Posted by: 愛撫 | 08/25/08

Album review: MELL – MELLSCOPE

MELL, the original I’ve girl, had never had an album to herself. Until now. Was this a bad thing? Read the review to find out.

MELL – MELLSCOPE (2008, Geneon)

Tracklisting:

1. SCOPE

2. Red fraction

3. Way beyond there

4. repeat

5. Virgin’s high!

6. no vain

7. Permit

8. Under Superstition

9. kicks!

10. The first finale in me

11. 美しく生きたい -10 Years anniversary mix- (Utsukushiku Ikitai)

12. repeat -Deep Forest Remix-

The review:

Mami Kawada’s sophomore album SAVIA did pretty much everything right far as I’ve solo albums are concerned: a tight collection of songs with enough spin put on the already-heard songs to keep things from getting too familiar (such as adding extended opener “energy flow” to the fantastic JOINT), and new songs unquestionably amongst I’ve’s best (TRILL and Portamento were both instant classics far as this reviewer is concerned). So with 2008 already showing us everything an I’ve girl’s solo release can be, the bar was set almost ridiculously high for MELL’s long-overdue first full-length.

And it’s… better than Hikarinadeshiko, I’ll tell you that! Damning MELLSCOPE with faint praise as that may be, it’s still true that MELLSCOPE is not anywhere near as much of a waste of time as that particularly dire Shimamiya-helmed stinker was. But you know what? Even if it isn’t Hikarinadeshiko, I’m not going to dance around the fact that MELLSCOPE is still a disappointment.

The main problem with MELLSCOPE is the dire lack of new content: only a third of the album is truly original songs, with twin tacked-on remixes at the album’s end bringing the new-content-to-old-shit ratio to exactly 1:1. SAVIA admittedly had to deal with a similar conundrum (5 of SAVIA’s 13 tracks came from previous singles), but since, no matter how badly I apparently wish I was, I’m not reviewing SAVIA, I should shut the ever-loving fuck up about that album before I forget if MELLSCOPE actually is any good. And not only is the old shit really old in some cases (try ‘repeat’ on for size: the MELLSCOPE version is the exact same version released with the eroge Daraku back in 1999), but it’s all integrated pretty well artlessly: the tracks aren’t remixed, not even re-edited or extended to at least give the songs different runtimes than they were on the soundtrack CDs for the now-ancient eroge that birthed them. They’re just shoved in there, as if Geneon didn’t have the money to finance full studio sessions for the album so they figured it’d be alright to just tack on that song from Collective and a grab bag of recent B-sides, ship it as a new release and hope the profits would be enough to maybe fund the marketing push for another KOTOKO single or two.

But how are the originals?“, you’re probably not caring enough to ask. Well, I’ll take a brief break from being angry and bitter to say that the Tomoyuki Nakazawa-produced “Way beyond there” is brilliant, and Maiko Iuchi’s “Under Superstition” is actually one of the oft-maligned producer’s better works, sounding nicely grimy in a way that almost suggests there might actually be something to MELL’s darkness, that maybe it’s not all just unintentionally-hilarious Engrish lyrics and weird, occasionally frustrating music videos. Of course we all know that’s a lie, but for at least one song she makes a vaguely convincing argument.

The less said about album opener SCOPE and Nakazawa’s uncharasteristically lame “The first finale in me” (think Mami Kawada’s “undelete”, just… oh, there’s no “just”, it is fucking undelete) the better, so I’ll leave those two castoffs be. The album’s most intriguing curiosity comes with the twin remixes that close the album out: a supposed ’10th anniversary’ edit of MELL’s I’ve debut Utsukushiku Ikitai, and the left-field Eric Mouquet remix of repeat (probably the only reason Geneon tacked on repeat rather than, say, Egen). The 10th anniversary mix is a fascinating experiment in seeing how many things can possibly go wrong with a remix, with hardly a single note not sounding horribly out of place and just plain ugly. It’s a disgrace to I’ve to call a remix that nixes the bits that made Utsukushiku Ikitai endearing and lovable and replaces them with a generic dance beat guaranteed to be forgotten the second after the song’s runtime has ended any sort of “anniversary tribute”, but in 2008 that’s pretty much what I’ve has come to so it’s best to just grit our collective teeth and pretend this song doesn’t exist. It won’t be too hard, you’re guaranteed to forget what it sounds like the second after it ends anyhow. The Mouquet remix of repeat isn’t really any less of a joke (did you really, really like the faux world-music pop craze of the mid-’90s? Own every Enya album? Finally, a MELL song just for you!), but at least it tries to be interesting and sort of succeeds at it.

The most interesting part, however, is how despite the underwhelming individual elements, MELLSCOPE in its own weird way does manage to be somewhat enjoyable (while still being a disappointment. Don’t ask). As old as they might be, songs like repeat and Red fraction have yet to go stale, and the new context has given Virgin’s high! B-side “kicks!” the chance to finally grow on me (although the same can’t be said for its garbage A-side, a lamentable presence on an album already overfilled with questionable song choices). The few new songs suggest something far from staleness in MELL’s future, and while her debut was largely a wash I’m not doubting a SAVIA or Garasu no Kaze-level sophomore release: it’s just a question of how long until it comes around.


Responses

  1. I was kinda wondering no C.G mix works here? O.O well for her debut album I guess it’s not bad but because of some floppy songs, the quality of this album is not comparable to that of SAVIA… The latter is still the better album.

