BUCK-TICK — Uta/Kimi e Review
Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll
Text by Onojima Dai
BUCK-TICK will be releasing their new single Uta/Kimi e on March 24. What is this sound that broke their long silence like?
BUCK-TICK announced their new single, Uta/Kimi e. How many years has it been since we had a new record from them? Apart from Yuta’s serialised column in this publication, we’re barely heard any news of BUCK-TICK’s movements during their break. It’s also been a really long while since I’ve met or even spoken to the band members too, so I could listen [to this single] with a fresh mind.
Uta was composed by Imai Hisashi, and Kimi e, by Hoshino Hidehiko. The lyrics of both songs were written by Sakurai Atsushi.
Whichever song you listen to, the first thing you’d notice is the introduction of distortion-filled heavy metal-like rock guitars. And they weren’t effectively used in specific parts of the songs. Instead, they shaped the character of the songs by reverberating throughout pretty much the whole track. Based on the general impressions I’ve got, I’m sure that even though Imai and Hoshino’s guitars can be noisy and make strange sounds you wouldn’t hear anywhere else, I don’t think they have ever pushed such an orthodox and undoubtedly rock-styled distortion sound to the forefront before.
As a result, the subtle delicateness and exquisite shades that had always been present in BUCK-TICK’s music until now has disappeared and turned into a strong, heavy rock tune that slams into you.
On the other hand, the world of Sakurai Atsushi’s lyrics and his vocals largely maintains the image that he’s created so far. Of falling endlessly while desperately reaching your hands out in search of light in a world where hope and despair are in conflict. This in itself is an approach towards a perfected universe.
But, a problem lies in the sound balance.
I’ve listened to it close to 10 times since I received the tape, but somehow, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that something felt off. Before, I’d always feel like I’d made a new discovery or like my heart had suddenly been pierced with a delicate touch whenever I listened to a new BUCK-TICK song, but this time, there was none of that.
The singing and the playing are disparate. Or, well, maybe making them disparate is just one honest way of expressing it, but rather than going in the direction of each part complementing and playing up the other, I ended up getting the impression that these two parts were killing off each other’s positive aspects.
And the most uncomfortable part of it all was the beat. I can’t feel any groove at all. The rhythm is precise but there’s no nuance or timing that is strong enough to lead the whole song along so no matter how eager they are to try to distort the guitars, it doesn’t have the slightest bit of rock ‘n’ roll intensity. Why on earth did Anii drum such a flat rhythm when he’s supposed to be a fan of the role model of rock ‘n’ roll dynamism and nuance John Bonham (Led Zeppelin).
But I thought of something when I heard this longitudinal rhythm. Maybe the composer had in mind industrial sounds representative of Ministry or Nine Inch Nails. Rather then subtle nuances and sensibilities, the industrial machine beats that seem to barge through thick and heavy are like a sort of hardcore punk with a spasmic beat, kind of like a pulse without the groove and undulations. That, in its own way, is powerful and cool but I don’t think that this beat that BUCK-TICK brought this time is anything that meticulous. Somehow, everything is half-baked. In short, I suppose it doesn’t match their nature.
But, well, I guess it’s fine too. More than anything, the thing that disappointed me the most when I listened to this single was that I could barely sense any BUCK-TICK-ness or anything that is specifically unique to BUCK-TICK and only BUCK-TICK. The one most conventionally BUCK-TICK-like thing in this whole single was probably, Sakurai’s singing. As a vocalist, he is by no means perfect one. While delicate, Sakurai’s voice, which is neither robust nor that of a heavy rock vocalist’s, keeps getting muscled out by the loud and forceful background music. His subtle nuances and thoughtful wordings gets blasted away, leaving only a brutal impression like that of a rough, grainy photograph.
And their sound. They probably have a few creative ideas of their own, but unfortunately, barely any of their original ideas or that ingenuity can be detected in the BUCK-TICK sound in this single. Whichever song you look at, it just seems to me that they are taking overused formulae from Western rock music of 4 to 5 years ago that have been reused for years, only to recycle it again now.
I rated Shapeless, an album of BUCK-TICK’s songs remixed by Western techno artists highly. Of course, the remixing is the work of the remixers and have nothing to do with BUCK-TICK themselves. But even though they had the opportunity to see what different possibilities their music has with the help of these top Western artists, they instead chose to go against the times and step backwards, going industrial. This is just too much of a waste. I’m not saying that BUCK-TICK should make techno music. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of them to apply the spirit and new direction shown in techno, the music of this era. At the very least, isn’t this a more correct solution for them as compared to forcing themselves down the heavy rocker route if they considered their own nature as musicians? Well, having said all that, “No, I only did it ‘cause I wanted to,” is what I can already see Imai saying though……
Scans: Endless Dei (@DeiEndless on Twitter)