When Hijokaidan and Jun Togawa‘s studio album dropped earlier this year, people were left a little flat by it. While it had it’s amazing moments, eyebrows were certainly raised at its format and the feeling that it was a solo Hijokaidan release with a few Jun Togawa featuring songs. It was like someone taking a delicious steak away from you when you were only just starting to really get into it, or like sex without cumming. It never felt whole, and wasn’t the Jun Togawa comeback that her fans were really wanting.
However, tables have turned. Hijokaidan and Jun Togawa are back just a few months later, with an outstanding, no, extraordinary live album based on the same Togawakaidan project- and lets just say it straight out- it runs circles around the studio offering. Recorded live in February of 2016 at Akihabara GOODMAN, the album presents a tour de-force of perfect noise pop madness. Opening with a 5 minute Hijokaidan intro, the album blazes into life- and feels right. You’re not just listening to it waiting for Togawa to show up like the studio album (this is not a knock against Hijokaidan, but when you have an album prospect like TOGAWAKaidan, I dare say that Togawa is the main reason for most of it’s audience to be listening to it). It just builds the anticipation, gets you pumped up. And then Togawa comes in, in all her weathered, pained, fierce and brilliant glory. Its a cacophony of sound and it sounds fucking amazing.
All the tracks from the studio album are here, along with two extra tunes, Virgin Blues and Free Talking. Most notable of these is the stunning new version of one of Togawa‘s all time greats, Virgin Blues, which is brought to soaring new heights with its playful keys backed by its massive wall of noise, Togawa screaming her way through it in the way that only Togawa can pull off- she still truly has ‘it’ and it’s just amazing to behold. For many a Togawa fan it will likely be more than just great- it will be utter heaven. What makes the Togawa tracks so much better this time round- apart from sounding far ‘huger’ than on the studio version- is that they’re all presented in one solid block (not scattered around)- it really feels like Togawa has gotten the comeback she deserves.
Finally, it must be mentioned. The production value here is absolutely fantastic, the live engineering is impeccable. Usually when listening to live extreme music recordings, you lose quite a bit of its power in the process, but here, it sounds humongous. It’s loud as fuck and every little screech of feedback or monosyllabic garble of vocal delivery hits like a hammer to the temple. It’s intense as it gets. The album is quite short- 31 minutes- but it’s all it needs. It’s just the right dosage. There’s no time for filler here- everything just works. It truly is the Togawakaidan experience we should have gotten the first time round.
9/10- Overall, TOGAWAKAIDAN LIVE! ～Live at Akihabara GOODMAN 2016.2.21～ is a far more solid offering than the studio release, and is an absolutely essential addition to the Jun Togawa collection. Hijokaidan fans are bound to get more than just a kick out of it too- it’s truly one of the most solid releases in general that this listener has come across this year- and is serious AOTY contender material. Get on it!