As some of the readers of Happy Disco may know, I loved Momoiro Clover Z’s first album to death. Battle & Romance still stands out to me as one of the greatest idol albums ever. However, I’ve found myself not quite as much into their music as I had been in the past, with Otome Sensou (which has since grown on me) and Saraba Itoshiki Kanashimitachi yo. So how will I like 5th Dimension, Momoiro Clover Z’s second album?
(as a note my scoring system is now out of 10. 5 is totally indifferent, anything above 5 is positive, anything below 5 is negative. So if I give a song a 6, it means I like the song, just not that much)
1. Neo Stargate
I already covered this for my First Impressions series, so I won’t get too much into it. However, I will say that I do stand by what I said in the review, in that I really like it before it goes up tempo and I feel like the chorus, while good, is out of place. The opening of this song is so epic and is a really great album opener, but the chorus really falls flat for me and doesn’t quite have the same epic feel that the rest of the song does. If they had removed the chorus (and considered the “Open the gate, open your soul” lines the chorus), it would have tightened up the song and ultimately I think this would have been a lot more successful. However, I think this is also mainly a problem with the first chorus; the later choruses, where there’s a bit more of a drum beat and the choral vocals are layered on, it fits in a lot better.
Regardless, I really do like the bits that are like the opening, as well as the “Open the gate…” lines. I know I sound critical, but I just think that while this has a lot of potential it doesn’t quite live up to all it could be. However, Neo Stargate is ambitious and has a lot of really great elements to it, so it’s definitely an interesting opening, at least.
Of note, that on the disc (not in the PV) this starts off with about two minutes of the ‘O Fortuna’ from the Carmina Burana. It’s definitely epic, but at this point for me it’s SO overplayed that all it serves to do is make me giggle. It feels a bit lazy, because it’s such a shorthand for epicness right now that it kind of falls flat for me. Ah well, the song itself is decent.
2. Kasou Dystopia
After Neo Stargate this is a bit of a surprise; while flawed, Neo Stargate was a pretty epic opening. This is an uptempo, happy sounding rock/pop song. In fact, the opening of this song most reminds me of Pinky Jones B-Side Kimi to Sekai. Which is definitely not a bad thing. However, the rest of the song really doesn’t follow Kimi to Sekai.
While this song would be a pretty ordinary rock-inspired pop song, Kasou Dystopia really stands out as the song goes on, with multiple vocal parts playing off each other. While most idol songs have the main melody covered by vocals and maybe a harmony part, there’s a really unique use of multiple vocal parts here. It sounds really nice and refreshing.
The one section of this song that really stands out is the bridge before the last chorus. The interplay of all the voices, with solo parts and ‘la la la’ in the back is gorgeous. Add the instrumentals building up to the last chorus, which itself is really great.
After a couple of listens I’ve found that this is a really nice song. I have no idea if anyone will really like it as much as I do, and certain parts aren’t quite as good, but man that bridge as a section alone is one of the best things I’ve heard recently.
3. Mouretsu Uchuu Koukoukyouku Dai Nana Gakusho “Mugen no Ai”
How much more do I have to say about Mugen no Ai? It was my 8th favorite song of 2012, which sounds low but it had some tough competition. Honestly, Mugen no Ai is a pretty perfect song, and I agree with the assessment that it’s Japan’s answer to Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s perfectly epic with the vocals, the choir in the background and the electric guitar all working perfectly together. I know this song convinced some people to follow Momoiro Clover Z, and I don’t blame them because this song is pretty amazing; as close to perfect as you could reasonably get, in my opinion. Definitely fitting of the epic feel of Neo Stargate (on that note, why didn’t this come after Neo Stargate and then before Kasou Dystopia? This album’s starting to have a good overall feel, but some of the songs sound a bit odd in relation to one another).
4. 5 the Power
The fact that this isn’t the fifth song will never make sense to me. So far, the placements of each song really don’t feel like they make much sense, anyways, which is a bit of a shame. The album has a lot of things that feel cohesive, and the songs really seem that they fit together, but I don’t quite grasp the order.
