(Preface: It’s been a while since I’ve written with any regularity. I’m hoping to correct that a bit now that summer beats me down with its rays. My personal movement away from screen capture laden review might also help with more regularity in my writing. I don’t know: you may not want more to read, or you might not want to read my scrawling without visual stimulation. Most likely you don’t care much one way or the other, and that’s alright with me, too. Most likely, I’ll save the screen captures for more eye popping reviews.)
Let’s talk about Awesome City Club. I have been meaning to write about them for a while now. ACC are a break from my normal idol fare. Remember, though: I used to play in a band before coming to idol heaven, so seeing a group like Awesome City Club hits me hard. While this review concerns “Shigatsu no March”, their release Awesome City Music is a great listen all the way through. Pick up a copy.
Awesome City Club trades vocal duties between atagi and PORIN, but “Shigatsu no March” belongs to PORIN (which, no surprise, I prefer). Verses and intros snap along with a “four on the floor” rhythm that feels great to my ska-trained ears (no I’m not calling this a ska song- it’s not). The chorus is a real selling point with “Shigatsu no March” as PORIN’s vocal work provides a catchy hook that builds upward from the verses.
I say verses, but really there’s only a first verse. After PORIN’s bell-like vocals, the group forgoes a second verse in favor of a subdued three on two re-arrangement of the chorus. If you are a rhythm geek, you will like this. If you are thinking that “Shigatsu no March” is a song built around a chorus and an organ-backed guitar lick, you are probably right.
Just as much as the song, the PV for “Shigatsu no March” really sucked me into this group.
In our first scene we see PORIN just waking up. As she picks up the phone and starts singing, she looks as natural as we will ever see her in the PV. I find this interesting and appropriate because people are never more natural and closest to their true self in sleep. This is natural. This is normal. Hello Papa, Mama, Sensei.
When the song transitions to the chorus, PORIN receives the treatment from the rest of the band. Standing like a plastic doll, lifeless and soulless, PORIN finds herself at the whims of her band and on the receiving end of a makeover. The rest of Awesome City Club don rubber gloves as if to exonerate themselves from any wrongdoing. This makes me believe they know their actions are somehow against nature.
This scene repeats in greater detail and with greater damning evidence. Their singer becomes just a doll for them to play with. I watch these sequences and think about how dehumanizing the process is. Who cares what PORIN wants to wear? She needs to become a tool to increase Awesome City Club’s fanbase, right? We should all know by now that however unfairly, the singer for any group receives the most attention and becomes the focal point of the band. Things being thus, “they” expend much greater time and care preening and prepping the singer to create the perfect, optimized image for the group. This is how the game is played, and Awesome City Club know it and acknowledge it meta-contextually. The flipside of this coin is that we consumers will practically never hear/see bands with “ugly” singers, regardless of talent (you can start looking for counterexamples now). But the result is ….
Finally, we get the performance shot for Awesome City Club. In some ways, I find this performance the most honest portrayal of how it feels to become the backing band. PORIN appears front & center and downstage from a shimmering tinsel backdrop. She wears her carefully crafted outfit- honestly, I think she looks great. PORIN comes to life. She moves more naturally than she did backstage, and her dolled-up self even seems to enjoy performing. The band, though, becomes invisible. We see their rubber gloves add to PORIN’s choreography. They accentuate her movements, but stay out of the way. When the band shows themselves, they are practically reduced talking heads. Completely inconsequential, the rest of Awesome City Club provide background vocals from a different room- the backstage set. Heck, they do even get proper instruments: they sing their parts through a hairbrush. Even though they may enjoy performing as much as PORIN, it ultimately does not matter: no one will ever see them.
All things end, and when “Shigatsu no March” meets its final bars, PORIN is back in her pajamas, jumping on her bed. She is alive again. In this final time in the bedroom, confetti showers PORIN in celebration. PORIN’s smiles during her fevered trampoline play come across as the most authentic artifact in “Shigatsu no March”. Her time as someone’s doll finished, the genuine and true PORIN puts away the tools of deception: the wig crowns the soulless mannequin and the false lashes beautify the false horse.
With “Shigatsu no March”, I see a band acknowledge their roles in the public sphere. Our front woman resigns herself to an existence as a doll, or an effigy for the band as a whole. The band itself tries to exert control by tailoring their singer, but ultimately becomes behind-the-scenes players. The sharp metaphorical play of the PV might outshadow a lesser song, but “Shigatsu no March” is a sharp release, one that I will enjoy for a long time.
I just wish they picked the green dress.
You can buy “Awesome City Tracks” by Awesome City Club at CD Japan
Follow Awesome City Club
Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
atagi (Vocal/Guitar) Twitter | Instagram
PORIN (Vocal/Synthesizer) Twitter | Instagram
モリシー (Guitar/Synthesizer/Vocal) Twitter | Instagram
マツザカタクミ (Bass/Synthesizer/Rap) Twitter | Instagram
ユキエ (Drums/Vocal) Twitter | Instagram