Friday, August 14, 2009
Album Review: Bring it!
Puffy’s first album in nearly two years, Bring it! mostly delivers an album I like… but as Jeff reviewed previously it is an album that I have to put a few qualifications and come to some similar conclusions, albeit via a different route.
Overall Bring it! is definitely structured more as a pop album (re a mishmash of musical stylings, ergo pop as in popular) rather than leaning towards rock which I would categorize honeycreeper and Splurge without hesitation.
While structured like earlier Puffy albums and after listening to Bring it! I am not convinced that Puffy can (or should) snap back to 1999. There are a lot of reasons for this, be it simply their voices changing over the years, song selection, change of musical support or simply whatever Ami and Yumi are interested in doing musically is now different.
One serious absence is any song by Tamio Okuda, whom I think writes the best Puffy songs and more importantly his songs get the best out of Ami and Yumi as performers. The synergy between the three is remarkable and only one song on Bring it! matches that kind of synergy.
For reference, here is the track list for Bring it! (also please note my Japanese is awful as I am not a speaker of the language, so generally speaking I judge lyrics often by sound and feel…)
1. I Don't Wanna (Lyrics & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
2. My Story (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
3. Bye Bye (Lyrics & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
4. My Hero! (Lyrics & Music: Roger Joseph Manning Jr.)
5. Shuen no Onna (Lyrics & Music: Sheena Ringo)
6. DOKI DOKI (Lyrics & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
7. Twilight Shooting Star! (Lyrics & Music: Sawao Yamanaka)
8. Hare Onna (Lyrics & Music: Kazuyoshi Saito)
9. All Because Of You (Lyrics & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
10. Anata to Watashi (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Yuta Saito)
11. Hiyori Hime (Lyrics & Music: Sheena Ringo)
12. Bring it on (Lyrics: Ami Onuki Music: Takeshi Hosomi)
13. Wedding Bell (Lyrics & Music: Yoshiaki Furuta)
My Story is flat out the best song on Bring it! and I cannot get enough of it. Ami and Yumi both deliver on the vocals and the instruments and engineering are tight. If there is one song that will survive the binges and purges of my mp3 rotation, this is the one. In some ways My Story captures the singing style of Puffy that I enjoy, when they harmonize and sing together. It may not sound like anything from Fever Fever, but it feels like it and more importantly brings it. (pardon the pun)
Of the two offerings by Butch Walker and Avril Lavinge, I Don’t Wanna is the better of the two. It is listenable but I would not call it a great song. All Because Of You on the other hand is really, really not a good song. I find it painful and soul crushing to listen to. From a Japanese perspective there are probably good reasons why a couple tracks credited to Avril Levinge would have popular and marketing appeal for Bring it!, but as an American music fan it makes me shake my head in disappointment. That said, my niece in Singapore loves Avril Lavigne and maybe I am being a grumpy old man telling Lavigne to get off my musical lawn…
The pair of songs by Sheena Ringo (however she chooses to spell it) Shuen no Onna and Hiyori Hime are decidedly better than the Walker and Levigne offerings. Shuen no Onna, to me, has a jazz and fifties vibe to it that I find pleasant and a nice change of pace song. Hiyori Hime is a song that took a while for me to enjoy, but to my surprise I have come to feel that way about it. I think there is still something missing and a it is a bit sloppy in the instruments, specifically the drumming and guitar work and the keyboards are a touch overwrought. Yet Hiyori Hime has a great flow to it with some very good up and down tempos. Jeff is spot on in that this probably is more Puffy performing a Sheena Ringo song rather than Sheena Ringo writing a Puffy song.
A song that feels out of place is Anata to Watashi and looking at the contributing artists for instruments… I have to wonder if this is a song that Puffy needed to clear off the shelves and fill out Bring it!... either way it is a bad song and mimics a sound by Puffy that is not amongst my favorites to begin with.
Wedding Bell was song that surprised me on Bring it!. After listening to the original I was concerned that this was not going to be a cover by Puffy I would particularly enjoy. I was wrong. As Jeff noted in his review, it does have a snap back to 1999 feel and an effortless one at that. Tempo wise, it would not have been a song that would have leapt out at me under most circumstances, but for whatever reason Wedding Bell works for me.
Boiling down the rest of Bring it!... My Hero is a decent but it is not a distinguishing effort. Twilight Shooting Star is a song I liked well enough, but I think the singing effort comes off a bit more rough than I would have liked. Doki Doki is another song that probably slides under the radar for many listeners it is a mish-mash sort of effort that I could see people not liking but to me it is different and sometimes I like an offbeat song. Bring it on is another mish-mash song with pop, rock and punk influences that I think is a fun listen but it does not exactly stick in my brain either. Hare Onna also has a snap back feel, but it is a song that feel is unpolished and incomplete, particularly in the chorus which to me is very muddled.
The cover for Bring it!, is not one I especially care for. I can see what the idea was, but I generally do not like heavily altered pictures... they creep me out. I am not sure what cover might have tied the album together, but this is not it. My wife’s comment after looking at the cover and flipping through the liner notes was they are trying too hard to look young. So far as the liner notes go, they had the usual information with imagery I did not care for.
Bring it! is an album that is listenable and on the balance I enjoyed it, but it is not a distinctive effort by Ami and Yumi either. Ami and Yumi both sing well on the album regardless of the song, but behind them the effort seems mixed. There might be a reason for that, but that is another blog.
For fans of Puffy, Bring it! is worth picking up, but it is not an album by I would suggest someone new to Ami and Yumi start with either. There are some very good songs on the album, and regardless of there being a few subpar tracks that cause that split distinction.
As a note, I will review the bonus concert DVD separately as I have not had a chance to watch it beyond a cursory viewing.