Anyways, MomoClo plus rap. It sounds like they’ve definitely improved upon their rap skills since their bit in Roudou Sanka, which is nice. They aren’t quite as good as, say, Rhymeberry, but they definitely do a good job here.
While I’m not a big hip hop fan, it definitely reminds me of 80s/old school hip hop, which is nice because that’s definitely the kind I prefer. The chorus has a similar feel, with a little disco-esque influence. The chorus reminds me eerily of the Morning Musume song Inspiration, which is one of my favorite Momusu B-Sides. Not a bad thing, but I have to fight myself from singing the Inspiration lyrics when I listen to this.
While the end is a bit slow, ultimately this is a really solid track. It feels a bit out of place, but I like it well enough.
5. Roudou Sanka
Speak of the devil, the original song with some rapping in it. While I don’t think I’ve written much about Roudou Sanka in the past, I can say it’s a favorite of mine. It’s just ultimately a really well crafted song dedicated to the hardworkers of Japan in the wake of the Earthquake in 2011. The entire song stands out, but the one thing that I really like is the instrumentation. Idol music needs more brass instruments! (and more woodwinds, for that matter). The rap section is also a favorite of mine, just because of how passionate MomoClo sounds while doing it.
All in all, really excellent stuff. If you haven’t heard it by now, seriously where are your priorities.
6. Get Down!
Roudou Sanka and Get Down! already have connections; they were written by foreign songwriters! Roudou Sanka was written by Ian Parton of The Go! Team, and Get Down! was written by the lead singer/guitarist of Ok Go. So really, this is MomoClo’s effort to work with every foreign artist with “Go” in their name.”
This is probably one of the songs that sounds least like idol music MomoClo has done. While they’ve had their eccentric songs in the past, most of them are rooted in idol music. This sounds like retro music, with a pseudo-Beach Boys feel (the ascending “ahs” leading up to the chorus, especially), that feels a lot like the music OK Go normally does. Which is excellent.
I’m a big fan of a lot of indie/alternative groups in the US, and I like upbeat music with some folk influence. While I don’t actively follow OK Go, they fall into the kind of aesthetic I enjoy (alt rock). However, I haven’t really seen this come up yet with idol music, partially because I don’t know how big this is in Japan.
This is a catchy, upbeat and fun song, and everything about the pacing, the arrangement and songwriting is pitch perfect to me. I really hope this influences idol groups to explore alternative rock and power pop, because I would enjoy hearing this more.
This is one of my favorite MomoClo songs since DNA Rhapsody blew me away (though not my favorite song on the album, that’s still to come!)
7. Otome Sensou
I have a confession to make.
…. I actually like Otome Sensou now.
Now a lot of the things I raised when I first reviewed it still stand. There are plenty of issues with the pacing, the instrumental feels empty in places, and the choruses are kind of a letdown after a great build up. This all still stands. However, it’s grown on me and I’ve started appreciating it more. Because really, there are great elements in there. The slowest section is really beautiful and the initial section is energetic and fun.
For me, the most frustrating thing about Otome Sensou is that I feel like, with a little work and tightening up, it could be one of my all-time favorite idol songs. It’s so ambitious and has so many good elements, but it falls flat.
Still, I know that for some people this is the pinnacle of MomoClo. And that’s fine. However, for me, it’s become almost synonymous with missed opportunities.
8. Tsuki no Gingami Hikousen
The opening for this is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. I’m not a ballad fan, as some of you might know, but this seems like a ballad that I could get behind. It has a lot more power than MomoClo’s major ballad from Battle & Romance, Kimi no Ato, and I think this really fits the epic feel that MomoClo is trying for.
I have to say, while I found Momoka’s voice to be generally overrated for the majority of MomoClo’s music, her voice is gorgeous here. Ballads really suit her voice, and it sounds fantastic. Kudos, Momoka.
