Endorphine is their fourth album and the first with the whole band in place. Prior to this, Fuyuki and Daria went through a number of session bassists and drummers. Ohashi and Pon worked with Daria on a her solo work, and were eventually roped in to do some F.S.B. before becoming permanent members themselves. As a group, it doesn't sound remotely like they'd just gotten together for this -- they sound great. The choices of songs, however, is more inconsistent. Going by my very awful Japanese and first few even more awful scans of the lyrics, Endorphine is more than a pretty title -- the theme of the album really does seem to cover the different phases of addiction. The imagery each song conjures up does coincide with a specific mood, going from the excited Animal to the dour Kao de Waratte Kokoro de Nake. I'd like to forgive the inconsistency of the songs based on the theme, but I can't. A number of songs blended enough into each other that they sounded alike -- a generic loud noise punctuated by the occasional brilliant guitaring or noteworthy drumming. Heaven, the second of only two ballads on this album, was so out of place amidst the thorny little rock monsters where it's placed, it still throws me after about three listens of the whole album straight. Offhand, I would say the weakest songs on the album are the ballads. There's only one that really justifies its position, and that's Kanashimi ni Aitakute, which survives by being definitively rock. The rest of the album is just too much of the same speed to hold my attention, even though the speed in question is consistently fast. None of the songs are actually so bad they're unlistenable, in fact, I would say the songs manage to remain a step above okay even at their worst, but I would've liked to have seen a bit more variety. F.S.B., even based on the small sample here, have proven they can do well in different genres. It would definitely be nice to see them mix it up more.
My one other gripe about this album centres on the actual CD booklet. The lyrics are handwritten notes from whom I assume would be Daria herself. They're cute, yes, with sketches of little demon-Darias, handcuffs, birds, angels and even slime molds. But they're fiendishly hard to read. Many of the penned characters have bled into each other so much, they're blotches of black against red. I'm sure the lyrics weren't made for the Japanese-writing handicapped, but it would've been great to have been able to follow the lyrics through the lyrics sheet. I mean, that's kind of what they're for, right?
The opening seconds of Animal seriously had me wondering what I bought on a whim this time. This song sounds like a giant gorilla was rampaging through downtown Tokyo. Seriously, the first few seconds were very much the titular party animals beating about in their cage. By the time the chorus got to the "YEAH!"s, I was laughing so hard. It's such a fun song. Sounds really cracked, but fun.
Endorphine, the title track, is virtually a continuation of Animal, lots more things rattling their cages. It starts off on a flipside, like a groggy F.S.B. growling at the masses and builds to a drone of noise for the first three minutes, which was slightly annoying the first time around, though given the title, that could've been the point. After that though, everyone's fully switched on and Fuyuki starts revealing his fangs (it always seems to be the point where F.S.B. songs wake up). Fuyuki's guitaring is a lot of style, and a lot of elegance and way lots of cool. Neither Animal nor Endorphine are particularly memorable songs on their own, but the chorus in the former, and the guitar solo in the latter, did stay around in my head long after I heard them. I think the weakest link in these two songs is Daria's vocals, which were often drowned out by the sheer wall of noise the other guys were building. She sounds a bit sore, and a bit like a pit bull just fine though. Oh, yeah, and F.S.B. is drum and bass on a stick!
Hamatteshimatta (Addicted) is where the album really begins. The whole effect is something of a driving song, if you were racing down a highway somewhere in the mood to kill. Awesomely smooth guitaring in the intro, before Ohashi and Pon come in. It definitely starts off with a lot of Kurata showing off. Fuyuki and Ohashi, really play off each other, with Pon extremely present in the background. You really can't escape the drums in F.S.B.'s music, because Pon won't let off being at the back of your mind regardless of the other two. Daria's vocals are perfect: fierce, growly, gorgeous.Hamatteshimatta has a moment for everyone, even Ohashi gets a little airtime to himself. This is my favourite track.
