My thoughts on “PARADISES RETURN”, the first EP from PARADISES.
Release Date: March 3rd 2021
1. PARADISES RETURN
3. Youth Song
4. cry wanna
5. Kienai mono
When it comes to business, missing your mark/failing/what have you isn’t really the be all, end all of things but the way that you react and adapt to what’s happening around you is actually something that’s incredibly important. Just because you’ve had a good deal of success in the past doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed or owed any in the future and if something isn’t working out quite the way that anyone planned then there’s no shame in taking a step back to regroup, reassess and go again after having established a new course of action.
It kinda feels like that’s what WACK is doing with PARADISES to me. It’s fair to say that the group hasn’t enjoyed quite the same success as GO TO THE BEDS since the two formed after the split of GANG PARADE. While calling it any sort of failure would be much too harsh, the group certainly to me feels like it hasn’t quite found its mark and a different perspective and some fresh ideas could go some way to solving that issue. Or I dunno, maybe the members just wanted to take a break and try to wait out COVID or something much more reasonable than my speculations.
Well PARADISES are back now, with the rather aptly titled “PARADISES RETURN” EP which features 6 new tracks that I’m hoping might be a bit more exciting and colorful than much of the group’s debut album “PARADISES” (review here) ended up being. None of the members perhaps have the loudest of personalities but I know they can do a lot better than the stock WACK song structures and what have you. If they can come up with interesting songs and give GO TO THE BEDS a few new toys to play with on their recent release “REINCARNATION” (review here) then there’s no reason why PARADISES can’t get the same treatment here. Am I asking for too much? Perhaps, but if you don’t ask you don’t get so let’s hit play so we can hear exactly what we got out of this one, shall we?
One might expect the EP’s title track “PARADISES RETURN” to get things started on a triumphant note, or something along those lines to give more of a sense that this is in fact something of a comeback release for the group. Instead they opt for something a bit more lowkey, with a monologue introduction leading into a very bright Soft Rock instrumental. A bit of distortion is layered on top of everything to provide a sense of warmth, and also to keep some of the track’s more squeal heavy guitar riffs under control some. There are points where it does feel like it plods along a bit though I won’t lie, but that’s kind of what you’re letting yourself into with this sort of thing a lot of the time I suppose. The vocals sit pretty squarely in the mid-tempo category, offering up some nice melodies and a few more impassioned moments throughout the track but never really reach to far towards the stick-shift to get themselves out of second gear. The choruses are decently catchy for this style of song and I think on the whole all of the members have a really solid showing of what they can do on a track like this. It’s all just still a little too middle of the road for me though and as the leading and title track for this release that does have me a bit worried about what’s about to come next.
Following on from that we have “Alexithymia”, which is the “inability to identify and describe emotions experienced by one’s self or others” as well as the title of the track here. A much more upbeat affair here right from the outset, with some pleasingly twangy guitar riffs setting the tone early on before being joined by a nice complimentary drumbeat which helped to add to the building party atmosphere…why is this song titled “Alexithymia” again? Anyway, the vocals also show off a decent amount of personality on this one too with lots of cheering, exaggerated voices and what have you sprinkled throughout the track. They do revert to type, in this group’s case being a bit dull and monotone at times, fairly often though but I don’t really know how to critique that if it’s just how the members sound when they’re singing normally. Put your back into it a bit more I guess? The mild layer of distortion also makes a return on this one, though in this instance I think it’s perhaps dampening everything down too much and taking a bit of the shine off of things. That said, if the goal was to tie things together in some loose sort of way then I guess it succeeded in doing so. A decent enough song on the whole with a bit more going for it than the previous track but I still can’t help but feel like I’m left wanting for things that I’m not sure this group can actually provide me with and that’s an interesting position to be in as a listener.
An interesting change in direction takes place on the EP’s third track “Youth Song”, which after warming up with some Alkaline Trio vibes transitions into what I can only best describe as something of a girl band J-Pop song. Not what I was expecting to hear out of this release or group in general so a pretty nice surprise here actually. You’ve got the nice, inoffensive Soft Rock instrumental going on, which is a pretty popular and very easy to listen to style, though the guitars do get given a little bit of room to express themselves a bit more vividly here and there throughout the track which was a nice touch I think. The vocals rise to the occasion quite admirably here too, with probably their best performance out of the tracks that we’ve heard so far which delivers a nice range of emotions as we work our way through the song. Again, a bit more intensity or urgency might not have gone amiss here but I don’t really know how much more I’m allowed to beat this dead horse before it becomes a boring topic of discussion. None of this makes “Youth Song” a bad song mind you, but it could make it a much more dynamic and better track than the still quite good one that we ended up with. Maybe I’m asking for just a bit too much, I’m not sure, but it’s just how I ended up feeling at the end of this one. It’s good but it could be so much better with just a little more put into it.
