In light of today’s delay let’s just SPEED UP TIME…
Patrick St. Michel: Imperfection is one of the most important aspects of contemporary Japanese pop music. The thinking is you’ll be drawn to a young member of an idol group, one who starts out not being a particularly good singer or dancer, and stick with them as they slowly get better. You’ll show your unwavering support by buying multiple copies of CD singles and voting in elections that end up more popular than ones held for government bodies. Denpagumi.inc subscribe to this idea — just listen to how they sing — but they are one of the few J-pop groups where every song sounds like it’s seconds away from disintegrating. “Den Den Passion” sums them up perfectly, a hyperactive number where the most shocking moment comes when they allow a few seconds of silence to catch their breath. Yet it works, the bleating arcade-worthy synths coexisting with the guitars and the group’s hot-potato singing. It’s chaotic and nerdy — AKB48 might be based in Akihabara, but Denpagumi.inc ARE Akihabara manifest into human form. And unlike a lot of pop from anywhere in the world, it’s allowed to be as frantic as it wants to be. (I’d be remiss at this point not to direct you towards Denpagumi.inc’s cover of The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” my favorite cover version of a song ever and maybe one of my favorite things to ever exist.)
Alfred Soto: What’s this — an Alvin and the Chipmunks record set on 45 rpm? Upped a point for the percussive breaks.
Katherine St Asaph: If you slow this down, does Calvin Harris appear?
Jake Cleland: Part glitchy Game Boy sugar rush (Anamanaguchi fans should have no problems here), part reminds-me-of-a-pitch-shifted-version of-the-power-metal-I-used-to-listen-to-in-high-school. After binging on AKB48, it’s relieving to see and hear something so chaotic — but just how choreographed it really is might not be so easy to discern. As Patrick wrote in The Japan Times, “few groups have been as predictable as Dempagumi.inc,” so it’s not unthinkable that they’re an experiment in letting out the leash. But their hyperactive sonic blasts are immediately distinguishable from all their contemporaries. This is power-up music.
Crystal Leww: This could easily be the power-up music in a video game. I still don’t get video game music.
Brad Shoup: It’s like that thing where the cartoon talks faster and faster until its head blows off its neck.
Anthony Easton: There is this sparkle fade around 3:49 that is a perfect sound — maybe an extension of the artifice and ornamentation that marks this genre, but at the edge of the piece, which is split in two. It is incredibly clever.
Iain Mew: I’d call this Dance Dance Revolutioncore, except that only the incredible hyperspeed adrenaline rush chorus seems built for furious foot movement above all else. Elsewhere there’s a multitude of hooks, a demonstration that cutesy idol vocals can be exaggerated to the point where they sound as viciously spat as any metal, and a successful attempt to apply album secret track mechanics to the single that would be as likely to derail any dance as to offer a breather. The more more more is more approach to pop that some Japanese acts are taking may yet prove to have limits, but this doesn’t hit any.
Scott Mildenhall: Oh blimey.