GaGaalinG - Royal Stranger

review - 09.02.2008 08:00

GaGaalinG's first European album release is dressed to impress and expresses this group's unique attitude!

This July, GaGaalinG, the rock group fronted by lovely model MYM, released their third studio album, Royal Stranger. It came out not only in Japan, but also in Europe. This step only serves as another piece of evidence to their ever-growing overseas popularity, and it is not without a reason. Mostly in Japanese, mixed with the occasional English phrases, MYM’s heartfelt lyrics express a whole new, alternative generation. The catchy melodies, composed by the other three members, combine rock, pop and punk, fighting to define their unique place in the map of music.

The album opens with the pulsing, dark sounds of RENDEZVOUS – R.S. version, evoking images of Halloween. MOTO G3’s electronic melodies build up a gothic mood, creating an appealing contrast to the rather lighthearted pop beat that follows. The guitars enhance it even further, with some well placed metal twists. Revolution is the rock song that comes up next. Not dyed in Che’s red, but rather glittering in vibrant pink, MYM’s spirited singing, the background vocals and the guitar solo carry a true rebellious attitude. The third track, Shower, is a substantial pop hit. With its overpowering dance flair urging you to sing and nod along to the rhythm, it features a dreadfully catchy chorus and simply embodies everything a pop fan could ask for.

PIASU (PIERCED PLEASURES) , GaGaalinG’s recent single follows. Perhaps somewhat bland at first, after a couple of times you will start noticing several endearing details that, together with the prominent vocals, give it a playfully punk attitude. The fifth track, YUME UTSUSU, might give off a warm, adorable feeling with a very good arrangement, however, it fails to impress. Flash Back, on the other hand, with MOTO G3’s guitar playing more aggressively, almost impatiently, is bound to leave a strong impression. MYM sounds much more at home: her voice is low at parts and almost threatening, and then girly again, but always powerful and edgy.

This is followed by another single, i-SCREAM MACHINE. Without straying far from GaGaalinG’s trademark compositions, or perhaps by smoothly merging their elements together, it successfully stands out. It opens with snares and digital glitching, and shortly before the chorus it explodes into an intense mix of drumming. However, JUN’s bass undoubtedly holds the key part in this song. The digital sounds shine through, without obscuring the track’s edgy rock attitude.

losing you is a song that kicks off rather energetically. Regretfully, it loses most of its energy early on and ends up relying heavily on the charming vocals to bring together the rather mismatched patterns. The ninth track, Frozen Heart, is mostly a pop ballad with some refreshingly happy melodies. Unfortunately, they end up sounding somewhat repetitive.

One of the most light-hearted tracks of Royal Stranger, MICHISHIRUBE, is next. It is sung almost like a child’s lullaby. Guitars skillfully build up a luscious atmosphere, with the bass adding some heavier momentum. Then Rain Man speeds up the pace, with the beat breaking into a harsher sound. Its lyrics strengthen the antithesis to the previous song: MICHISHIRUBE spoke of the calm reassurance offered to MYM by her mother and offered a sweet thank you; Rain Man is a heart wrenching goodbye to the person that used to look over her.

Next up is lost in child, which finally reveals a different side of the group. Starting with old fashioned oriental tunes, the rhythm soon changes to a jittery, modern rock that creates a very appropriate mind frame for the haunting lyrics. desperate follows, speeding up into a heavily digitalized, angry song with constantly accelerating, loud drums. The finale is particularly noteworthy, even if the ending is quite sudden. COWARD, with a slow, melodic opening, initiates yet another mood change. In this ballad, the guitar plays the lead role. However, the addition of classical instruments makes for a very interesting and rich result, which is only accented by the surprisingly melodious and mature singing.

The fifteenth track is the fast paced time is time. While it admittedly has several attractive points, the song literally suffocates under the constant flickering of pace and rhythm. Dark, but playful, as the title implies, Twisted Heart wraps the European version of Royal Stranger up. JUN and Cherry “G”, on bass and drums respectively, create a vibrant, rhythmic beat. You can easily get tipsy from the twisting rhythm and crave more. It's a great song that's a mix of Marylin Manson and a goth version of Avril Lavigne!

GaGaalinG seems to have found their unique identity, and this certainly shows in Royal Stranger. Someone would assume it would be safer to have less tracks included, making for a more compact release. However, their energy, flowing non-stop throughout the album, will have you listening to it from first to last second, over and over again. As a bonus, the European release comes not only with the bonus track, but it also includes three PVs of the band, not to mention a gorgeous booklet, a work by the infamous h.Naoto. Definitely a must have release, it's the perfect initiation to the aggressively colorful world of GaGaalinG.
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