I Review Things: PassCode | ‘MISS UNLIMITED’

Covert art of Japanese idolcore digital EDM clubcore idol group PassCode's MISS UNLIMITED single

I never thought I’d review a single; I just didn’t see the point. And yeah, “MISS UNLIMITED” is listed on iTunes as an EP, but it’s three songs and an air vocals version of the title track, and that’s a single in my book.

So why would I bother reviewing this one? A lot of reasons, actually: Because there’s an ongoing discussion around whether idols other than Babymetal can achieve crossover success in the West; because PassCode is among the most cited and seen when newcomers go looking for “what else is like this”; because I felt like it; and so on.

This is PassCode’s major label debut. It’s available internationally via iTunes (and probably other mechanisms, too, eventually). It’s already available in Europe and soon will be in North America. This might not be going all-in, but it’s a move aiming at international audiences.

The question then becomes whether it’s actually any good.  Continue reading


I Review Things: ICE CREAM SUICIDE | “I.S.C.R.E.A.M.”

Cover art for alt-idol denpacore idol group ICE CREAM SUICIDE's debut EP I.S.C.R.E.A.M.

I can’t remember a promised debut that generated more excitement among our little community than ICE CREAM SUICIDE’s. Hell, I was practically beside myself at the thought — between the name and the art and the sophisticated introductory campaign of three groups by a newcomer agency and the inclusion of former Bellheart member Anna-chan, it all seemed like the idol world had heard our pleas and put together a special little project just for us.

And then they had their live debut, and BOY were a lot of people confused. Instead of a -core-riddled harsh idol project speckled with yami-kawaii violence, we got what sounded like a safe, contemporary-standard denpa-style pop song. I remember the Twitter chatter that day: Had we been had? Like, of course denpa makes sense because it’s so hot right now, but where’s the rock? Sanity did ultimately prevail and people seemed to reach a consensus agreement to withhold actual judgment until the debut EP, I.S.C.R.E.A.M., was released.

So what does I.S.C.R.E.A.M. sound like? What does ICE CREAM SUICIDE bring to the world? On to the review! Continue reading


I Review Things: BiSH | “KiLLER BiSH”

Cover art for Japanese idolcore group BiSH's

For all of the chaotic good news surrounding the return of BiS to actual existence, the first major-label release of their official successor, BiSH, almost managed to fly under the radar. Hell, even the introduction (and subsequent Internet love-in) of Ayuni D seems to have gotten more hype. And the one-day bonus sale pre-release of KiLLER BiSH actually garnered complaints from people — I’ve seen everything from “it’s a cheap stunt” to “why are you such a rip-off, Watanabe?” — and warranted official replies from BiSH on Twitter.

I hope everybody has a chance to clear their heads and shut up for a second so they can listen to this album. (Also, the lyrics are available here if you can Japanese.)

It’s BiSH’s third full album release, all in a span of roughly 16 months (insane), which also includes the “OTNK” and “DEADMAN” singles, which is remarkable; considering that they tour pretty much constantly, it’s almost impossible in fact. For the sheer number of songs now in their discography, plus the schedule and move to a major label, one could be forgiven for thinking that they’d be toning it down. The same was expressed around “DEADMAN,” for which “toned down” is not something you’d use as a description. But this is an album, a major investment by a label that knows what it’s doing.

Basically, did KiLLER BiSH deliberately get a little lost in the shuffle? Or is it delivering on BiSH’s burgeoning promise?



We Review Things: Hauptharmonie | “Herz über Kopf”

Hauptharmonie is one of the most unique musical projects I’ve ever come across. Self-described as idols that exist outside of this Warring Idols Period, with a sound that knows no era, they can be music for everybody and almost nobody all at the same time; I’ve described their sound as “music for music lovers.”

Accordingly, I’m completely and totally in love with them. They’re the soundtrack to chain-smoking your way through a bad divorce in your office building’s basement gin joint. I want them to bring their faux-demure-barefoot-angry-flapper selves to this country to play the New Orleans Jazz Fest and blow people’s minds.

