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Old 2012.12.08, 08:40 PM   #941
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JCHI Mirrorball > All others

IMO
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Old 2012.12.10, 12:55 AM   #942
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Originally Posted by Osiris12345 View Post
I suppose you didn't tell them that Mirrorball is an Uki song

That's seriously criminal though. That's kind of like saying your favorite Martin Scorsese movie is Shutter Island. It's like... just... no. No. Bad person.
haha YES!! Female student, btw. My reaction was "Oh, Tokyo Jihen!" which seemed to remind her that it wasn't actually a Ringo song.

I was 16 when I first got into Ringo... wow, it's been 10 (almost 11) years, that's insane.
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Old 2013.05.01, 03:15 PM   #943
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I went into my local Book Off the other day (it sells a lot of used Japanese CDs, manga, etc.) and decided to check and see if they had any Ringo/Jihen CDs since I still don't own anything past Adult.

There were maybe one or two copies of Heisei Fuuzoku and 4 copies of Variety (marked down, btw) sitting on the shelf. That was it. I thought of you guys when I saw that, haha

I should have gotten a picture. It was pretty funny.
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Old 2013.05.01, 06:09 PM   #944
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All I remember from my time in Japan looking at second hand stores was bins and bins of Shouso Strips...
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Old 2014.05.12, 01:17 AM   #945
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All the hate against Variety aside, I like the English wordplay in Botoumin.
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Old 2018.04.20, 05:27 PM   #946
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I can't believe this record is over a decade old now! This is still the highlight track tbh.

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Old 2018.06.03, 12:06 PM   #947
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So I was reading through the Variety thread out of boredom the other day and it was interesting seeing many of the long-term members here giving their own thoughts on the album real time back in 2007. You could see all the stages of grief at play and the disappointment felt from the posters was palpable.

What was it about this album that changed everything? It really was a landmark album for Ringo, but in the worst way. I think something changed in the air after this album was released. Especially for Western fandom. For people who had been fans since the beginning, I think this was the beginning of the end. There was no going back from here.

“Oh, I’m sorry. The old Ringo can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Why?”
“Oh, cause she’s dead!”

And you can see it here on the forums. There was a gradual acceptance that this marked the end of an era. To use a sports analogy, it’s kind of like how the New England Patriots can’t be the best team forever. Eventually Tom Brady and Belichick are going to retire and they’ll probably not be as good as they are now. In fact, the franchise will likely be a shadow of its former self.

I feel like most musical artists of even tremendous talent have a good 10 years in them. Look at any popular music artist with the obvious exceptions of outliers like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Madonna, etc. and you’ll find the 10 year rule applies.

The Beatles? They had less than 10 years in the spotlight and released some solid albums that changed popular music forever but if they had gone on after “Let It Be” was released (assuming the band could have even tolerated each other at that point) you know they would have started to languish. Michael Jackson’s best years as a solo artist were basically the 80’s. “Off The Wall” had just been released a year earlier, you had “Thriller” and “Bad” both getting released that decade, and he was on top of the world. Then the 90’s happened. Queen’s best era was about 1973-1983, give or take a few live concerts here and there afterwards, and then they just… faded out.

The reason I bring this up is that it’s reasonable to assume that Shiina couldn’t have stayed amazing forever. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee. But I think the sticking point is that her relative decline almost seems to have been engineered herself. She let her band mates, by all accounts good musicians and probably decent dudes, determine the fate of their third album. Now I’ve heard from some sources that she had writer’s block during this time and couldn’t really be creative and that others were pushing her to have the band write more material or what have you, but whatever the reason was she decided that this album was good enough to release. This album, in its current state, was good. In fact, it was “a masterpiece”, as the band put it. Kyoiku was redeemed by Dynamite Out in the eyes of the fandom. Adult was a little polarizing but it generally got positive reception and the songwriting was still on point. This was really the first big misstep. It was the chink in the armor. The Achilles’ heel.

