Asian Kung-Fu Generation: World World World
by Rachael Carothers,
Click below for a clip of the song "Laika"
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Asian Kung-Fu Generation, or AKG, have been together since 1996. However, they did not release their first album, a six-single EP, until 2000. In November 2002, they released their first mini album Houkai Amplifier. This chart-topping album got them noticed by Ki/oon Records, a subsidiary of Sony Records Japan, who re-released it on April 23, 2003. Their first full-length studio album, Kimi Tsunagi Five M, was released on November 19, 2003. Since then, almost all of their singles have appeared on the Oricon charts. Their latest album, World World World, released on March 5, 2008, is no different. It features an Oricon #5 song, “After Dark,” and a #6 song, “Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu.”
World World World starts off with the song of the same name. Generally, AFG albums start off with a rocking song. This time around, we are given a mellow instrumental. With “woah” being the only vocals on the song, all of instruments mix together to give you a sort of ‘wave on the ocean’ feel. It's a nice change from the usual AFG song.
The seventh opening theme for the Bleach anime series, “After Dark,” pops up next. Luckily, the band has included an English lyric sheet with the album. Instead of getting lost in the circular sounds of the bridges, you can understand the dark meaning behind the lyrics despite the happy dream-like sounds. This is definitely a perfect opening song for Bleach.
Nowadays, many people spend a lot of their time chatting and making friends on the internet instead of going out to interact with people face-to-face. “Tabidatsu Kimi e” (“To You, The Departing”) could be considered the theme song for those types of people. The song begins with an upbeat tone before it turns into a confusing mish-mash between the two guitars and the drums then going back to the upbeat sound. However, the lyrics tell the story of a person who, thinking that there is nothing good in the outside world, turns to the virtual world inside their computer for comfort. The upbeat parts coincide with the feelings of despair while the semi-confusing parts match up with the descriptions of being lost in a virtual world. Despite having a fairly sad story, the song does end happily with the person going out into the world to see what awaits them there.
“Neoteny.” It's difficult to break this one down. The word neoteny is defined as the adults of a species retaining the characteristics of the juveniles of the species. For example, an adult ostrich has the downy feathers of an ostrich chick, though this doesn't seem to fit into the lyrics of the song very well. Musically, the song isn't particularly interesting. The sounds repeat themselves over and over. Of course, there is a little bit of a change for the bridge and chorus but even that repeats itself. It is possible that this song is supposed to bring about feelings of nostalgia as if you were walking down a street and came across something familiar from your childhood. I think it might be better to just close your eyes and feel the song wash over you instead of trying to look too deeply into the meaning behind it.
Next up is “Travelogue,” another catchy pop song. Lyrically, the song is telling us to look deeper than just what our eyes see in day-to-day life. Instead of just stumbling through life, we should pay attention to the little things – the smell of the rain, the sound of the passing train, the dreams within the reality. The music helps convey this idea by sounding a bit like traveling itself. Despite the fact that the instrumentals still aren't anything to write home about, you can feel the move of the trains with the verses and there is a feeling of running through a wild meadow in the chorus lines. This brings the song, as a whole, to a wonderful mix between the reality of a large city and the little hidden parts that most people overlook every day.
The sixth song on the album is misleadingly titled “No. 9.” For some reason, this song sounds very familiar but I can't figure out why. Not that it matters as this is a rather good tune on its own. We are given forceful and somewhat oriental sounding background music against a strong voice pleading for peace. Considering the current state of the world, it's difficult to think that this song isn't aimed at the American government. With lyrics such as “Mr. Patriot, Stop making people cry, Stop the destruction you inflict with those crafty hands of yours” and “Mr. Patriot, Don't kill anymore” combined with how many people worldwide disagree with the war in Iraq, it's not a big leap to make. At least it's a good anti-war song.
Here we are at the halfway point of World World World with “Night Diving” and this is where the songs start to sound very similar. There are some instrumental differences in the beginning of the song and a little bit in the verses but the chorus lines sound like many other AKG songs. Taking a look at the lyrics, we have a story about someone who has had their heart broken and retreats into the lonely beautifulness of nighttime. Even though the music still sounds the same, it is the vocalist that saves the song from being mediocre. You can feel the want to run away from the loneliness, even though it's not really something you can run away from. In its own way, it's a very beautiful sentiment.
“Laika” is a song that I may have been better off not knowing what the lyrics translated to. It tells the tale of Laika, the Russian dog that was launched into space on Sputnik 2 in 1957. She was a stray dog that researchers got from a shelter, trained with two other dogs then launched into space to see the effects of radiation at high altitude. Sadly, she died a few hours after the launch. The lyrics to the song are rather sad but the background music and the vocals sound very upbeat. Perhaps the songwriter, lead vocalist Masafumi Gotoh, was aiming for a more desperate sound, which does come through in some of the vocals but not nearly enough to match the overall meaning of the song.
Continuing the space theme, the next song is “Wakusei”, or “Planet.” An uplifting song, this one is about shining brightly as a person no matter how depressed or sad you may be. In contrast, “Korogaru Iwa Kimi ni Asa ga Furu,” or “Rockn’ Roll, Morning Light Falls On You,” is a little bit slower, though it doesn't quite fit into the ballad category. However, it is a love song of sorts. It's a song of unrequited love, to be more specific. He, the singer, laments the loss of a love that he wanted but never had. The song might be slightly more powerful if it was more on the ballad side and less of a catchy pop tune.
In yet another attempt to confuse us, the short song World World is up next. Now, this is completely different from the instrumental song World World World. Maybe they're trying to beat the album's theme into our brains. This song is cute but somewhat boring. There is only a single guitar and a metronome (with a little triangle) in addition to the vocals. Even though it's cute, it makes me want to take a nap.
While “A Town In Blue” has a very typical AKG pop sound, “A New World” takes the speed up a notch. Instead of having a laid-back kind of indie kind of sound, “A New World” rocks it out. Asian Kung-Fu Generation should have added a few more songs like this to the album. It would have taken a bland album where most of the songs sound identical to the next level. They are a talented band with some really great hits. There just isn't anything “stand out” about World World World.
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