Thursday, November 29, 2007

honeycreeper vs. honeycreeper: first and second pressings compared

Japan gets all kinds of crazy bonuses with "first pressings" of CD's. Designed to entice you into buying on day one and driving chart position, these extras can be anything from trading cards to special packaging to full-length live DVD's or any combination thereof. PUFFY are no exception to this. They've done picture discs in the past, they've done trading cards, and now with honeycreeper, they've gone and changed the cover art. Above you see the first pressing on the left, second pressing on the right. Far superior photo on the left, don't you think? But wait, that's not all!

It's not just the front, but the back too:

There, I actually think the second pressing comes out slightly ahead, although both girls are cut off a bit.

The CD's themselves look exactly the same (and are), though the jewel case itself is slightly different (check the nub in the middle):

Probably no significance to this, though. It's not like Splurge, where the first pressing felt noticeably chunkier and better quality than the second.

With the different back cover art comes a different obi. The first press obi is a bit bigger:

Let's take a look at the insert. The first pressing included a special 26 page insert chock full of photos (it was advertised as 28 pages, but that apparently included the front and back cover). I wasn't sure what to expect from the second pressing, but while it did lose a few photos in the process of being cut down to 14 pages, they managed to squeeze in more than I would have expected. And the quality is, again, exactly the same.

Pages 1 and 2 (first pressing on top, second on bottom):

The photo there in the second pressing appears later on pages 5 and 6 of the first pressing. But in order to fit in the titles above, they had to do a pretty weird crop of it - what is Yumi looking at?

Pages 3 and 4:

Pages 5 and 6:

There's the photo from page 1 and 2 of the second pressing. This crop looks a lot more natural; Yumi's looking at a magazine.

Pages 7 and 8:

Pages 9 and 10:

Ah, here we have the first shot that the second pressing's going to lose. That shot of Yumi above is only in the first pressing booklet.

Pages 11 and 12:

Ditto for this shot of Ami.

Pages 13 and 14:

And here's where the second pressing booklet ends.

Pages 15 and 16:

Pages 17 and 18:

Pages 19 and 20:

Another shot cut from the second pressing.

Pages 21 and 22:

And another.

Pages 23 and 24:

And another.

Pages 25 and 26:

Back cover:

The back cover of the inserts are slightly different because it's just a continuation of the front cover artwork.

If you buy honeycreeper today, you're going to get a second pressing CD. It's the second pressing that was sold at their concerts in North America; I know because that's where mine came from. So, all you collectors out there, be on the lookout on the used market. This one's easy to spot because the front and back cover are so clearly different. I doubt first pressings of this disc will ever be really rare, although some may want to hold onto them because of those great photos.

No word yet on which cover or insert the 2008 US release will use. There are good arguments either way from a marketing standpoint. It's worth mentioning that most US PUFFY releases have had completely different (usually worse) inserts than their Japanese counterparts, though, with fewer pages and less color. Even 14 pages is a lot for a US CD release. Don't even count on the same cover artwork theme; it could change completely. (Don't count on them getting the same treatment as Tofu gave them.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

(Autographed) Honeysweeper Tour Merchandise In Hand!

The package has arrived. One official Honeysweeper tour t-shirt, one amiyumidas - HIT FUN t-shirt (autographed), and one honeycreeper CD (with autographed card).

Let's break it down. Details follow the jump!

Yes, that's the shirt I've mentioned in previous posts, now in the flesh. I was happy to see that it's "autographed in pen"... though I did not have a bad day, so I won't be selling Puffy's soul on Ebay. Either click through to the larger image or visit the link above for a better view of the autograph.

Incidentally, I was surprised they were selling this shirt on this tour - it's an album old. Maybe they were just clearing out old stock. Supposedly they had it in large size in Vancouver, but only M and S by the time they made it to Anaheim. Doesn't seem like a new run was printed.

Here's the honeycreeper CD with autographed card (a little worse for wear from the trip to the east coast):

I gotta admit, while I would have preferred an actual signed CD insert (like they did with Splurge last year), it's pretty neat how big this card thing is. And it's like it was made for autograph signing; it's just a white card with the record label's name on top. I've never seen a Puffy autograph this big before.