I thought it would be interesting to revisit this album after years of basically, well, not listening to it. Of all of Shiina Ringo’s releases, this is the one I never go back to. In a weird way these songs are kind of uncovered territory because I’ve maybe listened to them once, skimmed through a track here or there, and then promptly forgotten about it. I didn’t dig into this album the way EMF did back in the day because posters like Jihad did the hard work for me. I largely believed the opinion of the senior posters of the forum.

It’s especially funny to think of that because at the same time long-time listeners were hanging their hats up and leaving the Ringo Station around 2007, so to speak, I was wide-eyed and open to all the auditory experiences this Japanese musician had to offer me. Osiris was totally a Ringo virgin in 2007 so I was lapping up things that would be utterly blasphemous to the justriiingos and Jihads of the fandom.

To put things in perspective, I placed tracks like “OSCA” and “Killer Tune” side by side with “Honnou”, “Kabukichou no Joou”, “Tsumi to Batsu”, etc. because I had no meta-knowledge of Tokyo Jihen calling this album “a masterpiece” or the anticipation felt from people who had loved Ringo for years waiting for the release date only to be disappointed with the finished product. It was all mixed together in a Ringo stew that I just consumed happily.

So when I lurked EMF I couldn’t imagine people not loving these songs. Until I read the posts about Variety on the forum.

I was crushed. So much negativity. Tokyo Jihad was so eloquent with his posts and he piece by piece DESTROYED this album, an album I had looked forward to listening to. I wasn’t disappointed with Ringo. I was disappointed with her fans that turned their backs on her. It rained on my parade in a big way and I learned pretty early on that if you wanted to be a cool kid on EMF, you couldn’t like Variety. The people who argued against its existence had too much credibility on the forum. Jihad, Maou, justriiingo, frecklegirl, and many others kept repeating themselves time and time again on why it was bad.

Sure, you had the kuro_nekos singing its praises but many of the posters in that camp came off really confrontational and used ad-hominem attacks (Tsuchiya anyone?) against the haters that utterly destroyed their credibility to outside observers like myself.

It was written in stone. The Senior EMF Judgment Panel of Tokyo Jihad the Silver-Tongued Philosopher, Maou the Guitarist Virtuoso, Glathannus the Golden-Eared One, and frecklegirl, the One Who Translated the Words of the Queen Herself, and many others had declared the album a failure. And it was so.

Then 10 years passed. There’s been highs and lows since then among this largely fractured fandom. Tokyo Jihen broke up for one and now Shiina Ringo is a full-time solo artist who has had two major releases since Variety. A lot has happened on paper but I would say Ringo’s latter 10 years haven’t really had as much fanfare, aside from the occasional lavish Expo show, as her first 10.

If you really want to feel old, we’ve had more time since Variety was released now than there was since Ringo’s debut leading up to Variety. Crazy.

So how is EMF’s old pal Variety doing anyway? How’s he holding up? Is his “Boutomin” acting up? Maybe he’s got a bad case of “Mirrorball”? Maybe he’s aged a little better in the last 10 years than he did when he first came onto the scene. Or maybe he’s even more long in the tooth. I’m gonna check in on him and report my findings to anyone who cares to read this.

THE REVIEW (EMF: Finally! Took Osiris long enough! )


Let’s start in with Ramp.

Before Listening:
I barely remember this song. It’s kind of funny because I always think of the title when I think of Variety but I could never place a melody to it. Curious to see how it is.

After Listening:
Okay, so the song starts off with a nice little organ at the beginning. Is this supposed to be the opening to the Variety show maybe? I actually like the first 30 seconds a lot. But then. Ugh. That abrupt change in the chorus. It just…. doesn’t work for me. It’s not a particularly good chorus either. It’s actually repetitive, which is something I don’t usually say with Ringo associated songs. The weakest opening of a TJ album by far. After the first 30 seconds it just doesn’t really find its footing. The problem with this song isn’t even necessarily the instrumentals. It’s all melody. It’s just kinda ho-hum.

Middle of the road track from Ol’ Osi.

