Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hi Hi Puffy Bu

Seems like I didn't miss much during my focus on the Olympics - at least, not much that seems worth writing about 2 weeks later, anyway. Things are pretty quiet while Puffy are in the recording studio, and they're really keeping everything close to the vest this time. They're not always quite so secretive. Wonder if that means anything.

Anyway, until there's something else to talk about, enjoy this episode of "Hi Hi Puffy Bu", Puffy's Asahi TV show from a year or two ago, if you haven't seen it already. These episodes are not easy to find online and haven't been really since the show was on - so I thought I'd post at least this one for those of you who missed it (it's nice quality too! The only episode I have like this). Watch it while it lasts. (Those reading via RSS, this is a Veoh video and they don't embed well in RSS readers. Come to the blog itself.)

By the way, my wife, who loves Yumi, tells me she sounds really "urban" in this video. Even moreso than she usually does. Actually, "urban" is not the word she used, but that's about the nicest way I can put it :) Like an American with a thick Brooklyn accent. Any of you native speakers agree?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Excite Music Interview

I know, I've been a little slow to update this month with the exception of the "My Story" news and reviews. Part of it's just that it's still summer - I'm a little bit checked out in general, and now's about the time when I start to get depressed about the coming cold weather. I've also been just obsessed with the Olympics the last two weeks - it seems like I've been doing nothing else but watch them. But that's over now... (sniff).

Anyway, one bit of news that I missed a week or two ago is this new Excite Music interview with Puffy - they did one a while back after "All Because of You" and it seems that they've updated with a new one. It's quite long. For you English speakers, check out the Google translation, which is hilariously incoherent. Maybe one of the other services does a better job.

btw, that pic above is totally random - Excite just didn't have a photo to go with the interview. Have you all seen Puffy modeling kimono for KIE? Probably most of you have - it's a couple years old.

I'll check around and see what else my focus on tabletop games and pseudo-sports over the past 16 days has led me to miss.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2000+8 J-Wave Live

I was kind of on the fence about whether or not this was worth posting, but I've got to kill a little time - I've got a post in the works that I think is gonna be worth waiting for. As they say at my office, I'm in the "asset gathering" stage right now.

Anyway, on August 16th, Puffy played the 2000+8 J-Wave Live concert that they've been doing the last few years as part of their summer festival circuit. Not a lot of pics out there from the show (this one plus one more at the official site), but I've found one good and long show report focused mainly on them, and of course the pretty short and bog-standard set list:
  • Basket Case
  • Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Etc.
  • My Story
  • Kore ga watashi no ikiru michi
  • Boogie Woogie No. 5
  • Tokyo I'm On My Way
  • Asia no Junshin

They say via their various blogs that the festival circuit is now basically over and they're back to recording again. Can't come soon enough! I'm hoping for a real tour again sometime in the near future.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Story "Live"

These are a little old now, but I hadn't posted 'em yet so I may as well.

Japanese music shows are really starting to suck. I don't remember them going so heavy on the pre-recorded instrumentation and the backing tracks 7 or 8 years ago. The band may as well not even be there. And cutting a four minute song down to two minutes?? That's a low blow. This is Music Japan, and this barely qualifies as "live":

Another one - from The M:

Blah. It's not Puffy's fault, though - I want to hear them play it for real.

Friday, August 8, 2008

"My Story" Ltd. Ed. Single Review

Now this is a PUFFY single. I was a little worried after "All Because of You" that they'd gone off the rails in a whole new direction dominated by drum machines and software-modified vocals. But they're back to basics here with two guitar tracks that would have fit like a glove on pretty much any PUFFY album this side of Spike.

The track listing:

1. My Story (words: PUFFY music/production: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
2. Twilight Shooting Star (words/music: Sawao Yamanaka arrangement: Kenji Ueda)
3. All Because of You (DISCO TWINS Remix)

Bonus DVD - Live at Shibuya AX
1. Sayonara Summer
2. Oriental Diamond
3. Akai Buranko
4. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.

