Disclaimer: I love the crap out of BiSH. They aren’t as raw and out to destroy the world as their predecessors were, but they are musically sophisticated and very, very good at what they do. So.

On to the review!

Homicidols Album Review Scale:

Five Heartbleeds  One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: Both in relation to itself and music as a whole, this album could not possibly be any better.
Four Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a very damn good record, and you should probably buy it and listen to it all the time and consider starting a website dedicated to the artists that made it and albums like it.
Three Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More good than bad, but not great; one or two awesome songs can’t get it over the hump.
Two Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More bad than good, and lacks the kind of standout track that can take it out of the crappiness wallow.
One Heartbleed One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a bad, bad piece of work. Do not buy this.
Zero Heartbleeds: People associated with this should be ashamed of themselves; there’s pride to be had in any effort made to meet a goal, but that’s your only reward. Please don’t make music anymore.

Okay, so I haven’t really reviewed a really new album like ever. Bear with me.

BiSH kind of exploded out of the gate. Yes, they had a pre-made fanbase by dint of being ordained as BiS‘s successors, but “Spark” and “Hoshi ga Matataku Yoru ni” could have been mailed-in efforts that wanted to rely on that fact … and they weren’t. They were good! Practically all of Brand-new Idol SHiT was good! Much of it was way better than good!

So any release from BiSH was going to be held to a high standard, to say the least, and they didn’t disappoint when they released the “OTNK” single right after adding liNGliNG and Atsuko. And then “All You Need Is Love.” And then the Soundcloud releases started to happen, and there was good, legitimate excitement about FAKE METAL JACKET.

I will say that, as an American, I was more than a little disappointed that so much from the debut album was included on FAKE METAL JACKET; we’re accustomed to singles being included on full albums, or at least on EPs, or for the singles to come after the album is released, not the other way around, and we definitely don’t go for re-releases so immediately after the fact. For idols, though, it’s actually pretty typical to re-release favorite songs after membership changes. BiS released “nerve” on each of their albums, for instance.

Taking that into account, I’m doing this review in two parts, one for the re-released stuff and one for the new(er) songs.

In with the Old

FAKE METAL JACKET includes “Monsters,” “Saraba Kana” and “Spark” from Brand New Idol SHiT, “OTNK” from its own single release and “Hoshi ga Matataku Yoru ni,” which deserved an official pressing in the first place.

If you read through the YouTube comments on POP’s “pretty pretty good” MV, you’ll come across a user who’s in a borderline flame war with others about whether POP was worth a damn, the reason being that so much of their music was written for the original Pla2me duo and didn’t work for a quintet. I thought that was a bad #hottake.

But now I see what that person means, because the addition of liNGliNG and Atsuko to those songs by overdubbing the masters or whatever just doesn’t work. It’s not that the songs are ruined (you’d have a hard time ruining those songs), and it’s not that the new members are a drag (they aren’t — they’re different, but quite good), but that they actually lost something in what often sounds like shoehorning-in of additional voices. I heard it on the “Monsters” MV track, and it stands out pretty hard on “Spark,” too.

And if we’re going into re-release territory, why not include “NO THANK YOU,” the B-side from “OTNK” that I seriously keep going back to when I play my BiSHlist, or my personal favorite BiSH song, “Toumin Shojo,” which is one of the most well-executed jazzcore songs I’ve ever heard:

I swear, there must have been a cigarette-inhaling horn player in the studio while this was being recorded.

Now, with all of that being said …

Out with the New

I don’t know what Watanabe Junnosuke’s feeding Matsukuma Kenta, but he needs to keep doing it; this is one comprehensively well-put-together collection of idolcore.

You knew something good was coming with “All You Need Is Love,” from all the way back in the fall; what starts as sort of a melancholic ballad takes a hard right turn into full-on punk anthem (fitting the theme well), and you could be forgiven for immediately drawing comparisons to BiS’s “primal,” one of the defining songs of the is-it-a-genre-yet. They are different songs, but there’s strong congruence between the themes about life and the rising, emotional punk rock.

But it’s eclipsed throughout FAKE METAL JACKET. “Primitive” is, in the end, a closer comparison to “primal” in just about every way, a great lead opportunity for Aina to show her actual versatility, flipping the script and giving a little bit more of the heavy lifting to Chitti. Hug Me sounds really great in it, too, and me not naming the other three members explicitly isn’t to downplay their contributions at all. It’s also just a really well-composed song, loaded with emotional crescendos.

I found “Migatte I Need You” and “Beautiful-sa” to be likewise really strong tracks, and “Budokan ka Mamonaku wa Tamenegi,” “Departures” and “Want” would be promotional leads for a lot of rock idols …

… but they’re all looking up to “Dear …” when it comes to the big winner on this album.

/deep breath

“Dear …” in no way resembles other BiSH tracks, and I’m struggling to think of anything else in the broader Brand New Idol X family that compares to it at all. It sounds like something that Linkin Park would have written before they got formulaic, like metalcore without the crunchiness and idiotic posturing, like that dreadful-but-eager anticipation you feel before a fight — that is, it’s bottled anger and frustration, the bouncy foreboding from the lead guitar teasing you to look while the vocals go for your throat. From the distorted yells to the sing-rapped verses to the understated aggression, it’s just a really exciting song, and it’s great that it mostly features everybody but the Big Two and is credited to none other than Momoko GUMi Company.

In Short

BiSH managed to outdo themselves with FAKE METAL JACKET. The not-quite-success of the re-releases in no way harms the value of the album; the new songs are just that strong. BiSH is also coming together exceptionally well as a group, with more solo time for members not named Chitti and Aina.* Hug Me and Momoko GUMi Company have both grown a lot in the past year, and Atsuko and liNGliNG more than held their own on these tracks. Whatever they wind up doing for their Avex release in May is going to be intense.**

It’s not a perfect album, but it’s pretty freakin’ good, and in the aggregate better and better defined than BiSH’s debut. Buy it if you can, or enjoy its entries on the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist. Either way, know that WACK’s leadership in the idolcore space has in no way been ceded, and the new queens are very much in town.

Score: One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews

Added to the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist: “All You Need Is Love,” “Primitive,” “Beautiful-sa,” “Migatte I Need You”

*I’d listen to St. Chitti and #THEENDER argue over which has grosser armpit stink as long as they sang to do it; it’s just good for the group to have a deep roster.

**It better not be “Is This Call?” is what I’m saying.