Now Mirrorball. Not to be confused with the Brad Pitt movie “Moneyball”. But if you ever have any spare time I recommend checking it out because it’s a pretty good movie.

Before Listening:
I remember liking the JCHI version better but I don’t even remember the melody for this song.

After Listening:
I’m actually okay with the wah guitar and the first part of this. First minute is actually pretty solid, to be honest. I even kind of like the guitar track. But the fuzz added in around the minute mark really brings down the song. This arrangement is also way overstuffed. It doesn’t feel like the band is playing TOGETHER. They come together for the chorus but Ringo’s voice is so filtered and the production is so overdone it really kills it for me. It’s a shame because there’s some GOOD IDEAS but they just don’t really make a cohesive whole. This dish is undercooked and I want to send it back to the kitchen.

Re-listened to the JCHI version and it works SO MUCH BETTER. Fuck. I actually really like the guitar line, the slower tempo, and the way they all harmonize in the chorus. I can’t even imagine seeing that show back in 2006 and being like “Man, I can’t wait to see what they do on the album version!” And I thought “Yokyou” was disappointing. At least I warmed up to that song.

Thumbs down.

Kingyo no Hako

Before Listening:
I do not remember this song.

After Listening:
I dig the vibe of this track from the onset. Nice guitar, organ, and I actually really like Ringo's vocal line in this. It goes interesting places melodically that I didn't expect. Wow. This may be the first track that I feel benefits from this “overproduced feel” for the album. There’s something lively and playful about this piece that really works. It also feels like the band is just jamming together in a way you don’t hear in a lot of other TJ stuff. The bar was set pretty low going into this album but I feel like this song meets it. It’s not as well put together as a Ringo penned song but I feel like for a jam session track it does the job.

I'm surprised at how much I like this one. Definite thumbs up.

Shiseikatsu

Before Listening:
Wasn't this the "Superstar" ripoff?

After Listening:
Guitar tone feels off when the song starts. Ringo sounds bored. Meh. I could do without this track. The pre-chorus is easily the best part of the song. It makes you think the song is going somewhere interesting but the chorus lets you down. I think a better arrangement could do wonders for this song. The melody is so bland and there’s no surprises. It lacks the dynamics of SS or the audio spectacle of KSK. This is Ringo’s worst vocal performance on the album so far. "Pinocchio" would have been a much better pick for this spot.

I'm not a fan. Thumbs down.

OSCA


Before Listening:
I've revisited this song before doing this retrospective and I like it even though (a vocal portion of) EMF hates it.

After Listening:
I still like this. 2007 TJ Newb Osiris' taste still reigns supreme, I guess. Still is a nice little palette-cleanser.

Especially after SHIT-seikatsu. Oh yeah. I went there.

Kronekodow

Before Listening:
I remember this being one of the better tracks.

After Listening:
This song still works really well. I love its manic, frantic energy. It really evokes a black cat running around a city at night exploring its territory. I forgot how fun this song was. It’s a real treat to listen to. I grin ear to ear hearing the whole band do backup vocals for the finale and the faster pace of the song. I love it but I'm also the guy who thinks "Rocky Raccoon" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" are highlights of their respective albums so make of that what you will.

Another winner from me.

Fukushuu

Before Listening:
This is Jihad's favorite song off Variety. I have no idea how its melody goes because I haven't listened to it in at least 8 years.

After Listening:
Tokyo Jihen does Third Eye Blind! I like this. I don't love it but I like it. I’m a fan of the drum sound. It feels a lot more raw than the tight drums on the rest of the album. Hata shines here. Ringo’s vocals don’t sound as raw as her SS days, which is disappointing. I wish she’d sink her teeth into it a little more. Go full crazy Ringo in the chorus. I want a GX Ringo for this but instead I got a JCHI Ringo. Oh well.

Another middle of roader for me. I can't get excited about a watered down version of her old sound. It's nothing new.

Boutomin

Before Listening:
I remember kinda liking this one. It was a fun one to watch in the Spa & Treatment concert footage. I also actually remember the melody to this.