The CD
You've probably seen the video for the title track (and if not, it's below) so there's not a lot I can tell you that you don't already know. But I love the song, and I haven't been a huge fan of Hellgren and Myhr's PUFFY songs to this point (from what I remember, that includes boom boom beat and Oto Memoriaru). I felt they were missing something; they sounded a little too formulaic, almost machine-made, and "boom boom beat", at least, was almost tuneless to my ears. Definitely not one of my favorite PUFFY songs.

I wouldn't say this one is either yet, but it definitely sounds like a real PUFFY track, and in fact it reminds me a lot of the Andy Sturmer era. In fact, in some ways it reminds me specifically of "Akai Buranko" - something about the chord progression during the chorus, and the production and construction of the song. That's one of the highest compliments I could pay - "Akai Buranko" is one of my favorite PUFFY songs.

I've been assured also that the lyrics do not sound ridiculous to a Japanese person. So, there's that too, I guess.

The "b-side" (do people still call them that in the digital era?), written by the pillows' Sawao Yamanaka, is fine... I'd say perfectly adequate... but it doesn't have the soaring quality of "My Story". It's a pretty straightforward, somewhat lighter song that harkens back to earlier PUFFY. It also reminds me of a specific song: "Green Apple", another of my favorites, this one from Spike. "Green Apple" takes some more unexpected twists and turns, and it's got more of a cuteness to it than "Twilight Shooting Star", but they somehow seem to end up in the same place at the end of the chorus. And the way the girls sing it sounds very similar - it makes me feel like we're back to 2000 all over again.

As for the "All Because of You" remix... well, the kindest thing I can say is that it sounds nothing like the original. It seems a little early to be getting remixes of this track to begin with, but no doubt they just needed a bit of filler to jack the track listing up by 50%. It's not a track I'm planning to listen to much.

What I was most excited about on the new single was four more live tracks on Volume 2 of the Shibuya AX show DVD. I really love this marketing plan they came up with for this series of releases - it seems like in the end we're going to end up with what amounts to a full live DVD for a total premium over the regular editions of about six bucks. That's amazing.

The four tracks on this volume include two new songs (from honeycreeper) and two classics. It's interesting to watch the girls' body language during the songs, which might be a good indicator of which are their favorites. ("Sayonara Summer" doesn't seem to be one of them.) I'm a huge Yumi fan but I'm still just transfixed by Ami on this DVD, like I was on the earlier volume from the same show. She really seems to be dredging up some dark thoughts from deep inside her soul during parts of this show - and she stares dead-on at the camera much of the time. I think it's beautiful. I never thought I'd be talking about Ami's penetrating gaze, but just look at this:

She's got me hypnotized. That's from two separate songs, by the way. She's literally standing there, singing to the camera. Very weird... but I can't look away. She must have been in some kind of a mood that night.

They come alive during "Oriental Diamond", which they really seem to enjoy. And they sing it well - I'm always amazed at how precise their singing is live these days, even when jumping around. It seems like more often than not, they sound better live than they do on their albums.

This show seemed a little more stripped-down than some of theirs that I've seen from Japan (it's definitely not as complex of a stage show as the 10th anniversary concert on Tour! Puffy! Tour! 10), but they did get a video screen going during "Oriental Diamond".

Their rendition of "Akai Buranko", a song that often seems to give them fits when singing live, is probably the best I've ever heard it on this DVD. This must be a hard song to sing - they're often out of tune with each other, and they always sound exhausted by the end of it, but not here. As usual, the song is lit completely in red. ("Red Swing" - get it?)

If I never see PUFFY in person again (which will be a tragedy in itself), one of my big regrets is that I never got to see them play "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc." live. They didn't play it at either show I went to - in fact, they cut it out of my show specifically in 2006. They played it everywhere else on that tour.

