Elise translations and review

I have posted translations of "Elise no Tame ni" and "Yumemiru Uchuu" over at Not Greatest Site, along with fairly extensive translation notes, so what are you waiting for, go read them.  And here's my review of the single for you.

Elise no Tame ni Review

First of all, in establishing their own label, Buck-Tick have taken a step in the right direction with presentation and art direction, if nothing else.  The special edition comes in a slipcase printed on sturdy, glossy paper much harder to tear or soil than the materials typically used by BMG/Ariola, and features simple, arresting stills of the various band members taken from the PV on the outside covers and behind each disc.  The whole thing is easy to put in and take out of the slipcase, easy to open up, and beautiful to look at.  Think I'm shallow for focusing on the packaging too much?  Go back and look at the booklets for Tenshi no Revolver or Kyokutou I Love You, then come back and talk to me again.  Since Buck-Tick are selling this thing for a whopping 2500 yen in an age where apparently lots of youngsters don't listen to "albums," let alone "singles," and buy virtually all of their music on iPeens, they have the right idea about making this maxi-single so physically appealing that it's worth the waste of meatspace to actually drag yourself to a record store and buy it, rather than just steal it off the maxi-cloudpad or something.

However, if we shouldn't judge a vocalist by what his face looked like in a PV from 20 years ago, we also shouldn't judge a single by its slipcase...though in the case of Elise no Tame ni, the atmosphere of the jacket design echoes the themes of the songs so well it must be a deliberate choice.  Just as the case features simple, repeated, largely monochromatic photos, all three songs feature simple, repeated guitar and vocal hooks layered over basslines that are more rhythm than melody, with deliberately stripped-down lyrics.  The theme here is existential truth; fitting for the band's 25th anniversary single, and full of references to the band's previous works.  The single guitar riff of "Elise no Tame ni" contains hints of "Mienai Mono," just as the monochrome palate  and creative use of negative space in the deceptively simple "Elise" PV hearken back to the brilliant series of videos the band made for each song on the Six/Nine album, which similarly relied more on lighting and camerawork than gussied-up models to get their message across.  

The lyrics to "Elise" take the phoniness of contemporary Japanese pop head-on.  Turn on the radio or music TV in Japan these days, and you'll be assaulted with an endless string of trite anthems about eternal love.  The lyrics to most of the chart-topping songs are so similar it would be easy to come up with most of them out of a 100-word magnetic poetry kit, and they're all about the same thing: I love you forever, you are the only one I will ever love, you are the sweetest, thank you from my heart.  In "Elise," Imai calls bullshit.  Time passes quickly, he says.  Love and gentleness are all well and good, but can't you think of anything deeper and more real to say?  There is no such thing as forever, and that spark between two people, or indeed between Buck-Tick and their listeners, doesn't have anything to do with sweet talk or empty promises--it's something ineffable, tied up in the very frailty of existence, full of wounds, and storms, and demons.  Love hurts, and we crave the pain.  Listening to these lyrics, it's particularly impressive how Imai's and Sakurai's styles have merged over the years.  Imai is working with all of Sakurai's favorite themes and pet words here.  If this song is partly about the relationship between Buck-Tick and their fans, perhaps it's also secretly a little tribute by Buck-Tick's main songwriter to their main lyricist.

"Yumemiru Uchuu" also recalls some of Buck-Tick's past work, especially the dreamy, layered chords of "Trans," and perhaps even Cube Juice's song "Tensei," written for Sakurai's solo project, though this is probably the first time Buck-Tick has done anything quite so definitively shoegaze.  While failing to match the catchiness of "Elise," or break into new territory for the band, the song feels like a memory, with both drum and melody lines seeming to drag behind the guitar, and so many vocal tracks it's hard to tell which line is the lead in some places.  In the lyrics, Sakurai deliberately retraces fragments of many earlier songs (including "Tensei"), while still managing to arrive at something new.  He's been chewing over the meaning of life and death in his lyrics for twenty years now, but in this song, more than any other, the fear and despair that pervaded earlier albums like Darker Than Darkness, Six/Nine and Sexy Stream Liner has been replaced with a sort of serene enlightenment; drifting without struggling.  Thematically, this might be "Solaris, Part II."