After Listening:
How in the hell did I ever tolerate this piece of garbage. Uki can’t sing. At all. And Izawa sounds like he’s about to fall asleep in his verse. Ringo outshines the guys so much in this track it’s ridiculous. This song has the opposite problem most of the tracks on this album have where the call-and-response chorus kind of works but the verse is bad. That “awww yeah!” part the guys do is just made of douche chills. It's so fucking cringey! Oh my god. It's the worst. Song finds its footing a little with Uki’s guitar picking during the last chorus. The “Kabuki” redux was a nice touch but it didn’t save this. This was just bad. I can’t defend this. I can only imagine the horror of experiencing Kyoiku era rock tracks when they were first released and then hearing... whatever the hell this shit is for the first time.

Strong thumbs down.

SSAW

Before Listening:
This song was on everyone's shit list. I don't remember how it goes but I do remember thinking it was inoffensive.

After Listening:
The guys' vocals are a little better here. Although I can’t help but think that this sounds like music for a children’s show. Wish the guitar line had a little more oomph to it. The keys are nice. I actually really like the melody for this. To be honest, it’s one of the better tracks for a “Variety” concept. It’s very elevator-music-y but your mileage will vary on how offensive that is to you. It kind of reminds me of “In Only Seven Days” by Queen from their Jazz album. It’s a nice little ditty that is largely non-offensive that fans of the band hate. I can’t really bring myself to hate it though. It works.

Another thumbs up from me. But this kind of shit is to me what "Fukushuu" is to Jihad. You know I'm going to like the breezy mellow elevator music jazz track. It's my weakness.

Tsukigime-hime

Before Listening:
I remember the Count Chocula organ. I also think this track has kind of a cool name. That's about all I can place to it.

After Listening:
Digging the hell out of this track. TJ does The Doors? Yes please. Dat organ. This one’s a lot of fun. I love the whole 60’s throwback style it’s got going on. Almost wish they shot a retro music video for this track. Lots of cool things going on here. One of my faves that I wish I had checked out more at the time. I actually kind of love this.

Another thumbs up.

Sake to Geko

Before Listening:
I don't remember this track but I remember the song title.

After Listening:
Great vocal performance on this track. Ringo’s energy is on point here. Wish she brought this performance to “Fukushuu”. I like this one a lot. It's another album highlight. I remember not liking it much at time after hearing the opening melody but listening to the whole song gave me an appreciation for it. Izawa's MVP performance for sure.

Another thumbs up.

Killer Tune

Before Listening:
Favorite off the album.

After Listening:
Still my favorite off the album. Not much to say here.

Metro

Before Listening:
Remember liking this one when I first heard it. I can actually remember the melody so obviously I gave it more listens than the rest of the album.

After Listening:
Pretty solid song. Could have been another single if they had wanted to go in that direction. Uki's guitar tone really fits the mood and the band really comes together for this. Lyrics are cheesy from what I remember but since I don't know Japanese it doesn't affect me all that much. As some others have said, this does feel like the ending credits of the Variety show.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
1. Ramp (Okay)
2. Mirrorball (Bad)
3. Kingyo no Hako (Good)
4. Shiseikatsu (Bad)
5. OSCA (Good)
6. Kronekodow (Good)
7. Fukushuu (Okay)
8. Boutomin (Awful)
9. SSAW (Good)
10. Tsukigime-hime (Good)
11. Sake to Geko (Good)
12. Killer Tune (Great)
13. Metro (Good)

So that's, what, 8 tracks out of 13 that are good?

Wait. Wait.

Did I really just say that most of Variety is good? I'm just as surprised as you are. Maybe it was the way it hit me or the mood I was in but I actually don't hate this album after hearing it all the way through again.

I've come to a very weird place with this. I feel like I'm going to be put in board jail for reaching this conclusion but most of Variety isn't shit. Yeah, I mean, there's some real duds here but most of the album actually ain't half bad. It's just that it's not as good as her other stuff. Now that probably seems like a cop out and pretty far from a hot take but hear me out.

