their appearance on the track. Nothing wrong with any of it of course, it all has a nice flow and a few catchy hooks makes it a perfectly enjoyable listen. I’m not super sure about all of the sighs, the “oh”s, “yeah”s, “mmm”s and what have you that are also going on during all of this but weird, mildly sexually suggestive content isn’t something new from WACK so I guess they figured they were giving the track a bit more personality or something like that. There are also a couple of chaotic burst of energy sprinkled throughout to break up the otherwise very consistent pacing that the song settles into for long spells. It is a very stark difference in styles but I appreciated them at least doing something to liven things up a little if only on occasion. I wouldn’t say that the trashy, distorted Rock style they make use of is the most complimentary to the rest of the track but then I suppose that’s probably the point isn’t it?
Those of you looking for a stronger Punk dynamic on this release should be pretty well served by its third track “GOiNG ON”, providing you’re also open to a little bit of humor and a slightly more comedic slant on the vocal side of the coin. Instrumentally things are leaning very hard in a Punk direction; with chuggy riffs, a healthy smear of distortion and a fairly intense drumbeat all sticking very true to what you’d expect from the genre. Good energy on the whole and a nice gritty feel that most people look for when you start talking about a song being Punk in style. Like I said, the vocals take things a little less seriously but to be fair this is mainly contained to the choruses where we get a whole bunch of cute cheering, “yay”s and what have you which I suppose does offset the performances throughout the rest of the track in a somewhat interesting way but I feel like it would probably lose a few people who would be looking for something a bit more typical of the song’s main genre. Outside of that though there’s plenty of Punk spirit in this one; lots of shouting, not caring too much if we’re a little off key and general chaos but also with a gentle, steadying melodic hand that appears at times to make sure things don’t devolve too far into anarchy and drift too wildly away from this still being an Idol song at the end of the day. A pretty fun one with some nice energy and plenty of personality, I can see it going down well with a lot of BiS fans.
As some of you may know, I love a song title that can make me chuckle and that’s exactly what “I ain’t weak maybe..” did when I first saw it on this EP’s tracklist. I don’t know, something about it just tickled me I guess. The track itself isn’t quite so entertaining though unfortunately, finding itself sitting fairly squarely in the “WACK Ballad” camp if I had to choose a really simple way of describing it. You know, the type of track that has the emotional Rock instrumental going on with a bit of piano thrown in there too for some added melodies and to play up to that mild feeling of sadness that the song is steeped in. The vocals are performed in a nice, natural style with a similar feeling of sadness to them and for the most part they find a comfortable groove and stick to it. Sure, there are a few moments where things spring to life a bit more but generally speaking the song sets out what it plans to do very early on and doesn’t try to deviate too much from said plans for the majority of its duration. I don’t typically mind this style, as played out as it is, but it’s hard to find much to remark on here as there really aren’t that many moments to point to that stand out as particularly noteworthy. Everything is competently written and well performed but ultimately the song ends up being forgettable due to a lack of lyrical hooks or strong choruses like we’ve heard from similar tracks in this style previously. A bit of a shame really.
“Dokkyun Bakkyun” brings back a lot of the intensity and aggression that had sort of waned away by this point of the EP, launching into a thrashy Rock number after a little bit of a build-up that had me a little bit confused as to where exactly things were heading with this one. Snarling and angry would be a good way to describe this one I think and if you’re big on songs with a lot of personality then there’s plenty of that on show here, it just might not be the most friendly kind of personality that you’re ever likely to hear is all. Given all of that, the fact that the instrumental consists of lots of chugging guitar riffs running through distortion pedals should come as little surprise to any of you but there’s also a pretty strong element of catchiness to it all too, it isn’t just noise like WACK have been known to be a little lazy about in the past. The vocals are a mixture of at times being appropriately venom laced and at others being incredibly dull as they opt to just hold a bunch of longs notes instead of actually singing anything for some reason. I don’t know, maybe there’s a reason behind it but it just didn’t do anything for me whatsoever. Everything else was pretty good though and it was cool to hear the BiS girls belt out their lines with expertly controlled reckless abandon. A cool song that’s let down a bit by some unfortunately decisions in the songwriting process, it happens folks.
Last but by no means least, along comes “Tsuyogari-san” to close out there EP. Give that we’d already dabbled a bit with some Ballad-y material elsewhere on the release I was somewhat hopeful that BiS wouldn’t return to the well one more time here and…they kinda did and also kinda didn’t at the same time I guess. The track definitely has that sort of sentimentality to it that’s very much a feature of these types of songs but the instrumental is doing some pretty interesting things with its beat and piano melodies that are both providing some nice hooks to keep the ears interested and engaged. This does get a bit crushed in the mix when the vocals swell with highly charged emotions during the choruses and later in the song once it properly finds its feet but I liked that they put it in here at least. The vocals slowly build themselves up from a lower tone, clean style into the more emotionally free one we eventually end up with over time and while I think the journey was rather enjoyable I’m not entirely convinced that I liked the destination that we ended up in. BiS have a tendency to get a bit too pitchy and whiny for me at times and I think this track is one of them though I am likely being a bit harsh. Not a bad way to end off the EP by any means but for a group and an agency that pride themselves on unpredictability I do have to say that they’ve gone about things in a pretty predictable fashion here.
“KiLLiNG IDOLS” despite having a rather provocative title ends up being a pretty middle of the road release by WACK standards. There’s a couple of tracks in here that do some fun things and there aren’t too many things you can point to as being technically bad, but there also isn’t a whole that excited me too much. It’s solid, predictable stuff that has plenty of mainstream appeal and should serve the group well but I can’t help but wish for something a bit more dynamic and unexpected out of one of the scene’s longest tenured properties.
WACK have weathered the whole COVID situation remarkably well, though that’s to be expected given how high up they find themselves on the industry totem pole these days. How they begin to ramp all of their existing properties back up after what has been a period of self-imposed restraint should be interesting to watch unfold. We’re in the beginning stages of it right now with a couple of their groups and I expect the rest to follow in the months to come. Hopefully we’ll get some weird, wonderful and most importantly entertaining music out of them all whenever the time comes.