A wonderful problem to have is walking in front of a luxurious buffet and not knowing which thing to eat first because it’s all so good – that’s the experience of trying to write about the new ZOC album from Seiko Oomori and her juvenile delinquent girl gang.
A lot of idol albums can kind of fall into the zone of just being a collection of singles with some extra songs, which of course isn’t a bad thing, but the ZOC album truly feels like a piece of handcrafted perfection. All of the songs flow beautifully together, with a favourite segment being right at the start with the teen angst battle call of CUTTING EDGE into the melancholic family name to the noisy decry of hormonal impulses that is DON’T TRUST TEENAGER. This is a body of work that’s been put together piece by piece just as much as any of Seiko’s solo albums, and if you’re already a fan you’ll know that means there’s a whole lotta love.
Seiko’s manifesto of taking the parts of a person that society would deem ugly, particularly things experienced by young women, and turning that into something to be proud of is just as prevalent in ZOC as a project as it is in everything she does. Though with things like this, sometimes it’s better for an artist to speak for themselves rather than have people project onto them – and that’s just what she did in a recent special broadcast on NHK’s English language J-Melo programme.
“I have lots of ideas of how women can express themselves. We can use the parts of us that are awkward and flawed and turn our complexes into weapons. And not just women. All people are precious and beautiful, without a doubt. I want people to love themselves for how they are. So I thought if I made songs about standing proud and reworking those complexes into charms, lots of people could be inspired to keep going. So I formed a group of women who can show that and have a lot of personality.”
Player vs Prayer is all that and more down to the letter. If you’re old like we are, you’ll remember when the peak of subculture was emo. When all of that pent up angst you felt as a teenager (that we still feel as adults but don’t like to admit) because people didn’t understand, was released all at once because the musicians singing to you did. This album contains that same catharsis, but instead of the typical cliché of “I hate myself so I want to die”, ZOC are screaming “I hate myself so I want to live“. The lyrics to CUTTING EDGE are embolic of that – “I’m less than mediocre, that’s why I can take take my acne filled youth and peeled away innocence, and love them.”
After the emotional rollercoaster of intergenerational self love is over, we get to the second disc. The group’s loose video game themes really shine through here too – disc 2 feels like you’ve won and gotten to play the bonus stage. The singles not included on disc 1 are all right here, with Danshari Kareshi‘s new arrangement starting with an 8-bit version of the chorus and even the group’s overture feeling like boss theme music. Disc 2 also includes every member’s solo song, with new member Nodoka getting a duet with Seiko to close everything off. Including the overture and solos as bonus content really shows that yes, this is indeed an album produced by the woman who loves idols so much she worked with super idol producer Hyadain to make a song about how much she loves idols.
PvP is truly special, it’s quite possibly the most emotional album you’ll hear this year. From start to finish everything is crafted with love for both the art and the fans. So get ready to let out your inner emo kid but this time, instead of wearing black, you’re going to be wearing something flashy and pink and forcing the world to acknowledge that you’re a person and you’re alive. So why not let Zone Out-of Control help you get your angsty feelings back under control ey?