Tokyo Jihad said something interesting in one of his older posts where he said that he didn't sign up for pop music. And that's really telling about the mindset most people were at when they first listened to this album. It is EASILY the poppiest Ringo had ever sounded at the time. This album is the first in Ringo's career that felt disposable. It lacked substance. It lacked any urgency or sense of edginess. It was just... fluff.

That's the problem. While the tracks are GOOD, there's only one moment of GREATNESS. To me it's "Killer Tune" but to others it may be something else. The point is that this album is a collection of half-finished songs, some with really good ideas, that doesn't come together as a whole. I don't feel satisfied after the ending of "Metro". I’m left wanting a little more.

So it’s really weird. The individual pieces aren’t bad, some I even really like, but they just don’t coalesce in a satisfactory way. Thankfully the “Boutomin” moments are few and far between but there’s basically no “Tsumi to Batsu” or “Koufukuron (Etsuraku hen)” moments either. Nothing about this album floored me in the way revisiting a lot of her other stuff does.

In some ways it feels like the band took the “Variety” concept a little too far and set out to produce music that sounds like it could be featured on a game show or TV program. You know, like “The $100,000 Pyramid” or “Wheel of Fortune”? A lot of people love those themes but they’re specifically designed to be pleasant and a little manufactured. Nobody claims that “The Price is Right” theme challenges them intellectually or is “musically dense”. And while these tracks are definitely more musically dense than those aforementioned songs, their goal is the same. It’s safe. It’s fun. It’s something you forget the moment the music stops and you go outside to keep going about your day.

Perhaps that’s the most heartbreaking part of all. That Variety just came and went and the only impression it really left was that it didn’t leave one.

For an album Ringo performed on, that’s criminal.
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Old 2018.06.03, 06:14 PM   #948
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And yet, Variety still has more weight on her catalog than her latest work- maybe because Variety is a parody of tv jingles whereas what she's doing now is actual jingles. Which is disgusting.
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Old 2018.06.03, 06:44 PM   #949
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Fantastic write up, Osiris! Thank you.
I've written so many words about these songs, and I could probably write more. I think my thoughts on Variety are best said in my edit of the album (which still might be on this site?)

But one more thought. This album left a bigger mark and inspired more thought than Sports and Dai Hakken.
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Old 2018.06.04, 01:08 AM   #950
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Originally Posted by Osiris12345 View Post
It was written in stone. The Senior EMF Judgment Panel of Tokyo Jihad the Silver-Tongued Philosopher, Maou the Guitarist Virtuoso, Glathannus the Golden-Eared One, and frecklegirl, the One Who Translated the Words of the Queen Herself, and many others had declared the album a failure. And it was so.
LOLLOLOLOLOLOLOL
I enjoyed so much reading your post Osiris!
I think it's totally true that the expectations towards this release was what killed our enthusiasm about Ringo

When I first listened to Ringo was before KSK was released, and my ex was an avid fan of hers. As I didn't have internet access back then, he was the one who would record her songs on a CD for me to listen to. When I finally started working, and lurking at the RingoJihen Forums, the only songs I had listened from KSK were Meisai, Torikoshi kurou, Odaiji ni, and Okonomi de; because when my ex, who was anxiously waiting for Ringo's next release, downloaded KSK he got completely disappointed because he was waiting for something that sounded like SS/MM/ZCS, and those 4 songs were the only ones that he liked.
Well.. when Kyouiku was released he really enjoyed, as her music had that rock feeling again, but then he never liked her releases ever again after that.

I think what made me enjoy her SUNNY album was that I had completely forgot about her existence, and as her previous releases felt so shitty for me I was expecting SUNNY to be waaaaaaaaaaay worse than it was (I don't even consider it to be in the bad Ringo's release box)

Osiris' post really inspires me to write new reviews about all the old releases (I'm planning to do it since the forums came back to life), though my reviews would not be as funny as his was
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