That's a second printing CD with a different front and back cover than the first, and most likely a different insert. I'm debating whether to do a post comparing the two print runs; I probably will, but I haven't been able to bring myself to open this one yet.

The official Honeysweeper tour t-shirt:

Kinda "eh", really. I was hoping to get one of the Ami-designed "Puffy the Monster" shirts, but goddammit, they didn't bring any to North America. I do like minimalist t-shirt designs that don't scream out the name of the band, so I like this shirt in that regard. But it's just a little too much plain grey. I liked their 2005 tour shirts the best - they were obtuse enough to make someone wonder "what's that for?" and of course, a big-ass kanji on the back makes any shirt look cool in the US. The 2005 shirts were also customized for each leg of the tour.

Here's the back of the Honeysweeper shirt:

I like the back better than the front. It's a pretty cool lyric out of context. I do wish it was a little easier to read. They had plenty more room to use here. I guess it was a design choice.

I'm a little disappointed in the shirt's quality:

Brand-spankin' new and already the lettering's cracking. Well, looks like I'll be wearing this thing once and then putting it away for safe keeping.

A few details on the rest of the shirt... the city list on the back bottom (click the image for a larger view):

The honeycreeper bird on the front:

That kinda makes me laugh.

The little badge on the bottom right (the shirt-wearer's right):

Yes, if you're a member of the forums, you know I think Puffy are not an "issues" band. But one thing I will cop to them being at least indirectly involved in is the "green" movement. I don't know if they actually do anything other than produce merchandise (which is hardly carbon-neutral), but this is not the first thing they've put out there to try to raise awareness and promote the issue.

And lastly, the only other bit of Puffy branding anywhere on the shirt (besides the tiny little city list) - the right sleeve badge:

Clearly, this is a band secure in their position in the world. Nobody's even gonna see that unless you specifically show it to them.

I do wonder what the symbol is supposed to mean.

Well, that's about it! Thanks one more time to Alkulp for picking all this up. I think I made out pretty good considering Puffy didn't have a concert within 2,500 miles of me!

Butch Walker's Malibu House has Burned Down

One of my Blogger friends Misty Beethoven sent me this, thinking Puffy fans would be interested:

Malibu Fires Hit Home of Butch Walker

Butch Walker and his family have fallen victim to the wildfires spread by the Santa Ana winds across Malibu, CA. On November 24th a family friend was forced to evacuate the singer, songwriter and producer's Malibu home, which was being rented from Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea, due to the rapidly spreading fire. Walker was in New York City at the time on tour.

Says Walker "I had just consolidated my entire recording studio and house from Atlanta into the one house In Malibu. I lost everything I've ever owned. Every master of every song I've ever recorded, every piece of recording equipment, guitars, drums and things I've collected over the years, cars, motorcycles, every family memorial, heirloom, picture, and document we ever had.... Gone. I feel like I finally know the difference between 'going back' and 'going home'."

Walker and his family request privacy during this painful time.

You should, of course, know Butch Walker as the writer and producer of PUFFY's songs "Closet Full of Love", "Ain't Gonna Cut It", "Call Me What You Like (if you like rock 'n' roll)" and "Radio Tokyo". Definitely a sad day, although thankfully neither Walker nor his family were hurt.

Most news reports are calling this a "house owned by Flea" or just "Flea's house", and before today, the impression I was under was that Flea lived there. It's sad whoever actually occupied the house, of course, but now knowing that it's Walker just adds some relevance for PUFFY fans. Here's hoping Butch and family can get through this and rebuild.

Monday, November 26, 2007

PUFFY no otoriyose chan

Does everybody out there know about this? I keep forgetting to mention it here. It's been going on for a while now, but it's still being updated, with a new video of Ami and Yumi going up just today.

I honestly have no idea what the heck it is. I believe they are tasting food and then rating it for some reason. They look quite bored. But hey! New PUFFY video.

You may ask how I come across these things that I have no idea what they are, from a land that's far, far away and written in a language I don't fully understand. And the answer is, they find me!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Closet Full of Love PV!

The "Closet Full of Love" promotional video that we've all been waiting for:

Were you in it?

