Suiyoubi no Campanella at this stage, have almost become a household name with Japanese music fans. They almost seem destined to take on the world- further enhanced by their sudden English friendly approach (and a European vinyl exclusive) and the changing of their name on YouTube videos to “WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA“. Last year’s Zipang was a major hit with the Jpop audience and really hit hard with it’s multiple killer singles.
It is no suprise then, that major label Warner Music Japan took notice and signed them up. While this is great for the group on a financial and exposure level- it’s hard not to think back upon another group signed to the same label- Charisma.com. That particular duo entered the scene with a huge bang- and their tunes really hit like a motherfucker in those early releases. However, soon after signing to the major, things started taking a turn for the worse and all the power seemed to be dulled and the appeal really started to wane. Would this be the fate of the beloved Suiyoubi no Campanella too? For months listeners pondered this question.
Thankfully then, the answer is only ‘sort of‘. UMA is still pretty much trademark Campanella sounding- the power is pretty much intact. However, there is a notable detachment and there seems to be less care and effort put in behind a lot of these compositions (which could frankly be from the use of multiple producers this time round). The ultimate result is a little bit messy, perhaps even a little rushed. Like the pattern seen on Zipang, the two lead singles “Chupacabra” and “Tsuchinoko” are by far the most standout tunes here. “Chupacabra” is especially great- hell, it’s one of the best opening tracks in their entire catalog. The subtle beat (and it’s wonderful progression) and perfectly balanced vocals are quite standout, and set the bar for the rest of the EP very, very high.
Unfortunately then, the rest of the EP does not really reach the height of the two singles. Not even close. Hell, some of the songs here sound almost embarrassing if I’m being brutally honest about it. The third track, “Yuki Otoko Yeti” even made this listener crack a bit of a smile at it’s ridiculous rapping part. It’s kinda jarring and silly- and surprisingly generic for a group known for such wide variation. Fourth track “Unico” takes a turn for the gentle, but ultimately just becomes a generic, boring ballad that could be released by anyone. The only thing keeping it distinct is are the vocals (which, in all honesty, can never be faulted). Still, it’s kinda concerning hearing something so bland come from the group.
The rest of the EP continues in such a fashion- nothing really noteworthy stands out, it’s all a safe, comfortable mush that leaves the listener with no real impression, there’s never any kind of emotional resonance. The closer, “Kraken” could be something special, with its minimal approach and distinctive bass line, but by the midway point, the listener will likely realise that the track isn’t going anywhere, and basically just repeats itself for another three minutes. It isn’t bad and is likely the most interesting non single track, but is still nothing to write home about.
Ultimately, UMA plays like a lesser version of Zipang, without the excitement of knowing that you’re in on an album that is “ probably going to make it big“. Now that Suiyoubi have achieved that major label goal- it’s kinda depressing to know that the debut result is somewhat generic, a pleasant but forgettable EP that has almost lost all it’s bite. Early fans will probably find themselves at most, content with what’s on offer here- newbies will likely be much more impressed than a seasoned listener. Sure, front-woman Koumai‘s infectious attitude and vocal finesse is still ever present- but no-one’s going to be screaming “THIS IS THE SHIT!” from the rooftops with this one. One can only hope it’s not an indication of the future of the group. Take what you can from the EP, try to have fun with it. Just keep what came before in the back of your mind when listening and know the group is capable of so much more.
5.5/10– a tame, neutered release from one of the most exciting groups to come along in years. Disappointing, but not surprising.Unfortunately that ugly ass cover isn’t the only thing plaguing this one.