Wow, it’s been a long time since I did an album review lol
anyway, let’s get through it!
COSMIC EXPLORER is the fifth original studio album (make it the sixth one if you’re counting the Complete Best compilation) of Japanese girl group Perfume, one of the few, well-known active girl groups in Japan and is not only known domestically but also internationally. They are also known for their electronic pop tunes and their recent technological performances. It was released on April 6, 2016 by Universal Music Japan.
The album is, of course, produced by their long-time sound producer, CAPSULE‘s Nakata Yasutaka, which is known for producing songs for the group as well as for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, making their success and recognition not limited to Japan but also to other countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas. But for this album, we might forget that musically this might not contain the trademark Nakata sounds that we used to hear.
This intro piece begins with a mid-tempo square lead arpeggio. It could be better if the arrangement leads to a Tibetan instrumental similar to Alan’s Intro piece off her first Japanese album. That would be eargasmic, but we’re just waiting for this intro to cut towards the next track which is…
02. Cosmic Explorer
What’s with the loud mastering, Nakata? This track reminds me of 80’s rock music and some of then-Russian female duo t.A.t.U.’s songs though. I don’t understand why this album has opened with a mid-tempo track for the first time. Not to mention the synth arrangement before the second verse totally reminds me of SHINee. I might feel this track if it’s not for the oooooooohs.
03. Miracle Worker
Okay so this is Toumei Ningen 2.0. IDK what to feel with the lyrics. The only part I liked from this is the one from 0:54 to 1:01. Like Cosmic Explorer, I didn’t like the artificial harmonization, the oooohs and the wowoahs in it and its loud mastering. The last part was subtle and the microbeats made it up.
04. Next Stage with YOU
When I first heard the preview of this song, I was disappointed, and I was right. The chorus in this is the only lyrics. The intro was filled with beats and guitars which for me sounds similar to the C2 iced tea commercial. Anyway, we still have the aaaaaah, oooooh ooooh here. The long instrumental part didn’t work for me. The song was a tie-up to luxury car brand Mercedes Benz’ A-Class car campaign in late November 2015. Not to mention the app version of the song could be better than this tbh (it screams Komuro Tetsuya).
This song was first premiered in March 2015 during their performance in the SXSW festival in the United States. The piece is completely void of the Nakata sound, instead displaying generic EDM arrangements, almost like how Nakata did it with CAPSULE’s WAVE RUNNER album. Maybe a hybrid of CAPSULE’s 12345678, White As Snow and Kyary’s CANDY CANDY (remix).
06. FLASH (Album-mix)
This version is 1000 times better than the EDM-sounding original. Even though still containing WAVE RUNNER elements, this version of FLASH completely wowed me. I loved the reversed piano intro, the piano composition, the beats, the brass, that audience stock vocal, everything. I love how lush every sound is here. For me, it’s the only song I genuinely liked in this album. The original version was used as a theme song to the Chihayafuru movie series.
07. Sweet Refrain (Album-mix)
This was the first single from the album, released in late November 2013 as a tie-up to Japanese drama Toshi Densetsu no Onna. I honestly don’t have any thoughts about this song. The original version was a trainwreck of dubstep, making it not radio-friendly. No wonder Perfume didn’t performed the original version in any of their concert legs. This version, meanwhile, is already listenable. I liked the piano intro, the microbeats from the extended mix of Kyary’s Tsukema Tsukeru, the bass arrangement, and how the first verse was free of dubstep (it returns to the second verse), the additional guitars and stuff. Still, the song isn’t anything special and is boring. If the instruments used are similar to those in Mito Natsume’s Maegami Kirisugita, maybe it’ll work. I do appreciate Nakata retouching the instrumental but I just don’t know why he didn’t re-recorded Achan’s vocals again (in which at that time she was sick).
08. Baby Face
Here comes the last of the new tracks in this album. We start again with subtle synths and guitars. I feel this sounds like a summer theme. I’m just complaining about the lack of beats this song has and the long instrumental part. Also, we have the banjo from Kyary’s Sungoi Aura appearing in this song. Overall, this could count as a MAVERICK (MEG’s last album with Nakata) reject. I also feel weird with the lyrics in this.