Happy (late) Thanksgiving!

My American visitors probably understand why it's been a few days since my last update, and might still be a day or two before my next. For my visitors from Japan and elsewhere, it's Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States. That means a whole lot of cooking, a whole lot of eating, and a whole lot of family fun (and stress!) followed by a mad dash to the start of the Christmas shopping season.

In the spirit of the holiday, here's Puffy at the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, though I imagine most of you have seen it. Maybe I'll just post it this time every year :)

I'll be back with some updates within the next day or two. We'll see what kind of PUFFY news accumulates in the meantime...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A little backstory on the autographed shirt

I wanted to just give a little more info on the autographed shirt that Alkulp - one of this blog's readers and a contributor to the forums - picked up for me during PUFFY's west coast tour. Here's the shirt again:

The best part of the story is that he got to meet the girls. Congrats, man! And thanks for asking them to sign the shirt for me. He understandably wants to keep some of the details of that meeting to himself, so I'll respect that.

He actually had two chances at this, though, which is a funny little piece of trivia. He met Kaz at the Key Club two nights before, but I had already told him not to buy a shirt because the sizes they had (small and medium) wouldn't fit me. He bought one anyway at the next show, hoping to get it signed for me, and lo and behold he got lucky. He also made sure that Ami and Yumi knew who it was for. Definitely one persistent dude.

Thanks again, Alkulp! You've made us all jealous, although an autographed shirt (and CD!) was more than I could have hoped for from a tour coming nowhere near me.

Honeysweeper Video from North America

The quality sucks, but this is the first and only video I've seen from the North American Honeysweeper tour. Taken at Richard's on Richards in Vancouver:

Any others out there that you've seen?

DVD Review - CLIPS

2000 was a busy year for PUFFY - they practically packed an average band's career into the span of twelve months. Three (count 'em) DVD's in support of JET, one concert DVD in support of FEVER FEVER, a greatest hits collection (The Very Best of Puffy/amiyumi jet fever), two new singles, and an all-new album release (Spike). Oh, and this: Clips, a DVD compiling their promotional videos from the JET, FEVER FEVER and pre-Spike era. Whew!

As you can guess by how early some of these videos are, this DVD is fun. It's pretty short - only seven videos total, interspersed with footage from PUFFY's live introduction to American audiences at SXSW2000 - but these are some of the funniest, strangest, and most endearing videos they've made to date. Well, right up until "Umi Eto", anyway - when you can almost sense a change in attitude (or at least a change in image).

Here's the track list:

1. PRMX - a remix compilation video
2. Tararan
3. Puffy de Rumba
4. Nichiyobi no Musume
5. Yume no Tameni
6. Ai de Tsuon Min
7. Umi Eto

All of those romanizations were taken directly from the DVD menu, so I'm not being pretentious for spelling "Tararan" that way or stupid for leaving the "u" out of "Nichiyobi". Oh, and what is track 6? Why, it's the Mandarin Chinese version of "Ai no Shirushi", of course. They not only sang it in Chinese, they made the video in Chinese too - with Japanese subtitles. I confess I'd never seen most of these PV's - or even knew they existed! - before buying Clips. Hey, gimme a break; I'm an American. We're a little slow when it comes to PUFFY.

To be honest, it's almost criminal how much Sony charged for this DVD when it launched. ¥4,305, or about $40 US - for about 30 minutes worth of footage. That's $1.25 per minute! Only a record label with a band as popular as PUFFY at that time could get away with this. All of PUFFY's other 2000 releases were priced similarly, and even with one major release about every two months, people still bought them.

Nowadays, if you can find it on the used market, Clips is one of the cheaper PUFFY discs out there. I paid around $15 for mine on Yahoo Auctions, and that was probably too much. You can get it for less (if you're in Japan). You can also very, very occasionally find it on Ebay. Of course, you can also just go and watch all the videos on YouTube, but then where's the satisfaction in that? Ok, be my guest, I know you want to look - but if you're like me, you enjoy actually owning these collections, and even more, you enjoy the much better picture quality of a DVD.

Because there's no real way to cohesively review a clip collection, I'm gonna do what I did with Fun Clips Fun Club and just go track by track.

