It has been a rough couple of years since COVID curtailed two of my favorite past-times (travel and live music) and my absolute favorite thing (traveling to see live music). This past weekend’s trip to Los Angeles for the U.S. debut of ATARASHII GAKKO! at the Head in the Clouds festival was both my first trip and my first music festival in over two years.
So many things have changed!!
Not only is travel and the festival-going experience itself radically different from the pre-COVID era, I realized that the nature of these show reports also needs to evolve since the last time I wrote one up. The recent ubiquity of concert livestreams (perhaps the only positive outcomes of the global pandemic) means that most of you readers who were interested in seeing the show have already done so via Amazon, Twitch or a bootleg upload on YouTube. This relieves me of my pre-COVID responsibility of composing a written portrait of the show itself, so I’ll focus on the elements of the festival experience that didn’t get captured on video (including a surprise close encounter with AG! themselves: READ ON!). Continue reading →
ATARASHII GAKKO! have a dropped a new MV and launched the world-wide distribution of “Pineapple Kryptonite”. Pineapple Superman is not amused.
The MV sees the New School Leaders battling a dog-napping space alien in a Southern California setting (I’m not sure how it survives MIZYU’s twin tail helicopter attack) while the tune takes them to some new musical geography as well. The verses of “Pineapple Kryptonite” are a moodier take on AG!’s signature blend of piano funk, acid jazz and hip hop before transitioning into a surprising, liquid drum & bass chorus. This is an ethereal, soulful vibe we’ve not experienced from the Leaders before.
When future music historians look back at the history of the genre the English-speaking world, for lack of a better term, generally refers to as “Alternative Idol”, the decade of 2010 to 2020 will be seen as foundational. Underground idol in Japan has been around since at least the late 90s, hard rock composers were penning songs for idol units in the mid 2000s, and indie idol has probably existed since the birth of the idol genre itself. However, it was the year 2010 when the momentum of disparate events would begin to coalesce and eventually define the broad genre we know and love today. That year’s creation and subsequent seismic success of BiS and BABYMETAL would inspire the formation of hundreds of punk and metal idol units. At the same time, the zeitgeist of the early 2010s independently birthed several other less prominent but just as significant influences. Bellring Girls Heart, You’ll Melt More, Especia and others emerged to embrace an edgier and more avant-garde approach to idol, crafting the sounds and sensibilities of post- and pop-punk, new wave, techno and progressive rock into something entirely new. These early groups inspired both creative composers and adventurous music fans to embrace independent and underground idol as an effective medium for expressing almost every subgenre of rock, hip hop and electronica. Over the past decade, alternative Japanese idol has grown into a world class laboratory for the creation of some of the most innovative music on the planet.Continue reading →
This was way too good to Weekender, way too much of just the right energy at the right time to hold up and admire for all of its athletic and artistic excess, super charming and, hell, even kind of inspiring. You may also recall that I vowed to exploit the ever-loving christ out of ATARASHII GAKKO!’s emergence for Western audiences by posting about them in lots of ways all the time and making sure that ol Homicidols Dot Com shows up a lot in search results! I am very clever.
BUT NOT SO CLEVER AS ATARASHII GAKKO!, who “Night Before the Exam” today, which is the extended one-take version of a clip they released back in the early days of their international breakout. I warn you, you will want to dance, but to attempt to dance like ATARASHII GAKKO! for more than, oh, a few seconds is going to leave you breathless and possibly looking for the ice pack and ibuprofen:
Imagine being this fit
After that last release of theirs, I do worry a bit that Our Friends Formerly Known as Leaders may abandon their wild-ass acid-jazz-fueled whatever-you-call-it musical flavor for something perhaps a bit more internationally “normie” friendly, but that they (and 88rising) brought this out is some relief.
And now that we have sufficiently padded our SEO for the week, this is your Homicidol Maniac, signing off!
Atarashii Gakkou no Leaders have dropped the news that they will be kicking off 2021 with an international debut courtesy of a newly inked agreement with the US-based 88rising. Our favorite four-member piano funk meets post-punk and acid jazz unit will be be taking on the world under the name, ATARASHII GAKKO!
Every year, enduring songs emerge that collectively define the summer months. They are the infectious tunes that serve as the backing music for the few brief months between school years, or the soundtrack of unforgettable vacations. Summer is often a transitional time of new experiences and transformation. The accompanying music will later inspire nostalgia for a specific point in time when everything changed.
On the verge of an unprecedented summer time, more than ever, we have no idea what the season may bring. Team Homicidols is here to help eliminate the uncertainty in one area at least: filling out your summer playlist.
Homicidols Nominations for Song of the Summer, 2020
It was about time BABYMETAL paid homage to David Bowie. I mean, while Bowie crushed just about every pop genre on the planet except Heavy Metal, he was largely responsible for the early creation of Glam Rock.
Without Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, we have no KISS.
Without KISS to influence a young Yoshiki, we have no X Japan.
With no X Japan, we have no BABYMETAL.
So when BABYMETAL’s new single, “Elevator Girl”, opens by directly channeling the piano riff from Bowie’s early 80s classic, “Modern Love”, the circle of life seems, in some ways, complete. In truth, the direct influence on this single is probably less Bowie’s soul and groove-flavored New Wave, and more the J-Pop fusion of acid jazz, funk and techno that coalesced around the same time period into the broad City Pop genre. City Pop has seen a lot of attention lately with interest from Vaporwave aesthetes, YouTube channels streaming curated City Pop feeds 24-7, and it’s own brief “I didn’t know [insert name here] put out a City Pop album” meme.
City Pop is also heavily influencing a number of current groups in the alternative idol world including early album-of-the-year contendersAtarashii Gakkou No Leaders, GuGu-LuLu and the fledgling OWA Yoru.
(This is a lot of words so far just to talk about a three-minute song. What we are seeing here is an unfortunate side effect when a group as musically fascinating as BABYMETAL only releases three pieces of new material in a twelve-month span. In the absence of an “Elevator Girl” MV to talk about, let’s continue the over-analysis:) Continue reading →
Attention students!! Leaders just dropped the early front-runner for album of the year.
Atarashii Gakkou No Leaders has never been the most accessible of units from a Western perspective. Their MVs often sit behind region blocks and paywalls, while their music makes artsy references to social concerns that may require cultural translation. In short, exploring the group’s music requires a bit more proactive labor than just clicking “play” on YouTube and rockin’ your socks off. However, with the release of their stunning second album, Wakage Ga Itaru, now is the time to put in that extra effort.
So that’s Atarashii Gakkou no Leaders — Leaders of the New School — “dancing” for URBANGARDE’s latest, which just so happens to be coinciding with their announced transition to the “Shoujo Era” (the kind of thing that comes up when you’re in a group chat with officially all-over-the-place Japanese music hobbyists!) (this also makes so much sense in context!). It’s not URBANGARDE’s first mix-up with idols that we’ve even covered here in the venerable HTML margins of Homicidols Dot Com, nor is it the first pass at Leaders, though it’s obnoxiously removed from previous connections with them because they used to be region-blocked to death.
Anyway, that’s a wild-ass song! Depending on your tastes, possibly the best (or at least most interesting) idol-related collaboration this year. Certainly memorable! I feel like Suzuka (leader of Leaders!) needs to have her face cast in pliable bronze or something, the better that those expressions are preserved for posterity.