Nothing really lives up to the gorgeous opening 30 seconds, though. The rest of the song’s really quite nice; I love the use of piano near the beginning, especially. However, the intro really shines apart. I find myself preferring the song much more near the beginning; the rest of the song’s really good, but even beyond the intro the first verse is the best. Still, it does drag on a bit, and the fact nothing really lives up to the first part is kin of disappointing.
Still, this is a really solid ballad with some fantastic sections. Like this a lot.
9. BIRTH Ø BIRTH
(on a side note, song/group names should stop using irregular characters because it inconveniences me <3)
NARASAKI, while not my personal favorite MomoClo composer (that’s, of course, the incomparable Hyadain), is a fan favorite composer. So really, this song has a lot to live up to.
And I have to say, it’s probably my least favorite song on this album. It’s another song that I feel like has a lot of potential, and has sections that sound fantastic, but as a whole it doesn’t live up to the potential. Is it fair that this song doesn’t live up to the hype? Perhaps not. However, as a song it is kind of muddled.
The chorus sounds really great, and the later bridge does as well. In fact, to me this is almost the exact opposite of how I listen to Neo Stargate. In Neo Stargate, I wish they would focus less on the pop elements and focus more on the epic, dark elements. However, here I think the darker/heavier elements are the weaker bits, while the pop-focused chorus/ending are really excellent.
I also don’t really like the dubstep-flavored elements. It feels excessive and unnecessary, and it’s not particularly good dubstep. I’m fine with these elements popping up in
Ultimately, again, this song has elements I want to love, but it’s just weighed down by unnecessary elements and things that don’t really fit together. Sorry NARASAKI, this doesn’t cut it.
10. Joukyu Monogatari -Carpe diem-
This is by the guy who wrote Chai Maxx, and man it sounds like it in the chorus. Chai Maxx is one of the best MomoClo songs, so this isn’t bad, but it really is clear that this is the guy who was behind Chai Maxx.
Otherwise, though this is a bit weird; the song sounds almost funk/soul inspired in a way, with some beach boys-y surf rock elements in there. Plus, this is the theme song for an act with dinosaurs and I can hear that. This is an interesting sounding song, that’s for sure.
It’s a bit slow in parts, but it definitely picks up near the end, where a heavier beat really adds to the song.
Ultimately it’s a bit weird, but that’s very Momoiro Clover. It’s not immediately the most catchy song and I can’t see myself listening to this too much on it’s own. However, it fits the album and definitely fits the album. The lyrics are also pretty interesting, because the phrases “memento mori” and “que sera sera” are featured prominently. Interesting stuff.
Also, I might be biased, but Sasaki Ayaka’s solo section after the chorus is really amazing. Again, I might be just saying this as I’m a huge fan of hers, but I think people really underestimate her vocal ability. She might not be able to belt and sing ballads quite like Momoka, but the scatting/fast singing after the chorus here really stands out and sounds fantastic. A~rin owns this song.
11. Soratobu! Ozashiki Ressha
This one starts off kind of weird; what sounds like a heart beating fast and a train whistle! When I first heard this I didn’t quite know what to make of it! The song pretty quickly gets back to normal, though.
The song itself sounds like pretty retro, 50s rock. It’s the type of music I don’t necessarily associate with idols, but sounds nice when they do. I always dig retro inspired idol songs, and this is no exception.
Much like Carpe Diem, I can’t really see myself listening to this that much. This isn’t really a classic MomoClo song at all. However, it’s fun, I like the train whistles near the beginning and end, and the announcer is pretty fun, too. It’s energetic and nice, but not spectacular.
12. Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi yo
By now if you’re a MomoClo fan you’ve probably heard this. When this first came out, I wasn’t really all that thrilled. Initial live performances were underwhelming, and I was still not quite feeling the direction MomoClo was going in.
