Charan-Po-Rantan have been a band that have sat particularly well with this reviewer for quite some time. Their cathartic and quirky blend of folk, cabaret, circus theatrics and straight out J-Pop is intoxicating and addictive. Musically, they’re tight and giddy- and feature some of the most approachable accordion work I’ve come across, provided by the highly talented Koharu. In the vocal department, Momo has always been impeccable- she’s got a huge range and is near impossible not to fall in love with. Their last album, “Theatre Theatre“- their debut album on major label AVEX – was a juggernaut of catchy tunes, sweet melodies and amazing track sequencing that was a delight to listen to from start to end. Now, just over a year since that album, they return with their new full length, Onna no 46-Pun– and I’m about to see how it fares…
Opening with two of their most loud and wild tunes, Charan-Po-Rantan spare no time to get things into full speed. Its simultaneously jarring and inviting. It’s like that super talented, but crazy looking street performer going at full gusto, you just have to get a closer look- but you still want to keep your distance until you feel a little bit more safe around them. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long till you can sink into the whole thing and let Charan-Po-Rantan take you for a ride in their whirlwind. It’s a fun start to the album and continues for a little while. But it’s when they slow it down that the gold really comes out- and is the Charan-Po-Rantan that I fell in love with.
For example, “Watashi Machigatteta” is absolutely delightful, a nice slower tune that is beautifully thought out. Previously released “Anata no Kuni no Merry-Go-Round” is instantly gratifying to the patient- it’s a really nice demonstration of the girls ability to construct songs with real chord progression, and it’s mighty impressive. “Yoku” showcases some of the best vocals ever put to record by the group, and the string work on this is batshit brilliant. The real highlight of the album for me, however, comes in the subtle gorgeousness that is “Suki Doushi“, its hard not to adore the perfectly set out song with its ebbs and flows, matched with some really amazing harmonizing and accordion work.
However, the album is definitely not perfect. It suffers from one noticeable problem- similarity– to a fault. There is really no new ground covered here, and this may be a bit of a turn off to some people. There is not much difference between this album and Theatre Theatre in particular. The production is exactly the same, and sounds like it could have come from the exact same sessions. Infact- because some of the songs aren’t quite as strong as the ones on Theatre Theatre, it almost feels like b-sides for that album. The track ordering is not as well thought out (as has been pointed out by others), and unfortunately becomes a little bit fatiguing in the second half. Fortunately then, the great (and yes, they are GREAT) tracks are spread out pretty even across the album so there’s at least always SOMETHING to keep you going.
So, ultimately, what it comes down to is that while it may not be their best work- it’s still damn hard to listen to the album without cracking a big fat Chesire Cat grin. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had, regardless of the similarities to the last album, and it’s awkward flow can be forgiven on multiple spins. While it may not work perfectly as a full album- there are still plenty of killer tracks to pick from here- and I’m sure most Charan-Po-Rantan fans are going to be pleased anyway.
7.5/10 Another beautiful –if a tiny bit rocky– release by Charan-Po-Rantan. Can’t wait to see the live performances of some of these songs!