Pop Playground
J-Pop Will Eat Itself: L

n this series, clicks’n’cuts dilettante Francis Henville describes his descent into the netherworld of Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean commercial pop. Track by track, he navigates deeper into the genre, searching for ever-more-toothsome morsels with which to satiate his jaded appetite…

L'Arc en Ciel
Milky Way

One of the best things about J-pop bands is that when they write singles, they get straight to the point.

This track, by well-known bishounen strike force L'Arc en Ciel, does that perfectly: after two bars of banging one chord on an acoustic guitar, the song rushes headfirst into the chorus. Luckily, it’s one of those brilliant, blisteringly simple and delicious choruses, lightheaded, impatient, petulant.

The euphoria of this opening is the whole reason for listening to this song, and rewards endless repeat on your mediainterface. Like a masterfully balanced industrially manufactured chocolate bar, it delivers a distinctive and inimitable brand of perfect sugar confection.

The chord structure is one of those classic 4-chord rondeaus that so permeate mainstream pop music. Although often done poorly, when paired with a senselessly catchy and somewhat repetitive melody figure, something timeless can be produced. I'm thinking here of the music of artists like Green Day or Venice Shoreline Chris.

So the rest of this track is really just the logical outcome of the opening brilliant chorus. Sonically, I am sure that most people will be struck by the 80's-sounding Glass Tiger meets U2 production style on first listen. This is offset oddly by the melodramatic, overemotional vocal lines of the male lead vocal and the effeminate second vocal.

The combined effect is almost something like ... emo? Yes. There's nothing mathematical to the rocking—rather it’s just a straightforward confident macho power gorilla bashing of drums and 4-on-the-floor bass roots. So there's the post-punk vibe, then.

The pre-chorus is more J-poppy and less emo. But the heavy feedback guitars kick back in again for every chorus, with no respite.

Not the best song in existence—but perhaps one of the best beginnings.

By: Francis Henville

Log In to Post Comments
Posted 12/10/2004 - 02:26:18 PM by badhaircut:
 I haven't heard this song, but "Ready Steady Go," "Lover Boy," and "Coming Closer" are all fantastic. This band is wierd in how they seem to be coming at rock from a dozen directions that are so obviously un-cool (at least from a Western/indie perspective), yet end up with something that's unpretentious but not stoopid, sincere but not in a self-aware way, huge-sounding but still intimate and calculated.
Posted 12/23/2004 - 11:51:50 PM by driftingwind:
 Actually, Milky way is not a single. Its punk-version, with the original bassist as vocal, is included as a B-side of their latest single "Jiyuu he no Shoutai" though.
all content copyright 2004 stylusmagazine.com