A while back, Phillter translated into Japanese a request letter that I could send to idol managers; there’s this here website, and you’re covered on it, and I’d really like to write a review of your next release, so would you please consider sending a press copy of it? Most don’t reply, but some do, and Hauptharmonie’s reply was absolutely gracious and generous. For enabling the acquisition and because Hauptharmonie is impossibly cool, Phillter wondered if he could contribute to this review, and to that I say sure.

So. On to the review!

Continue reading


I Review Things: Guso Drop | “Mushi”

Cover art for Guso Drop's mini-album Mushi

If you’re something of a heavy idol regular, you know Guso Drop, and nothing about this should come as any surprise to you; if you’re new to Guso Drop or relatively unfamiliar with them, what’s the matter with you you can use this as a starting-off point: Earlier this year, when BiSH announced a ban on certain rowdiness at their live shows, Guso Drop decided to stay true to their underground, punk-as-fuck core and proclaimed that not only would they never dream of doing such a thing, but they were henceforward therefore to be considered the heaviest idols in the world. Continue reading


I Guess It’s ‘Celebrate Tsurezure Day’

By a set of happy coincidences, gang, a whole bunch of Yukueshirezutsurezure stuff has been in the offing today, as if you hadn’t already noticed.

First, the site review of Antino Ideology.

Second, a very cool interview, translated.

Third, one of those rarest of birds, some live video from their in-store release event: Continue reading


I Review Things: Yukueshirezutsurezure | “Antino Ideology”

Cover art for Yukueshirezutsurezure's mini-album Antino Ideology

The unofficial disclaimer on this EP is this: From the perspective of this Maniac and this website, the emergence of Yukueshirezutsurezure (along with their sister group Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da) in the past year is one of the most exciting things in idol, period. While new trails are being blazed pretty much week to week, somebody will naturally stand out more than others, and Tsurezure is like this incredible beacon of loss and pain.

Want to know more? Check out this interview with them.

As befits an idol group, in just over six months of existence, they’ve already experienced their share of membership turnover, but they haven’t slowed their trajectory one bit, for which kudos to Codomomental management are deserved; to stand out and keep standing out in a ridiculously competitive scene, you must keep moving. No sooner was this CD in stores than the group’s first official single was announced for an August release.

That piece, given recent developments in the membership and something of an emergence of a core sound, will likely be a stepping-off point for the group, their real debut. This EP, on the other hand, very much is a collection from its formative period, and as such includes several different moves in its short length.

So with that being said, what is the verdict on this relative time capsule? Continue reading


I Review Things: PassCode | “VIRTUAL”

I skipped the disclaimer because what’s the point? Literally, who doesn’t admit to at least liking PassCode? Their music is fun, energetic and often heavy as hell; on the human side, they’re a bunch of lovable weirdos who nonetheless see the melding of idol and rock as a chance to transcend both. That’s awesome.

Since their real launching off just two years ago, PassCode has been on a rapid rise to the top of the alt-idol heap; if you’re holding an event for the off-kilter and they aren’t in the conversation to headline, you’re doing it wrong. Along the way, their blend of “normal” idol with digital hardcore is a trendsetter; other groups have taken the electronic approach and run with it, with mixed results.

Back at the source, PassCode followed up their big 2014 debut, All Is Vanity, with a 2015 littered with just two singles but an absolute face-kicking TIF debut and their first national one-man tour (oh, and facing down a really big change in membership). Looking back, the whole scenario feels like a gun being very slowly cocked: They were building energy for a rifle shot.

When VIRTUAL was finally released late last month, then, it was a moment of truth — was PassCode for real? Had they hit the mark? Continue reading


I Review Things: petit pas! | “Refrain”

Cover for Japanese idolcore rock idol group petit pas! album Refrain

I usually put a disclaimer here, but I’m very pleased to be able to say that I’m able to do this review with eyes wide open and without any pre-existing bias or anything. Just big thanks to the person who helped me acquire this album; I literally couldn’t have done it without your help.

On to the review! Continue reading