Well, that's a disturbing image to lead off with, isn't it! This video can see the future, and it ain't pretty. (No offense to those two actresses, whoever they are.)

Most of this video is stuff we've seen before, remixed just like the music. It's a compilation of songs from PUFFY's past designed to evoke nostalgia (or to milk a few bucks out of the same songs a second time around) while being updated just enough to sound new. The visuals are taken straight out of the videos for the songs being remixed, with new effects added and new editing. Remixed songs include "Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi", "Electric Beach Fever", "Ajia no Junshin" and one other that I'm forgetting right now. It's actually all kinda forgettable, really.

This song has always been one of my guilty pleasures - it's a little too cutesy for me to play in public, but I've always loved Andy Sturmer's melodies in this, and I love the way the girls sing it. The video is almost syrupy sweet, but it's irresistible. It's definitely girly. There's a whole lot of choreography. There are Rodney Alan Greenblat animated caricatures dancing along with Ami and Yumi. No, I would not put this on during halftime of a football game I was watching with my friends. I don't liked to get laughed at. But I love this video.

Puffy de Rumba
This video, even as strange and funny as it is, was kind of a new direction. It features Ami and Yumi singing in the middle of a forest, complete with backup dancers and... Jimi Hendrix?! Or at least, an actor playing him (convincingly, I might add - Olympic White left-handed stratocaster and all).

At one point, Hendrix somehow falls unconscious in a stream in the forest, only to be revived by Ami and Yumi's feeding him an honest-to-god magic mushroom. This obvious bit of illicit drug peddling is not even disguised - he immediately begins hallucinating.

And look at the girls. They look noticeably more mature than they did in "Tararan" - they look like girls in their twenties, not like the teenagers they had intentionally been evoking earlier on. In fact, they look pretty similar here to how they look now. This was probably the first "adult themed" video that they made, and they'd sort of alternate back and forth between styles from then on.

Nichiyobi no Musume
PUFFY play petty criminals in this one, and it's hilarious. One problem: the video kind of blows its load in the first shot, which is the funniest of all. It's pictured above - Ami and Yumi steal this little kid's big-wheel. That's funny enough, but his reaction - which seems to be genuine - is priceless. He runs towards the camera, screaming in anguish at the top of his lungs (or so I imagine).

The rest of the video sees PUFFY get chased by the cops for stealing their bicycles and other random harmless little crimes. I have to mention the afro's being sported by Ami and Yumi - this was probably the start of their hairstyle experimentation. And it's the only time I've ever seen them with this one.

Yume no Tameni
This is one of my favorite songs from Fever Fever, and I never even realized it was a single before buying this DVD. (Hell, I probably own it - I've never listened to half my early CD singles, and don't even remember what I have.) You really get two videos in one with this song, as it's split half and half between clips from an outdoor performance of the song and stylized, choreographed and neon-lit pseudo-nightclub scenes. The performance clips are very high-energy, especially considering that the song is actually pretty laid-back and early Beatles-esque. But I guess the Beatles had their fair share of wild crowds too, especially in the early years with their kinda mellow brand of boy-band rock.

The other half of the video features Ami and Yumi dancing around, along with a couple of "guests" that include some western chick dressed up like a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader (ok, maybe I'm not remember this quite right) and the same dude who played Jimi Hendrix in "Puffy de Rumba". I guess they liked him.

Ai de Tsuon Min
Not real sure of the backstory behind this one - feel free to chime in with a comment if there's some nugget of info that I'm missing. Basically, this is "Ai no Shirushi" in Chinese. Seems most likely that Puffy are, or would like to be, popular in China and were throwing their fans there a bone with this song. They've always wanted to be a global band, and they're no stranger to singing in a foreign language. I wonder how they managed to get the pronunciations down without actually knowing Mandarin - though for all I know, their Chinese is unintelligible.

The video itself is intended to give a little taste of their Fever Fever tour. It features some strategically interspliced clips from actual live shows combined with shots of Ami and Yumi replicating the live experience on a studio stage. There's a lot of handclapping to the beat going on. This has never been one of my favorite PUFFY songs - it's got too much of a "George of the Jungle" feel to it. But the girls are cute, in the way they were in those early days.