Moving into the back half of the EP things take a slightly different turn with “cry wanna” popping up to allow PARADISES the opportunity to take part in a genre that has been something of a growing trend in J-Pop over the last couple of years. I am of course talking Chill-Hop, Ambient Hip Hop, whatever you want to refer to it as that makes the most sense in your mind. To their credit they do lean a bit more towards a Pop sound here than other groups who just 100% commit to everything that the genre has to offer and I think the end result is probably a much more interesting song than we might have ended up with had PARADISES opted for a similar approach. Soft relaxing beats with a pretty bright mood pair really well with the somewhat airy tone that the vocals are taking on and a lot of the lyrics are rather catchy too, which makes for a pretty fun listening experience all told. The song’s title gets a decent amount of play here which is something that can either work really well or not at all for me but I’m happy to say that it’s definitely the former in this case. For better or worse they also have left a decent amount of the vocal tone untouched which I feel like also gave the song a bit more personality than the overly produced, very clean cut nature of a lot of similar tracks in this style. It does result in a couple of slightly rough spots along the way but on the whole it adds more than it takes away for me. Yeah, a pretty enjoyable song and probably my favorite off of this release so far.
“Kienai mono” is an interesting track in that I’m not even certain that it’s entirely sure just exactly what it’s trying to be. The vocals are definitely performed in a more Ballad sort of a style, largely saved from too much in the way of post production which gives them a rather natural and genuine quality I suppose. Nothing super mind blowing that you aren’t going to have heard before by any means but perfectly serviceable stuff that would have a decently broad appeal. The instrumental is where things start to get a bit interesting though in that yeah, there’s quite a bit going on at various different times throughout the track. You have a bit of a Jazz piano component that works its way into this pretty upbeat, often quirky sounding Indie Rock arrangement which I thought was pretty cool if not a little at odds with the tone of the vocals. Then you have more sweeping passages in a style that does compliment the more Ballad nature of the vocals and then sort of a mix of both as the track does rather well to seamlessly flow between both styles. On the one hand I commend PARADISES for trying to keep things interesting here but it does come kinda close to feeling like they might have been trying to be a bit too clever. I don’t think they ever cross that line necessarily but it is hard to shake the feeling that this track is maybe trying to be something that shouldn’t at times. Though they did get me to write all of this about what is essentially a Ballad so I suppose it worked out in the end huh?
Closing things out we have “visions” and in perhaps at this point rather predictable fashion we get something of a Ballad with a sentimental feel to it. That’s not quite the whole story of course, the instrumental does have a pretty strong Rock component to it but the overall tone of the track is just sort of one of those things that makes you go “Ah yeah, alright I guess”. Lots of distortion on the guitars to give this impression of greater depth or layers to the composition, burying some rather interesting melodies in the process and not really adding much in the way of anything besides a consistent tone you can hear pretty much anywhere you randomly choose to click on the timeline as the track is playing. If that works for you then great but it’s not really what I’m looking to hear at this point. Vocally things play out in a familiar WACK style when it comes to tracks like this which means you’re getting solid, natural sounding vocal performances but you also pretty much know what you’re going to get early on so not too many surprises in store here unfortunately. Nice clean low tones, rising several octaves as they dump emotion into the choruses where the track gets a bit more lively and expressive. Not a whole lot more to say about this one than that, you kinda know what you’re letting yourself in for and if that’s something you enjoy then great but if you’ve already had your fill then you’re probably not going to find yourself coming back around to this one too much in my opinion.
On the whole “PARADISES RETURN” is a pretty decent release with a couple of interesting tracks to take from the 6 on offer. It’s not really the triumphant return or hitting the ground running moment that I was personally hoping for but they haven’t completely laid an egg here either. I’m not really seeing a clear direction for where the group is heading musically right now and the fact that there are still so many clear WACK influences involved here from a songwriting perspective I think does limit things in some ways though that’s nothing new.
PARADISES find themselves in the same sort of guinea pig position that GANG PARADE were in a few years ago I think. It feels like WACK aren’t really sure what direction to take the group in so they’re throwing various things at the wall to see what sticks. The group could also do with maybe one more, stronger vocal to really flesh things out in that department and help to carry some of the trickier parts of songs that the current line-up clearly struggle with. That’s just my armchair assessment of things though, as it stands PARADISES I’m sure will enjoy decent success and we’re still a decent ways off of having another CARRY LOOSE on hands. For now anyway.