    I’m not really a fortune-teller but I don’t think they will launch an album for an I’ve Girl anytime this year (maybe uhm for Kaorin? But if ever, that wouldn’t really withstand SAVIA, no? Knowing Kaorin…) so maybe SAVIA will really be the best album of 2008 unless they will release a KOTOKO best singles collection…

  2. The thing is, I can’t see Kaori ever having an album. Mainly because a Kaori album would really be a KOTOKO album, because I’ve doesn’t seem to think Kaori can write her own stuff. From listening to the two songs that she’s written, she does a good job. Right now, I feel Kotoko should just back off and give the poor woman time to create her own works.

  3. I’ve never seemed too keen on remastering their old junk. Kiss the Future, a decent song with horrendous sound quality was untouched for the Collective reissue.
    (Side note: Automaton was on Endless Loop, IMMORAL was on SEED, Permit was on MELLSCOPE; so which of KOTOKO’s songs from Collective will be on her next album, or did Wing My Way from Garasu no Kaze take care of that requirement?)

    As for MELLSCOPE, there’s just no getting around the lack of new content. I would almost think it would be better if they cut four songs and called it a mini-album (cut Virgin’s High, Permit, repeat, push the Ikitai remix until Comiket/February) so that there wouldn’t seem to be as much wasted space. In fact, take away those four, and you have a pretty decent album. I’ll agree with everyone else in saying that it fits between SAVIA and Eiko’s album, closer to the former than the latter.
    Aibu, “the first finale in me” is not fucking undelete, it’s fucking Hikari Nadeshiko. It’s also MELL’s attempt to create a crystalline ballad a la Hikari Nadeshiko and portamento, but she fails because there’s no glacier-themed PV to go along with it, and if it isn’t completely obvious to everyone, MELL just doesn’t do these songs as well as Mami or Eiko. MELL’s better at screaming and being generally creepy, something SCOPE severely lacked.
    Yet, behind the sublime “Way Beyond There,” my favorite “new” song on the album has to be Eric Mouquet’s remix of repeat. I’m not going to lend any legitimacy to the moniker of “world” music (it’s New Age brought to mainstream with exotic instruments, for reference: ULYSSES) but I’m still a sucker for that sort of thing (ULYSSES again). It makes the original version seem so unpolished and monotone. I don’t know if the lyrics were rewritten by MELL and then translated by Harry Yoshida or if they were taken directly from the original, but if there are any similarities in subject and tone, Eric’s version solidly beats the one by the young Kazuya Takase. Now we wait to find out if the arrangers on master groove circle have the same vision to properly interpret the essences of the original songs, or else miss the point entirely and phone in a sloppy mess like Ikitai 10years mix.

    UPDATES? In the comment section??
    Picture of the master groove circle tin is up on amazon. Note how there are two sets of five circles, but the five circles are not of equal size. Hmph. Needs more pentagrams…
    Also, CDJapan is offering a “bonus neck strap” with the first pressing of the album.

  4. I still say First finale in me is undelete. HikaNade’s title track wasn’t as minimal and piano-driven as undelete/First finale, and the intent seemed different: HikaNade seemed vaguely uplifting (at least in intent), while First final and undelete are both trying for ‘tearjerker’. None of the three songs are any good in this reviewer’s opinion, but that’s just me.

  5. @愛撫 – Must you always be so negative with every release? We honestly should be happy that MELL got an album. Considering that I’ve has the habit of neglecting some of it’s singers for KOTOKO & Mami, this album is a good thing. Remember, beggars can’t be choosers.

  6. I’m curious as to how I’m ‘always’ negative. Where was this negativity when WHEEL OF FORTUNE came out? Real Onigokko? Fucking SAVIA? If you’re referring to the teaser paragraph (MELL never got an album before, was this a bad thing?), that was written to grab readers’ attention: I never meant to seriously imply MELL shouldn’t have an album to herself. And the review is negative because I feel that, as an album, MELLSCOPE was a disappointment. If indeed I should be happy and love this album simply for existing, than writing a review would be pointless.

    If you really want to read reviews that go easy on subpar products simply because of what they are, there are any number of J-music blogs out there that can give you just that. But over here I try and tell it like it is, and if beggars can’t be choosers then I would like to assure you that I am in no way a beggar.

  7. Oh no! Where’s Proof? D:

    Is Proof too non-I’ve to be included? I recall it was used as an anime theme, but so was Virgin’s high! It’s weird how the Proof single only got a PV for the B-side and not the title track…and it was the B-side that got tacked on to this album…

  8. @Yoru-chan>> Well that’s because Proof is actually a double A-side single which, the original single title, is “Proof/no vain”. Why not make a PV for Proof? Because it doesn’t really attract any special attention if compared to the epic win “no vain”, really.

    And maybe the reason why they included “Virgin’s high!” instead of “Proof” it’s because there are already enough ballads to make up MELLSCOPE (“Permit” and “The first finale in me” should be enough for ballad appreciators like me even if the latter is compared to Kawada’s “undelete”) but you know, they should’ve included it instead of “Virgin’s high!” because I didn’t really appreciate this song as much as I appreciate the latter song. >< But surprisingly, the Virgin’s high!-producer Maiko Iuchi made a good rebound with “Under Superstition” back there although it still doesn’t portray the real MELL style.

    Overall, even if I am being negative (like Aibu), MELLSCOPE is a disappointment. It’s like the most epic win song is only Red fraction and Way beyond there.

  9. […] me than it is about the actual subject. Unfortunately this hasn’t always worked out, as even my CD reviews aren’t entirely immune to obnoxious self-references, but I’m meandering here. In the […]

  10. Greetings from Finland. Sorry but I love this album I can’t find any bad things from this. Why this album is fail? No it isn’t. For me it was hard to find japanese music when I first time began search from internet. Now I have over 8Gt japanese music and I have to say this album is fantastic. 5/5


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