This song was obviously part of their early shows, and now serves as an anchor, usually near the open or close of the show. And it serves as the audience participation song, with Ami and Yumi letting the crowd sing some of the choruses. More importantly, they really have fun singing it - it's obvious that they're in no way sick of this song. They love it. And that always makes it fun to watch.

One more photo - the hair brigade:

As for this:

One of these was also included with the "All Because of You" limited edition DVD. It's telling you that there's going to be a lottery for a special autographed case after all three volumes of the live DVD are out - you just need to send in your proof of purchase for all three CD's. Not sure if it's open to US residents, but probably not. I've got a Japanese address that I can use, so I'll probably go for it. The form to mail in is going to be included with the next CD. (And it doesn't say "single" or "album", just "CD". But my guess is it'll be an album, given the rest of what we've been hearing.)

Final grades:
Music: A-
Performance: A
Production: A

Here's the video for "My Story" if you haven't seen it:

Cartoon KAT-TUN with guests PUFFY

As I write up some thoughts on "My Story", wile away the hours with this - PUFFY on Cartoon KAT-TUN a couple of days ago:

Haven't even watched it all the way through myself! Hopefully there's nothing untoward in there.

Ami could use a haircut.

UPDATE! This appearance is getting a lot of blog and BBS mentions around the net. Is this show popular? I really don't know much about it. Hopefully it'll help them sell some records.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"My Story" is Mine

It has arrived.

The CD:

The Limited Edition DVD:

I'll explain what this is below tomorrow - Japanese readers can just read it!

I've listened to the CD and I've watched the DVD. I won't say more than that yet, except to say that the DVD *killed* me. Every time I see them live, and I mean really live (not fake live like on a Japanese TV show), I remember why I love them. And it's always like seeing them for the first time.

Incidentally, no additional photos inside. Waddya want? It's a single.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"My Story" Release Day

Today is August 6th, which of course is the release date of Puffy's latest single "My Story". I'm waiting for my copy in the mail - it shipped by EMS yesterday, so should be here within the next couple days. You'll see a full review shortly thereafter, though with only two original songs, it's probably not going to be a long one. I'm actually most interested in Volume 2 of the Shibuya AX live DVD (still available with the limited edition! Hurry!), and I'll have some screen grabs of that as well.

Incidentally, I'm actually not sure how long this has been up there, but you can now take a listen to a sample from the single's b-side "Twilight Shooting Star" on this page of Puffy's official site. Hard for me to judge what I think of it - I'll wait to post my thoughts for the review.

For those of you that have the single already, what do you think?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Puffy at Rock in Japan Festival 2008

It's summer, and that means one thing for Japanese musicians: time to hit the festival circuit.

Puffy's a mainstay at ROCK IN JAPAN - they've been there at least the last four or five years straight (if not more). This year's festival was held August 1-3, with Puffy appearing on the Lake Stage. I haven't seen too many blog or other reports around the net that really talk much about Puffy, but I did at least find a set list. English and/or romanized below:

01.Basket Case
02.Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.
03.Hi Hi
04.boom boom beat
05.Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi
06.My Story
07.Boogie Woogie No. 5
08.Tokyo I'm On My Way
09.Asia no Junshin

Pretty standard stuff, at least compared with the recent All Because of Live tour.

Just a personal anecdote here: I don't know how many of you have been to a big music festival like this, but it sucks. You spend hours standing in the heat waiting for the one band you want to see, then they only play 9 songs and you're done. And since by definition most of the crowd is there to see somebody else, it seems like nobody's even paying attention when the band you like is on. It's just a terrible atmosphere.

Things might be a little different in Japan than they are here, and I've only been to American festivals. But the footage I've seen from Japanese festivals looks the same. It's just no fun, even if you like a few of the bands that are playing. The crowd never gets into it, the bands themselves are rarely all that into it, and there's no connection between the band and audience.

Last year when we went to Japan, we knew we were going to miss either Puffy or Kaela or both (I don't remember anymore) at some show by like 3 days. We actually thought about adjusting our schedule so we could go, but then realized it was a festival show. We kept our original schedule and didn't regret it.