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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tokyo Groove etc.

I wrote my first review of Tokyo Grove probably the day or so after it was released. It was written very quickly, and not particularly well, which is ultimately why I chose not to publish it. Having re-read it again just now I think that was a good idea.

Needless to say, my initial reaction was not good. So I decided to let the album sit a little, mull over it a bit and then come back to it with a more level headed mindset and give it another try.

Unfortunately, it hasn't improved, and what I was struggling with then is still what I'm struggling with now; its becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify being a Halcali fan.

I won't deny that this has been an issue with me for a while now, but even their less impressive releases have always had that basic Halcali vibe; that fun, colourful and very unique spark that's been with them since the beginning.

I don't feel that at all on Tokyo Groove. This is a very cynical, emotionless release that feels as flat and cold as a piece of plastic. The whole thing just feels so lazy and rushed, reeking of little more than Sony looking for the quickest way to milk the most money from the fanbase with the least amount of work, perhaps while speeding up the end of their contractual obligations to Halcali in the process.

Remember when Halcali were overflowing with ideas and ambition? That's gone now. The first CD clocks in at a pathetic 8 tracks. Two of those are singles, another is a (utterly shameless!) b-side, one is actually quite good (the long lost Zig Zag Saturday Night), and three others are bland, instantly forgettable cookie cutter Jpop numbers which barely warrant a second listen. I wonder who they were originally written for?

Topping all of this off is a dreadful and amateurish 10 minute mash up of Halcali-when-they-were-good, which essentially only serves to remind you of everything they used to be, and everything they've lost.

The second CD of covers hardly warrants a mention, and could have been put together by any Halcali fan with a bit of time on their hands. Most of the songs are old (Ai dates back to their Bacon days), none are particularly interesting. It all makes for a very empty, depressing listen.

Does this tired, meandering mess mean the end of Halcali? You really feel like their fate is out of their hands anyway so its hard to say for sure. Maybe some inspired producer will whisk them away and they'll start making that fun, colourful, and unique music again.


Blogger Stewart said...

I generally agree with this post. I've never heard of a musical act decline so quickly yet, because of their unprolific career, almost patiently. I wish them great success and I might always support their musical activity, but their recent output is listenable at best. I can really only think of 3 impressive tracks in the entire Tokyo Groove set, and 2 of those were, as you said, singles. I don't even know if Zig Zag Saturday Night is worth the cost of the album. Though I'll admit two discs for the cost of one is a pretty sweet bargain.

Still, I listen to Tokyo Groove and wonder if this is music the girls want to record, or if its entirety is Sony's doing. Hopefully, the next album will say for sure. And maybe the relative success of this album will allow the girls more creative control. Maybe even... production credits?

7:27 PM

Blogger jariten said...

Interesting thoughts. I think what they need now is what they've always needed post-OTF; a producer who cares, and one who Sony will let them work with frequently.
I actually think the girls themselves are probably pretty happy with where they are in their career now, at least financially anyway.
I find it hard to believe that anyone could feel satisfied with this release and pleased their name is attached to it though.

10:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice to read something that goes alongside my thoughts of the album.
but seriously, halcali are dead.
they already died with long kiss goodbye imho.
too bad, but that's the music industry i guess.

11:55 PM

Blogger Stewart said...

@jariten: The girls deserve some sort of success after 2006-2008 (which I am deeming "The Lost Years" of HALCALI). I just wish commercial success equated with creative... fulfillment. I almost hesitate to use that word, though, because I really don't want to speak for the girls. Also, what are your thoughts as to the actual Endless Night single? I'm curious to hear. :p

@anonymous: I wouldn't say they're dead. Who knows? Maybe they'll knock one out of the park sometime soon. Sigh.

2:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i do believe in zombies, so yeah they might come back one day...maybe...

8:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jariten, I (unfortunately) have to agree with your assessment of Tokyo Groove. BIG disappointment, but not quite an unexpected one. It must be difficult to transition from a teenage near-novelty act (replete with joyfully sloppy dancing and shamelessly catchy tunes about electric sensei) to young ladies selling ballads to an audience for which these are so ubiquitous and interchangeable... almost to the point of listener's nausea here in Japan.

At least Halcali's early stuff was unique. I think Bacon is pretty timeless. I still hip people to that in 2010! It seems like Tokyo Groove is a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach from Sony. For the most part, it slides down the wall like overcooked udon. I was hoping that, even if the CD sucked, the extended mash-up would be fun; it's not, and it seems as rudimentary and lacking in ambition as the CD cover.

I'm gonna go listen to Bacon.

7:22 AM

Blogger Stewart said...


Well, their new single is somewhat of an improvement at least. It's a bit too PUFFY for my taste (coming from a PUFFY fan), but it's got personality. Plus, I'm a sucker for ska. :p

Still, it's frustrating that they're stuck doing yet another cover single... Without even a B-side to boot.

9:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, it's all about the B-side song: "YES". I like to watch Yucali dance around in those striped stockings and fantasize about her screaming "Yes! Yes! Oh Yes!!!"

10:41 PM

Blogger jariten said...

I've been listening to this for a few days...I was actually pretty familiar with the original from this jpop comp a friend made for me years ago.
It's...OK I guess. An improvement though, as you say. I agree with your sentiments about the fact its a cover too...more wheel spinning!
I put together a review of it as well as some other general halcali thoughts so hopefully I should have that up soon!

10:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I actually think the girls themselves are probably pretty happy with where they are in their career now, at least financially anyway"

I seriously doubt it. I bumped into one of the girls at a live show a couple of months before Tokyo Groove came out, and she said the album was going very badly.

Also, I have no idea what HalCali get paid specifically, but usually in Japan artists with a big management company get a terribly low salary, not to mention the fact that they don't write anything and thus get no songwriting royalties either.

I think it's tragic that two people with such natural talent have ended up in such a terrible position, without any creative control and riding a ship skippered by a directionless committee. But that's the music industry. Hopefully they'll get dropped, split up and use the lessons they've learned about contracts and artistic control when they go on to new projects.

6:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're 100% dead on. I quit a facebook fan group based on the fact everyone was commending the new album which is in fact, a swindle. 8 tracks? Halcali is no longer fun, cool or interesting. I'm very sad, but at least there are 2 good albums we can continue enjoying.

11:46 AM

Blogger Stewart said...

THERE IS HOPE YET.http://www.halcalisensation.com/2010/09/29/new-song/

Nakamura Hiroshi might save us (err... the girls) yet!

1:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been sad to see this blog thin out to near-nothingness, in perfect step with the critical view of Halcali's output.

The major labels in Japan have an outdated (patriarchal) view towards what could become a viable success. Sony is probably the most forward-thinking of these units, but it's still 40 years behind in many global aspects, and our beloved Halcali is a casualty of this strategem.

They can't, and won't, stay 16 forever, but this was a great band with great songs. It's a sadness that most of your friends won't know who they were. I always slip "Giri Giri Surfrider" into mixes and get people dancin'!

I wish the absolute best to Halca & Yucali, and to all the fans who appreciated their magic and FUN!

7:16 PM

Anonymous Francis Nyarku said...

Zig Zag Saturday Night was the shit...Love that song, but as for the whole Sony debacle...
Michael Jackson did say in these exact words that "Sony is Evil".

8:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Halcali, where art thou?

12:26 AM

Anonymous Daniel said...

Halca performed a solo concert recently - video clip here:


1:27 AM

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