09. TOKIMEKI LIGHTS (Album-mix)
A B-side from the STAR TRAIN single and the tie-up to Eisai Pharmaceuticals’ Chocola BB Plus, I think this is the only genuine-sounding Perfume track in this album tbh. I agree with others that this is like a song that fits within their third album JPN. I remotely liked this song, even with some little re-arrangements. The last part was a bit quiet than the original, and I liked it. My second fave in this album so far.
10. STAR TRAIN (Album-mix)
What’s with the taiko intro? I honestly thought that this will be the last song in the album but why put it as a tenth one? The original didn’t worked for me as if Nakata is attempting this to be SPICE 2.0, but it ended up sounding like Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again. We have here the wowwoooooaaaaah especially in the chorus. Although the harmonization was appreciated, this doesn’t sound anything Perfume at all. The excessive use of the taiko drum and the brass sections were just enough for this to be called an ‘Album-mix’. You failed again, ystk. The song was released as a single in late October 2015.
11. Relax in the City
Released in late April 2015, nine months after Cling Cling. Just gonna keep the same comment about this track, it was good but it would be better if the CM version was used for this. The song is a tie-up to Sapporo Beer’s Green Aroma variant.
12. Pick Me Up
The second A-side with Relax in the City. Still keeping my first impression of this track from last year. For me, this could be the worst title track Perfume has promoted. The song was nothing Nakata Yasutaka, but more of like Calvin Harris, Avicii or David Guetta. In other words, generic EDM. I could at least accept the Nicki Minaj-sounding Spending all my time, but not this. Guitars, the synths, no, just no. No wonder it just peaked at number 69 in the Japan Hot 100 then they forced-promoted it against Relax in the City.
13. Cling Cling (Album-mix)
The only single of 2014 is having a makeover. I was actually surprised with the intro. From G-F#-E-B to the hypnotic C-B-C-D-E-F#-G-A-B. Then cut after first chorus. Ratatatatatatatatatatatata. Instrumental featuring a pitched-down manipulated vocal from one of the members going aaaaaaaa~ I loved the arrangement of the intro. I also loved the ‘I will cling to your chest’ part and how the manipulated vocals were obvious. I liked this waaaaaaay better than the original as its ‘update’, but there’s still something missing in this version and IDK what it is.
14. Hold Your Hand
The B-side of the Cling Cling single and a tie-up to Japanese drama Silent Poor. IDK why Perfume bugged Nakata to include this in the album as its closer, as it sounds nothing special. But then they said that because of the lyric video project, it makes the song special for them and thus, makes the album close in a sentimental way, but not musically. Maybe the lyrics make it up, but nah. The song was okay, sounds nostalgic late 80s synthpop, but it’s missing something.
Perfume has once again defined themselves through their vocal contributions in this album, mixed with Nakata’s Vengeance Sound packs (yes he uses them), COSMIC EXPLORER is an album longed for by the P.T.A (Perfume’s fans) but not for those who avidly follow Nakata Yasutaka’s works. Patterned after incoherent tie-ups and concepts plus the margin of release dates of every nine months per single, this album wasn’t clearly organized. Maybe it’s something special for others, but for some, not. This was even worse than CAPSULE’s WAVE RUNNER. The new songs didn’t helped, too. It looks like more of a compilation album rather than a studio album. It would be better if Koi wa Zenkei Shisei (B-side of Sweet Refrain) and Ijiwaru na Hello (one of Cling Cling’s three B-sides) were included because so far those were the only awesome songs and the only genuine-sounding ‘Perfume’ for this era. I just hope Perfume won’t release any new song for the rest of this year, do more outside collaborations and just continue doing tours. We might put the blame on both Amuse and Nakata for this, but let’s not forget that the girls are what being talked about here. I’m just hoping their next single releases leading to their future album won’t be like this anymore. Still, I appreciate this album only for the members’ vocals.