Umi Eto
This video's a brand new bag. The song itself is one of their harder and punkier songs, and it's off the album I've always considered their transition into a more adult sound. The visuals are split in half between clips of their performance of this song at SXSW 2000 and shots of Ami and Yumi looking positively dour as they wander around Tokyo in pant suits that were obviously inspired by 1970's London punk fashion. I don't think they crack a smile once in these sequences. A definite sign of what was to come over the next few years as they remade themselves into a grown-up band. Hey, when you're approaching 30, it's tough to keep up the teeny-bopper act... though they'd resurrect it later for "Hi Hi".

Like with Fun Clips Fun Club, it's pretty interesting to see the progression from the start of this compilation to the end. Whereas that DVD had them moving from indie rock into a more corporate pop punk look and sound, Clips shows their progression from a couple of cutesy girls in a pop act to a serious hard rock band. Even the clips before "Umi Eto" include scenes and themes that show the direction they were quickly moving in.

There's also just a huge amount of choreography here - I gotta say that while I've seen them dance plenty of times before, I never realized how pervasive it was in their act in those early days. Literally every early single had its own dance, most of them pretty damn complex, and they're all in that sort of goofy style that may or may not be ironic. It's fun to watch, but maybe a little overdone. I think I actually prefer their modern incarnation, where they pull out the choreography sparingly, and where it's definitely at least half-ironic when they do.

As for the SXSW footage, it's interspersed in between each video and is purposely cut short so you never get a full song - until "Umi Eto". I'm not sure if they were a little shy about this performance (it was their first in the United States, and they look understandably nervous), or if they weren't too happy with the cramped, close-in footage or what, but the clips of this show cut in and out seemingly at random. They're still some nice little extras.

Like all PUFFY DVD's, this DVD is region 2 and will not work on unmodified US players. It's also a 4:3, non-widescreen DVD. The picture quality is good, considering the original standard-def source material.

Ah, who am I kidding? Here's one video, have fun searching for the rest.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Asia no Junshin - by GIGANTOR

I've got a family-size review post of the Clips DVD nearing completion, but until then, have fun watching this:

Man, some of the commenters on YouTube have no sense of irony. I think it makes for a pretty good punk song.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Unexpected good fortune!

I don't want to steal a certain person's thunder - I will talk a little about this after he has the chance to spill the details himself. But I can't just keep this a secret!

Yes, that's signed, and yes, it's mine :)

(Or it will be soon, anyway.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Destruction PANCAKE!

I'm posting this not because it has any particular relevance to the moment, but because it's awesome.

This video clip was previously missing from anywhere that I could find on the net. (Ok, the extent of my search basically consisted of YouTube.) Here is Ami singing (and playing!) her song "Destruction Pancake":

Ami wrote both the lyrics and the music to this song. She sang it and played it both on the album Spike and live. You know, like a real solo artist. It is totally her song. If Puffy were ever to part ways, this is probably what Ami's solo music would sound like.

Actually, I've watched this clip closely and I'm not convinced her guitar is even hooked up to anything. Her strumming doesn't always match the audio. But it still looks damn cool. I love how she plays all the way up on the neck. Terrible technique!

I can at least confirm that she is playing real chords. Whether her guitar is hooked up or not, she's not faking it, she's playing the song. A lot of Americans don't realize the girls can play guitar at all - they're not great guitarists, but they do play occasionally on the albums and they have played live. Just not in America.

The guitar she's playing through most of the clip is a Fender Mustang. The guitar she's playing in the cutaways to the Shibuya show (and that she plays through most of Spike Daisakusen until she breaks a string) is a Fender Jag-Stang, which seemed to be her preferred guitar at that time. Both of these guitars were made popular by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who Ami idolized. Before Kurt (and even after), the Mustang was considered Fender's "student model". Kurt used one because it was cheap, and Nirvana started out as a poor indie band.

He also used a Fender Jaguar that he had heavily modified, also because they were cheap at that time. A bit before his death, Kurt had written out a specification on a paper napkin for a prototype guitar that he called the "Jag-Stang" because it was a combination of a Mustang and Jaguar. The Jag-Stang was similar to the Mustang but with an extended body for comfort, an upper horn like the Jaguar and the addition of a humbucking pickup in the bridge position for more tonal variations.

