I don’t want to run out of things to discover when it comes to my new favourite J-pop band Perfume, but after going to their gig in London, I immediately wanted to hear any other music I could find beyond their three studio albums. Fortunately, they have treated the fans well, and three compilation albums have been released. There is some overlap here, so for now I will start with a nice manageable piece.
Released shortly before their 2008 debut studio album “Game“, “Fan Service ~ Prima Box” compiles together three singles released in the band’s early days in 2003 & 2004. Four of the tracks had already had a re-release as part of the “Perfume: Complete Best” album in the previous year, but I thought doing it this way would split the 16 collective tracks neatly in half.
10 Sweet Donuts – OMG this is the cutest thing ever isn’t it? Adorable bit-pop energy straight out of a computer game, and a gorgeous light little melody. Who doesn’t love sweet donuts? Totally cute and optimistic, it’s a million miles a way from the – at times – too serious exterior of “Game”. I love this so much, and at only 3 minutes long, I can’t resist one more bite.
08 Secret message – I love this retro sound they started out with, and it doesn’t sound like a cheap version of what they are doing now. Of course the vocals are totally different, going totally kawaii. This one still has the bouncy energy of “Sweet Donuts” but has more of a shouty punk twist to it. I love that little countdown too, can this album soundtrack a computer game? Every stage is a special stage…
08 Jenny wa gokigen naname (Jenny is in a bad mood) – This turns out to be a fairly respectful cover of a 1980 song by Juicy Fruits, which slightly increases the manic tempo and fits nicely with the sound of the previous two songs. Again very cute and energetic – is this someone in a bad mood? Goodness knows what they sound like in a great mood!
08 Monochrome Effect – The first three tracks all featured on the “Sweet Donuts” single, but the “Monochrome Effect” 3-track collection kicks off with a slightly more laid-back song. There’s that robotic regular beat still, and it’s very cute. The verses don’t have much substance but the chorus has a really strong melody, very memorable.
10 Elevator – Ahh I love this one too. That hypnotic backing track is straight out of a Sega Master System game. It’s a very simple and catchy melody, I can even understand a few little bits – I think they are talking about what is on each different floor of a building? Really easy to listen to, even as a fairly small group when they recorded this, they were producing great music. Who knows what other music like this I am missing! There’s even a key-change, I love it.
10 Oishii Recipe – I should give an 11/10 for this one, it totally took me by surprise when I first played this album. That chorus is amazing – it almost has shades of B-52s in there. I love the little effects thrown in (“Hai! Hai!”). After a crazy first minute, the BPM increases even more, this is insane. I love every second of it! And that ending: “O-i-shi-i-re…shi…pi” … kawaii ne?
09 Vitamin Drop – So we get to the third and latest single in this collection, with “Vitamin drop” paired with “Inryoku” for the release. It feels like a slightly more restrained version of “Sweet Donuts” – it’s got a fast rhythm and an English phrase thrown in for the chorus. Very cute, even if the smiles aren’t quite as big as some of the crazy songs I’ve heard so far.
08 Inryoku (Gravity) – Finally, a weird song to finish with, it’s got a different key, it’s a bit more stylish than most of the songs so far. There are a few strange moments when the song stops for a sound effect, but that chorus really sticks in your head doesn’t it? Maybe this single showed that the girls were ready to more refined (and more serious) music. They still had a few years before “Game” was released, but I’ll get to the songs from this period next time.
Well I was so glad I bothered to listen to these early songs – I really like them all, and the best ones are easily among my favourite Perfume tracks. The character is so different though, I got used to the girls as part of this slick, stylised, robotic girl band, but their origins were a lot more pop-oriented than I expected. I’m glad someone saw the great potential in these girls to make one of Japan’s biggest bands.
Keepers for the iPod: I’m keeping them all! (they are great for a cardio workout!)