However, while this might not be up to MomoClo’s standards, this is still a good song, and definitely well construction. None of it overstays its welcome or feels like it’s dragging on too long. I love the verses, especially, with a bit of the harpsichord (that will become more prominent later) doing a very quiet countermelody. Hell, more idol music needs more harpsichord, calling it. The xylophone (or related instrument) sound that sometimes comes in is great, too. MomoClo, with all the instruments in this, Pinky Jones and then Nippon Egao Hyakkei (mostly shamisen there) needs to pioneer the use of more unusual instruments in idol music.
I love the interplay between the dark and light within this song, though darkness dominates. The difference between the harpsichord-heavy sections and the guitar heavy sections is really good.
While I don’t think I appreciated this song as much as I should have when it came out, I appreciate it now. It might not be quite as strong as some of the other MomoClo songs, but that’s because MomoClo sets itself a really REALLY high bar so when something falls even a little flat it’s really noticeable. This is a good song. Not the best, but definitely good.
13. Hai to Diamond
OK, let me get my bias out of the way. Maeyamada Kenichi, AKA Hyadain, is my favorite composer, not just in Japanese music, but in popular music in general. He’s up there for me with the other musicians of today I find to be genius, and there are only a couple of music producers in general today who I think beat him in terms of well-constructed, creative and downright good songwriting.
That being said, this song is an utter work of genius and is a very good candidate for my favorite song of the year. Hyadain usually controls every aspect of the songs he writes; he usually writes the songs, arranges them, writes the lyrics, and often does vocal coaching. Here he only wrote the song. That being said, both Hyadain and the arranger need to be commended, because this song is one of my favorites in a while.
While a lot of songs felt really long on here, interestingly enough this 7 minute closer doesn’t feel long. There are a lot of different parts about this songs, but Hyadain does what he does best and really made the transitions between parts seemless.
The arranger deserves a lot of credit, too; the piano and strings, in particular sound really fantastic.
While the rest of the album was trying to be one long work, there were sections where I wondered if that was actually the case. However, this definitely feels like the ending. It just makes me wish that Hyadain wrote an entire symphonic work for MomoClo for their album, and this could be the last thing.
In my review of Neo Stargate, I criticized the use of O Fortuna for being a bit of a lazy shorthand for epicness. Which is true. However, Hai to Diamond succeeds because it’s genuinely incredibly epic, with both the song itself and the arrangement.
Simply put, this song is utterly epic, beautiful, and well-written. It builds from a slower, pretty section that felt like it would be another simple ballad on the album, but builds gradually into being an epic piece. This is why I love Momoiro Clover, this is why I love Maeyamada Kenichi. The lyrics, from my lyrics, are very nice as well. My two favorite lines in the song are Ayaka’s “Tsubasa ga aru mitai” (Like I have wings) and Kanako’s “Hai no naka no diamond” (Diamonds in the middle of ashes).
I realize I’m gushing, but this song is incredible, and one of my favorites. This makes the album for me.
Overall: I tentatively like this album. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. It’s not to the level of Battle & Romance good, but expecting that much was asking a lot. My biggest issue with this album is that both it and the songs tend to drag on longer than their welcome. I think if this album took advice from my assessment of Otome Sensou, and faced a bit more editing down the album would be a lot better.’
However, all the girls sound great, and this is definitely not a bad album. There are great tracks and it does fit together pretty well. Don’t take my criticism to mean I don’t like it; I’ve honestly never liked Otome Sensou and Saraba better than I do now. This is a good album, great even, but far from perfect.
This album’s also really divisive for me. On the one hand, certain tracks fell flat and disappointed me. On the other hand, other tracks are amazing and really fantastic. It’s a mixed bag, rather than the consistent greatness of Battle & Romance. Still, this is a lot more ambitious than B&R was, and only serves to reason that it would have (IMO) higher highs and lower lows.
If you like the current direction MomoClo is going, you should like this album. If you don’t like current MomoClo, this MIGHT make you give them a second listen, but it will probably not be to your tastes.
Ultimately, I like the album, and definitely recommend you listen to all of it, even the songs I was less fond of, so you can give your own opinion.