My first proper post! I figured I’d go for something special, so I give you an album called ‘Butterfly’ by the Japanese rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel.
L’Arc-en-Ciel are essentially a pop rock band, but that’s only to the untrained ear. Their legions of fans across the globe will tell you how their a band capable of punk, metal, blues, jazz, post-punk, electronica, new wave, and alternative rock, and ‘Butterfly’, their most recent album, is their most adventurous work to date.
It’s a bright, diverse, even slightly experimental piece of work, at least for this band, with 20 odd years of work under their belt. It shimmers and swirls with strings, horns and electronics, but these never detract from the chemistry these four excellent players have.
And the members are on top form here, singer Hyde floats through the album with his sweetly high-pitched croon, while guitarist Ken rambles along with his tough, funky yet sparse bluesy Fender leads, and in the background bassist Tetsuya skips along with his melodic lead-style bass-playing, all being anchored by the subtle yet busy drumming of percussionist Yukihiro.
The four members of the band all contribute to music and lyrics and the album certainly packs a diverse punch. Hyde’s and Tetsuya’s numbers lean more towards a mainstream pop style, while Ken and Yukihiro contribute the more experimental numbers, and they’re all of equal strength.
‘Chase’ opens the album, a tense, brooding electronic-flavoured rocker, followed by the slower, grooving ‘X X X’ , (which as you can guess by the title drips with sex) before picking up speed again slightly for the third track, ‘Bye Bye’, a rapidly throbbing slice of swooning, heavy pop balladry.
After that comes the album’s lead-off single, ‘Good Luck My Way’, a rattling, anthemic piece of orchestral power pop. After this comes the sweetly acoustic rumblings of ‘Bless’, which leads into the even slower yet mournfully gorgeous, stop-start swirls of ‘Shade of Season’, before picking up speed once more for the ballsy, crunching metallic rocker ‘Drink it Down’.
‘Wild Flower’, my personal favorite, is simply stunning. Three layers of swirling guitars create dense walls for this chugging, spell-binding ballad to drive through. Two solid pop numbers follow on, the soaring, acoustic-driven ‘Shine’ which spins into the more intense ‘Nexus 4’.
Album closer ‘Mirai Sekai’ is another lovely song, a simple nursery-rhyme like tune that see the band waltzing away as Hyde’s sleepy croon slowly fades away into the night, and even then, you find yourself gravitating back to the tense electronic bubblings of ‘Chase’.
Overall, the group’s trashy, youthful abandon when playing removes any stiff slickness this album may have, and is truly the first great album by this truly great band!
4.5 out of 5 stars.