Faithless Children is another solid track along the lines of Hamatteshimatta. It's not very memorable, even managing to sound somewhat "flat" (relatively speaking -- F.S.B. are hard to really call "flat" by virtue of the fact nearly every song sounds like its trying to eat your speakers alive), forming a sort of bridge between this and the next song. But it's a great rock track to plug along to, it has the second most awesome Fuyuki solo in the entire album, and like the first two songs, makes up for the drudgery by being great in the last couple of minutes. Think of this as violence mobbing down an alleyway.
Kanashimi ni Aitakute (Lamenting Emptiness) turned out to be a power ballad, which was a surprise given the direction of the first four songs. Allowed to mellow out, the other side of Daria's voice makes a presence. She has a lovely, sultry voice that, when used this way, almost makes the vocalist on F.S.B.'s faster numbers sound like they were done by a completely different person. Ballad or no ballad, it's clearly a rock band we're listening to, because the best guitaring on the entire album happens here. From start to finish, Fuyuki is the real star of this song, with Yamaguchi matching him moment for moment. It was a awesome listening to them play off each other, and the song's a real anthem too -- the chorus just demands an audience sing-along. After all the emo, the acoustic guitar at the end was sweet. (Tangent: I haven't figured out why yet, but Fuyuki's intro kept making me think of Van Halen.)
And then it's back to rock. Kyou Iku Sya (Growing Mad Growing Up) is the louder, nastier cousin to Animal than Endorphine was -- it's an angry little rottweiler of a song. Daria's back to her strep throat and threats. Great stuff. It's so brokenly good.
Slime ni Naritai (Where the Slime is) is another one of those tracks that just plugs along and forms a bridge in anticipation of the next song. It's a cool rock track, though I didn't find it particularly distinctive. Generic F.S.B. loudness still has a way of being better than most other kinds of loudnesses.
Heaven is the jazzy track in the rock album that would almost have me thinking I was listening to Do As Infinity. It was boggling listen the first time around, coming as it did after a song I thought was way too fast to preclude this, although the song itself isn't bad. There's a show of Daria's smoove singing side, and most of the song is all Ohashi. Lovely bass, a nice jazzy song, again, but boggling.
Yuutsu na Kai Gaku (Pleasant Music for the Gloom) picks up the pace, but is yet another one of the cool-yet-indistinctive songs that I found myself tuning out after the first thirty seconds. The repetitive chorus eventually became difficult to listen to. I consider this the weakest track, next to Faithless Children.
Kao de Waratte Kokoro de Nake (The Face of a Laughing Heart's Cry) makes me think of a tough broad steamrolling through life after a rough patch. That's the image I get, listening to this. It's a tough broad kind of song, a trip made sweeter by more of Fuyuki's excellent guitaring. This would've been a better song by me, but after 55 minutes of F.S.B. beating themselves into my ears, I was growing numb from the sheer amount of noise offered.
Daisuki Queen (We Love Queen) was the song I bought the album for. It's also the song that's been eating at my brain for the two years since I first heard it, because I have this mad idea it's a Queen cover, but I can't remember the name of the original song, if it was one. I've been through all the Queen DVDs we have in the house, picked at YouTube, wandered around the Internet like a headless chicken and I still can't find a melody that somewhat resembles the one in this song. It's driving me nuts. So if you happen to recognize the tune, tell me about it. Having said that, this is the bona fide Feel So Bad anthem. It builds from just Daria over a piano, in real Freddie Mercury fashion, before the whole band comes in. This is a beautiful song, and the chorus demands to be sung along to. The lyrics for Daisuki Queen also come festooned with little Freddie Mercury heads in sailor suits.
Rating: 3.5 Perpetually Pissed Off Wildcats
Pros: Guitar x Drum & Bass on a Stick! 6 out of 11 songs were good, and 4 out of that 6 were great. Pick this up for Hamatteshimatta, Kanashimi ni Aitakute and Kyou Iku Sya. Stick around for the title track. Definitely get it for Daisuki Queen. It'd be a 4, because it's good, but it's just lacking that special something.
Cons: The rest of the songs can probably be tuned out, due to lack of variety. If you're depending on the lyrics sheet to catch the lyrics, you might also be in trouble. Props to everyone in the world who provide clear, succinct lyrics for the lyrics-disabled.