SpecialThanks's "SEVEN LOVERS" Happy, Misguided First LP
There's merit in trying to sing in a language you're not familiar with; a lot of musicians have tried it, with mixed results. Many Japanese artists have also given it a try with English, ranging from excellent (Electric Eel Shock on just about all their albums) and pretty good (Aya Hirano's "Maybe I can't goodbye") to just plain awful (so many bad anime theme songs). SpecialThanks falls somewhere in-between the good and the bad on their first full-length LP SEVEN LOVERS, which is odd considering that their last two EPs seemed much better in regards to vocalist/guitarist Misaki's English articulation. However the album makes up for it thanks to its catchy melodies and the fun atmosphere it creates.
"Morning Coffee" shows off Misaki and her bandmates' strongest elements in regards to song making, with a catchy chorus and a feel-good ditty that works wonders on the listener's sensations. In "He Looks Tired These Days" SpecialThanks take the concept of a couple's love on its last run and transforms it into a sad downward spiral towards heartbreak and an end that benefits no one. Nochi takes his emotions out on his drum kit, and with his help the song manages to blend the sad and heavy side of punk rock into a song that would make Blink-182 nod with approval. "Happy Birthday Love Song" is the album's most fun track, serving up a number that would act as a great tune to sing on your lover's special day. "My Name is SUN" is one horn section short needed to make it a great drink-along ska track for Happy Hour, but it's cute nonetheless.
I listened to "Hello Colorful" a few times, and to be honest I have an issue with comprehending what Misaki is singing. It's one thing to sing in Japanese so at least your fellow countrymen can understand you, but when you sing a song like this in unintelligible English you alienate the entire speaking world. The same can be said about "Secret Girl," which while having a good melody suffers from the same problem of bad pronunciation. For these songs, at least, it would've been better if she sang in Japanese instead.
I have one huge bone to pick with SEVEN LOVERS, and that's the song "How Are You." It is somewhat ripping off Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," containing the same guitar riffs and tambourine banging that was found in that radio hit. The guitar solo was a nice touch, to be honest, but whenever I hear the verses all I can envision is the popular Get Born track. I understand the concept of wearing one's influences on their sleeves, but here the song just sounds more like a knockoff of the Australian quartet.
Despite these few speed bumps SpecialThanks give what they can to create a carefree album for those in need of a good smile. It may not be as strong as their past EPs, but in the long run it's an LP that does what it needs to create a playful atmosphere. I just need to give a little advice for Nochi in regards to future recordings: ease off the bass pedal just a tad, as it gets a bit repetitive in SEVEN LOVERS.
*** (out of five)
SEVEN LOVERS is now available on JapanFiles.