This guitar only ever made it into production in Japan, and Ami played one.

Incidentally, the Jag-Stang was considered a failure as a guitar design, sort of a Frankenstein's monster with parts that didn't quite match. It was discontinued pretty soon after launch, and Fender went back to the drawing board. The follow-up to the Jag-Stang was called the Fender Cyclone, and it's this guitar that would help make Kimura Kaela famous:

This guitar kept the humbucker from the Jag-Stang but returned to a more Mustang-style shape, with a thicker body made from a different kind of wood and a slightly longer neck. Kaela was probably the most famous artist ever to use this guitar, and it again was discontinued fairly quickly despite a good reputation. Without a famous American artist playing one, it never caught on with the public in either Japan or the US.

By the way, all of these guitars - Mustang, Jaguar, Jag-Stang, Cyclone - are part of Fender's patented "offset" guitar line, meaning they have offset body cutouts that have the effect of sliding the whole guitar down a bit while you're sitting. Makes it more comfortable to play that way. That line also includes the Jazzmaster, and there's a big fan community now that's gathered around them. They are almost all very different in both sound and feel than the standard Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls that a lot of bands play (including PUFFY's own guitarists). Offset guitars are often associated with grunge and alternative music these days, although Fender originally intended them as jazz and surf music guitars. (Jazz is often played sitting down.)

As for Ami and Yumi, neither of them, to my knowledge, have played guitar on stage after the Spike tour. And Ami has never played "Destruction Pancake" since then either, with or without a guitar in hand.

Ami still plays on her own, though, and she's also a big fan of Gretsch guitars. She owns a Brian Setzer model that she had signed by Setzer himself. (For those who don't know him, Setzer led the rockabilly band The Stray Cats as well as the Brian Setzer Orchestra.)

Image courtesy of PMJ2

She may or may not also own a Gretsch White Falcon, which she's been pictured with (may just be a prop, but it seems coincidental, and it would be an expensive prop). I'm not sure if Yumi still even plays, but she's also been pictured with a candy apple red Fender Jaguar more than once - again, a guitar that Kurt Cobain played (among many other famous artists).

Yumi has also owned a Rickenbacker guitar in the distant past, although I'm not sure of the model. I think it's a Rickenbacker 340. This was the guitar she played in the "Mother" video, and also on the Jet tour:

Ami is playing a solid-body Gretsch (or a good copy).

Anyway, I've gone way off on a tangent here - I really just wanted to post that "Destruction Pancake" clip! Well, I hope this has been at least somewhat interesting.

Honeysweeper Tour Merchandise Up Close

Courtesy of Cerahbes, who attended the Vancouver show, and posted with permission, here are a couple pics of some of the tour merchandise that's available in North America:

Nice to see a closeup of the way they're handling autographs this time. (Also note the second printing Japanese CD.)

Unfortunately, he also said there were no "PUFFY the Monster" t-shirts available at all at this gig. Not sure if this has been true everywhere - hope not. It would really suck if they just "forgot" to bring any of these with them to North America.

Oh, incidentally, Ami has been posting some of her blog posts about the tour - in English - to their MySpace page. These are also appearing on Amigator in Japanese, but somebody's translating them - and my guess is she's doing it herself, given that they seem to be written from the start for American readers. The last one is quite long and was posted just this morning - check it out. One downer - she says she doesn't know when they'll be back to the US. Sucks for us back east who were still hoping for a quick return! (Maybe after the album's US release?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Puffy Walkman CM and Ad Campaign

Ladies and gentlemen, Puffy's "Closet Full of Love" Walkman TV CM (or "ad" as we in the States call it):

Just as cool, Sony's posted six new print ads starring Puffy on their web site here. Here's a sample - hit the link for the rest.

Ah, to be a slave to your record label!

Lest you think these are being banished to the nether-regions of the advertising underworld, here are a couple shots a user on Mixi named バニー took at Akihabara station:

If you're a member, the original thread where these appeared can be found here.