It’s finally here, and I’ve been keeping hold of this one for a few weeks now. Perfume are one of my newest joys, and I didn’t want to file away their first new studio album in 2 years without giving it plenty of time.
The buzz might have died down a little since July when I went to their first London gig, and it might be a while since I gave their back catalogue a good listen (see reviews for “Game“, “Triangle“, “JPN“, “Fan service Prima Box” and “Complete Best“). But I’ve enjoyed the singles in the run-up to the album’s release, so I still had high hopes.
10 Enter the sphere – Oh I love a good intro. Well it’s the first track, but at 3:36 it’s not an intro as such, more a full-on electro assault to get the show running. I love its mechanical feel, like a machine getting up to speed. There isn’t much for the girls to do, apart from doing some hot dance routine on tour to this, I’m sure. Really love this, a great opening track.
10 Spring of life – Now I might be a bit generous here as the single mix was the song that really set off the whole journey for me, and why wouldn’t I want an extended version? But this almost feels like a different song despite the music itself not changing. In the single, the upbeat and bright track briefly turns into a more intense, manic bit of electropop (in the video, where the computers malfunction). It’s a great contrast against the sweetness of the rest of the song. But here it’s turned inside out, with the sweetness surrounded by this uneasy energy that escapes to the centre stage at a number of points during the song. But what the hell, I still love it.
09 Magic of love – Receiving more of a makeover than “Spring of life” is an album remix of another single. A cutesy intro makes way for business as usual, a song I grew to love over time. But I think the changes made have only served to make it slightly less bold and colorful. The album mix is totally great anyway, but the danger with these remixes is that you can’t stop comparing it to the original. OK the differences are small, but I preferred the original version.
07 Clockwork – Let’s forget that tampering, there are new songs on the menu. A classic Perfume sound in this one, but maybe more in line with the classic Perfume album track; great to listen to, maybe not so memorable. Nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The chorus isn’t distinct enough from the verses, it’s just a pleasant track that I don’t always remember.
09 1mm – I wrote about this track a few weeks ago, and at the time I wasn’t blown away. It was their signature sound, but the more laid-back energy didn’t stand against some of their recent singles. In the meantime I have listened to it a lot and I really like it now. Still maybe not an all-time classic, but it feels so stylish and precise. That video is gorgeous, and now I think it holds its own against their other singles.
08 Mirai no Museum – I had been keeping a close eye on the “Level3” singles, but this one sort of slipped through the net. It’s a bit of a strange entry on the album, as a soundtrack single for the latest Doraemon movie. It definitely sounds like an anime track, and is markedly more cute than the rest of the album. Still really nice, and that chorus is sweet, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s Perfume.
06 Party Maker – Now I love Perfume when they are painting rich soundscapes with their signature electro-pop music. Somewhere on this album I feel that there’s a change in what that means. “Party Maker”. After starting more like your generic EDM track, it sadly turns into some pretty heavy house music. The strange thing is that Perfume have certainly done harder tracks before to great effect. “Edge” is a great example, and that was nearly 10 minutes long! I don’t know what isn’t working for me here, but the formula doesn’t work for me here.
06 Furikaeru To Iru Yo – At least things have settled down now, this is a lot more relaxed. It’s almost REGGAE. Electro-reggae, is that a thing? Let’s hope not. Fortunately there’s nothing as distressing as reggae in this one. Actually, after 6 minutes, I wondered what actually WAS in this one. Talk about blah… what a shame.
05 Point – Goodness me, what now, drum and bass with harps?? I worried that this was going the same way as “Party Maker” with unwelcome genres creeping into my favourite electropop girl band. It’s not that bad, but that drum & bass tempo is just too fast. It sort of feels as nondescript as “Furikaeru to iru yo”, but with that horrible beat on the top. Don’t like that at all, I’m afraid.
08 Daijoubanai – Thank God, this album is getting back on track. They performed this in London but I didn’t know it at the time. Very bouncy and full of crazy energy. That chorus is very strange, their vocals skip so much. It’s a shame that this is the shortest track on the album though, having suffered the 17 minutes of the last three tracks. Though I suppose the chorus is the only track here, and it might get a bit boring/annoying after 6 minutes.
08 Handy Man – Was this an interlude at the gig? I think it was. I think we are getting back to normal now, this is a curious little pop song, with that strange little sample running through it, like a sped-up shamisen or something. I don’t know. It’s a nice little Asian oddity, and the verses and choruses are different enough to give a bit of a variety to the track. I quite like this really, nice one.
09 Sleeping beauty – Oh now THIS is the stuff, I am in love with this pure electro-pop sound. That synth line is all over the place, but it’s such a gorgeous little backdrop for the track. It’s strange though, it feels like this should be an interlude but it’s one of the longest tracks. Perfume also don’t get much of a look in, only offering some “aahhhs” and later a few “Sleeping Beauty” lines. Lots going on here, the synths make was for clattering pots and pans, and something that sounds a bit like bagpipes. Whatever it all is, I love it.
10 Spending all my time – I almost forgot that not all of the singles were accounted for yet, and this one is another grower. It was talked about as their first English language single, but really there are only a few lines repeated. This is more my idea of an extended remix, it’s in the spirit and shape of the original. I think this was the remixed they opened the gig with, with those amazing projection dresses. This song really grew on me, to the point that it’s one of the highlights of the campaign. Really love it!
07 Dream land – Last track now, and as close to a ballad as you’ll get I think. It’s not much of a memorable track to go out on, but it’s still enjoyable. It does build up a little towards the end, but no killer hooks are in this one. Again it’s a strange choice for one of the longest tracks, though the last half is a bit meatier and more enjoyable.
Hype is a terrible thing, it can ruin the things you look forward to the most, and “Level3” hasn’t escaped its touch. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the album, but there’s a nasty habit of making the worse moments drag on for much longer than the great moments. But that said, looking at the album, I think half of it is amazing still, even if that’s the half I knew most of already.
It hasn’t put me off Perfume at all, but since Japanese pop album campaigns seem to end with the album’s release, I feel like it’s going to be a long wait for the next dose. Perhaps that’s going to force me to expand my J-pop horizons, and I guess that’s a good thing. I just hope we get one more video from the campaign at least.