You know, it’s funny in a way that yesterday boasted significant news from arguably the two most important things in idol to me, and the one that I was most likely to have pre-written off completely won my heart back over while the other — the one that I cling to like the last hope in a disaster — got completely washed out in the excitement. I’m talking about BiSH, obviously, and Babymetal, but in reverse order: If not for catching the download tweets out of the corner of my eye, I’d have had no idea that anything was going on, and if D hadn’t brought up this MV, I’d have completely missed it. And why? Because I was too busy playing the (second half of the) new Babymetal album on repeat and getting those good feelings all over again.
If you know me, and you know BiSH, and you’ve paid any attention to anything I’ve written about them in the past, oh, couple of years, you may be predicting where this is going, but I’ll go ahead and give the lede a little swerve here and say: I like this, I really do, and though the single isn’t out-out until November, it’s going to be a good release.
Sitting down to a first listen of the fifth BiSH album, CARROTS and STiCKS, the big question is: Which BiSH will predominate? The brazen punks who got kicked out of Tokyo Idol Festival? The potential game changers who released a two-minute thrash punk single as their major label debut? Or the commercial idols who promote cell phones and sing anime theme songs?
We know the punk is still in BiSH as demonstrated every time they let Ling Ling center and she does the emotional equivalent of kicking your teeth down your throat. At the same time, it’s hard to give punk cred to a group that’s signing exclusive deals with Apple to restrict the digital distribution of their own music. I certainly won’t begrudge a person for making a living off their art, especially in the crap ass world of Japanese entertainment where the vast majority of power and profits are concentrated in the hands a few management moguls who are far less benevolent than BiSH’s boss-who-we-love-to-hate, Junnoske Watanabe. And it’s not like those of us who have climbed aboard the BiSH train can cry about genre, aesthetic or ideological purity anyway. Watanabe has never hidden the fact that he is punk in the same way that Malcolm McLaren was punk: thumbing the nose of a conservative society is good fun and all, but only if you can make a buck (pound or yen) doing it.
I have entirely too much to say about the new BiSH song-and-video move while at the same time saying very little about it at all, so bear with me a minute. It’s like I saved all the words that I didn’t write over the past couple of weeks just for this one post!
Necessary intro: New BiSH MV. New album coming in under a month. Me? A mix of eager anticipation and total trepidation. Like most everything BiSH has done going back to 2017, one gets the feeling from the available evidence (or: they skipped ahead and bought the EPs) that Their latest is going to have the same uniformly good collection of music as always with one’s own levels of satisfaction thereof determined largely by whether they preferred the first or second promo single release.
Yesterday was time for the full, amalgamated album to get its turn in the marketing chute, and thus to use was born “DiSTANCE”:
I was so tired, you guys. Like you know when you reach a point where not even sleep seems like it’s going to get the job done, and what you really need is to remove any and all obligations from your schedule for a few days while you blissfully do absolutely nothing of import? That’s where I was yesterday! And I thought to myself, you know what, you still need to finish the week, but let’s keep the sideshows to a minimum and just chill when possible. No projects, no working out, no bringing the job home, no idol.
So of course on that last point I knew better immediately and thought out loud, “Right, and now watch BiSH or somebody drop another MV and then all your not-plans will be for naught.”
Silly, silly Maniac. If I’d been mindful in even the tiniest way, I’d have known that, yes, another BiSH release was looming, and with it likely something to talk about. They were pretty clear about the build for CARROTS and STiCKS — one EP each in April and May, and then the full album in June — and had already provided one MV as promo to prove it. Why was I sleeping on this?
Here we are, then. And can I admit that I had the most conflicted smash of the Play button of my entire life? The song title and general visual aesthetic put my mind right down the path of expecting yet another Kentacore ballad that would probably sound very cool and nice and possibly even powerful, like that style is at its best, but very much the same, and yeah, that blunts a lot of enthusiasm. On the other hand, their last lead song and MV were absolutely delicious and reinvigorated my old passion for the group, so I had to see where this landed one way or another, right?
Things have been quiet on the BiSH front lately, haven’t they? Sure, sure, they announced a big-ass new tour with an awesome theme, and they have all of the usual tie-ins and promoted merchandise and all that jazz, but … yeah, the thing that put BiSH on the map in the first place (their music) was kind of bereft of attention, and by all parties it seemed. It seemed.
Because what better day to near-guerrilla-drop a new album in a split concept over a 30-day span than April Fools’ Day?
Ah, BiSH. Or maybe, rather, “Ah, WACK”. Few things can get a Western wota het up easier than the hard side of idol’s big bad and its steady flagship, at once inimitable and sublime and a bunch of less complimentary things lately because why mess with your cash cow, you know? The BiSH members are always up to some kind of (well-compensated, no doubt) shenanigans these days, to the point that it’s easier to move around various live clips from big shows or catch an interview than it is to find new envelope-pushing music.
My friends, while idol is in many ways so akin to other performing arts, up to and including professional wrestling, the one thing that it so often lacks is real, true, genuine interpersonal drama between figures. Idols usually just ganbare-fist for photos and vow to do their best and applaud politely for everybody. It’s neat, and a neat feature, but also a little placid sometimes, especially for those of us who like some good ol’ fashioned beef between parties.
Who better to throw shade and get those hackles raised than OG idol shit-stirrer Pour Lui, who’s original BiS spared no sacred cows the occasional bit of grief? Yes, that’s the ticket. But at whom would she throw her shade, and in which way, and to what ends? And hell, considering how well-orchestrated things in idol tend to be, how can you tell what’s real shade from weak shade from goofy teasing of one’s friends, neighbors and senpai? Fortunately for us, and especially those of us who enjoy the munching of popcorn while pots are stirred, Lui got together with friends to do what can only be described as a BiSH diss video:
Of course, who cares what I think when BiSH is absolutely raking in cash for WACK, and the train seems to only keep accelerating. Look, it’s another video game tie-in (like right after making fun of that)! They’re like in all of the media! Even more than they used to be!
“stereo future”, the single, is out in December, but we get the video today:
Or, humorously, they shared the link late last night before the video had even officially published, leading lots of people* into I-didn’t-read-the-tweet-shut-up confusion. But it’s not something to miss, so of course I was up early for the express purpose of winding up wishing that I hadn’t done that. Continue reading →