B'z - ELEVEN
Here's the eleventh album from B'z. As expected, this album made it to the number one spot on the Oricon chart. You will be amazed by the number of good new songs available on this album. The only previously heard tracks are the four singles, and then all of the other ten tracks are brand new. You'd think that an album with this many original songs would contain many mediocre 'filler' tracks, but this is not the case with "ELEVEN".
The first track is just a 25-second intro with a robotic voice that says "B'z ELEVEN" a few times. The first track plays seamlessly straight into the second track, "Seventh Heaven". As we often say at J-Fan Jpop, the second track on an album is almost always the best, and ELEVEN is no exception. "Seventh Heaven" pumps up the juice immediately with its funky rhythm and trademark hard rock sound. This song has a catchy melody that will get you interested in the album immediately, which is a very important thing when it comes to album presentation.
The next song, "shinjiru kurai ii darou", is also one to be reckoned with. The tempo is a bit slower than the last song, but the hard rock is maintained, along with another addictive melody. The various climaxes in the chorus like the part where Inaba sings, "Nowhere to go now," are very nice.
The fourth track is the latest single from B'z, "RING". We didn't review this single at J-Fan Jpop, but we did the previous two that came before it. We just sort of missed/skipped this one. "RING" begins slow with strings and one guitar as the only instrumentals. Inaba pours out all the emotion. Then in the second verse the full instrumentals are added and they continue to build onto this foundation. The next time the chorus hits, the guitar supplements the melody very well, finally showing the full intention of the song. The more emotional slow melody with the strings is a nice change of pace form the previous two songs and continues to hopefully hold a listener's interest very well.
Next is a nice typical B'z hard rock song, "ai no prisoner". This song is a little bit more (how should I put it?) 'ticked off' in attitude than the previous tracks on this CD. As always, Inaba shows plenty of emotion in his singing. You can really feel every subtle change in the mood as the song moves along. What makes B'z great is the way that this vocal style blends with Matsumoto's award-winning guitar. The end result in this song is a very nice traditional rock blend, as we have come to expect from this group's best works.
"kirameku hito" is a simple track. As this album moves along, especially here, you are going to notice some lack of variety. This has always been true of B'z (their lack of variety in their music) and is probably the most obvious shortfall of this album. At this point it sort of just feels like it's all the same. In the last track they were screaming about an "ai no prisoner" and on this track they are screaming about a "kirameku hito". In that sense it is sort of all the same, but obviously there is much more to it than that. These two tracks are certainly not the same, we're just trying to point out where the album may run into some problems.
Track seven is their single, "May". Our J-Fan Jpop writer who reviewed this single didn't seem to like the song very much, and I'm not sure what he was thinking. May is among the best singles the group has ever released. Old B'z fans may not want to hear this, but I believe that the group just keeps getting better, with their very best work being put out right now in this year. "May" is a slower tempo emotional song. The style is very calm and simple, but is executed brilliantly. I know we say this a lot, but it is an addictive melody, which is especially true here.
Next is another recent single (the one that followed the release of "May", in fact), "juice". This is the "PM mix", but you will doubtfully notice any difference between this track and the original single version. There must be some new sounds added here and there, but otherwise there is little difference. This is a very straight-to-the-point fast rock song. It is really retro in the sense that it offers almost nothing new that couldn't have been presented ten years ago, with nothing specifically unique to the style of B'z. Still, this single stood out as being fairly good for showing such a clean performance of a classic rock style. Go to our review of the "juice" single for an audio clip.
The next original song, "Raging River", runs for over seven minutes, making it the longest track on the album, and this song really feels like it is the very heart of the album. It runs through a quiet verse with just the guitar as accompaniment, and then gets to another verse with more instruments added before finally hitting the chorus. At 2 1/2 minutes in, when we finally reach the chorus, it is worth it. The first parts of the song successfully build into a dramatic chorus. The chorus is then followed by the bridge, with a nice range of instrumental-only parts (no vocal), including strings, choir, and of course we finally get to Matsumoto's guitar solo. These types of longer and more dramatic tracks can really be enjoyable on an album like this, especially when the song is very well-planned and performed. "Raging River" stands out as one of the very best songs on the album.
"TOKYO DEVIL" is a short and simple track. It's very average, compared with the typical B'z work. This is where the album can become too boring during the final stretch. However, "TOKYO DEVIL" is just fine and it's not the kind of track where one should think, "Oh, they should have kept this one off the album." It's definitely worth while to have the song on the CD; it just perhaps stands as the worst on a very good album. Of course an attractive feature of this album is the fact that it really has no bad tracks.
"KOBUSHI WO NIGIRE" is decidedly a little too much like "ai no prisoner". It just feels like about the same song. Of course it is different, but these two songs are the two most alike on the album. It's almost like a refrain of "ai no prisoner" but it certainly is not. The chorus is pretty attractive and memorable in this song, and the chorus is also the part that makes the song feel the most different from "ai no prisoner".
The average title of "Thinking of you" says it all. This is an average track. It's a slow song that gradually builds to the climax where the lyrics are "Yes, I'm thinking of you". There really isn't much else to say about this song.
"tobira" is a song that moves back and forth between fast/loud and slow/quiet many times quickly. As much as this type of sporadic structure can tend to grab you, at this point in the album it really doesn't feel like it's working hard enough to keep your attention anymore. This song (and perhaps it's mostly due to its placement on the album) does not feel exciting enough. At this point the end of the album is imminent and the listener is feeling a winding down sensation. This song fits well with that attitude.
The final track, "konya tsuki no mieru oka ni", is the oldest of the four singles featured on the album. This is a new "Alternative Guitar Solo version" of the song, but again, like "juice", the new mix doesn't seem much different from the original. There are definitely noticeable sounds added to this track that make the song more full and better (more noticeably than in "juice"). Though this is just a new mix of one of their singles, it seems to work well as the closing track. It really is a very nice song that exemplifies the group's hard-core rock style. Very addictive. It ends the album with kind of a weird feeling that is different than perhaps the slower and more reflective songs that end many other albums, but it somehow does work in kind of a unique way.
There is an impressive selection of good original songs on this album. It is not all hype. "ELEVEN" is a satisfying collection if you enjoy B'z music. B'z may not be for everybody because some people can't stand the more retro and simple hard rock style while for others it may just be too loud and give them headaches. For everyone else with an open mind who likes this type of music, the latest album from B'z is an excellent choice. It's true that the album seems to get a little watered down toward the ending with some of the worse tracks, but in reality there really aren't any bad songs on the album. It is the lack of variety that may hurt the experience the most. Still, "ELEVEN" is highly recommended to rock fans.
Overall Rating: 9 - Very good.
Track list:01. I
02. Seventh Heaven
03. shinjiru kurai ii darou
05. ai no prisoner
06. kirameku hito
08. juice (PM mix)
09. Raging River
10. TOKYO DEVIL
11. KOBUSHI WO NIGIRE
12. Thinking of you
14. konya tsuki no mieru oka ni (Alternative Guitar Solo ver.)