And while the choice to put rearranged versions of "My Eyes & Your Eyes" and "Tight Rope" on the Rendezvous and Alice in Wonder Underground singles seemed more or less arbitrary, "SANE -type II-" rounds out the triptych of Elise no Tame ni very well.  While purists may reject out of hand Buck-Tick's experiments in reworking old songs, both the originality and cohesiveness of the reworked versions is a testament to the band's extreme versatility, which has always been one of their greatest strengths.  In "SANE -type II-," what was previously a mysterious and sinister monologue by Sakurai becomes an upbeat dialogue a la "Tango Swanka" between Imai's monotone spoken-word and Sakurai's melodic chorus.  The line "Now I'm insane, but I must go when I go," which was the de-facto thesis statement of the original song, becomes almost an afterthought in this version - if this is still insanity, the whole band is insane now, and they seem to be enjoying it, too.  Yes, this new arrangement owes a whole lot to Bauhaus - but then, Buck-Tick as a band owe a whole lot to Bauhaus, and they certainly haven't forgotten their roots.  The climax of this song happens to be the exact same chord progression as the climax (no pun intended) of "Sexual XXXXX!" and no one could possibly think that's a coincidence.

While song for song, this single may not be quite as innovative as the band's previous single Kuchizuke, after the heavy glossiness of Razzle Dazzle, it feels like a breath of fresh air.  It hangs together tightly as a complete unit, a work of art all on its own.  Whether its cohesiveness and general lack of schlock, sap, fluff, or cheese has anything to do with not having to please executive producers, I cannot say, but I can say I like it.


  1. Firstly, thank you very much for your intensive review. I always enjoy reading your writing :) And yes, when listening to Yumemiru Uchuu, I suddenly thought of Trans and Tensei (and also Oukaku Kingdom Come-moon rise-) which are my top favorites. I'm so glad about this new direction and all :]

  2. I was disapointed to hear that both A and B side have no guitar solo or interlude. I mean, Elize no Tameni is straight rock, even more straight rock then everything on Tenshi no Revolver and Memento Mori, but no guitar solo? Seriously? Yumemiru Uchuu indeed has some complex vocal line. There are actually tons of B-T songs where you hear 2, 3, or sometimes 4 voices (of Sakurai) at the same time, if you listen closely (and most of the time, these tracks are recorded seperatly and are not remixed of the master vocal track). The voice filter is pretty original, although it doesnt top Sapphire. I was expecting a a whole lot of darkness in this single (especially after seeing the photoshoot) but it seems their image isnt really related to their music, since most of songs on this single have a very positive and upbeat feel. Same for Sane. I thought it was supposed to be darker version of the original, but its way lighter (more rock esque), and thanks to the advanced tempo much more upbeat. I found it interesting they changed the structure of the song that much. The way the original build the tension to the chorus was great. Now, your hearing the chorus a second time before you even notice it. It feels less powerfull, although the song has a more heavy sound. I felt this single was less interesting then Kuchizuke (which had 2 great songs with a dark atmosphere), but its not bad. I would say a 7/10 for now. Nice review btw. There are not alot indept reviews on the internet about B-T. So keep them going!

  3. Hm i said the songs dont feel dark, actualy i just read the lyrics and those do feel dark, especially those of Elize no Tameni, i wasnt expecting that at all. I must say i enjoyed Imai's lyrics more then those of Sakurai this time. Imai's one seems more complex and sophisticated. But there are still a few things i dont get. A few references feel out op place in the lyrics imo. The titles refers to a Beethoven song, well if Imai knew that, why exactly did the choose to refer to that song. There is not a slight hint of Beethoven in this song (nor in the rest of the lyrics, nor in the instruments, nor in the style of music). It stricked me, just like they made a reference to Django Reinhardt in Razzle Dazzle, without being it a jazz song. Then later, 1 a reference to a painter. You can argue that the painting has something to do with time, and Buck-tick's 25th aniversary is on its way (all those memories), but other then that. Also, is there something wrong with music with simple lyrics about love and all that? Buck-Tick has tonnes of songs simply about love (like really), and most of them are not even balads :P. Thanks for the translations, i liked those of the A side alot. Always like to read your notes too! Ye im critic when its comes to lyrics, sice im a writer myself.

  4. I absolutely intend to buy this when I am in Tokyo - I already wanted to and now I read this review I want to even more. Anything that recalls Mienai Mono is a winner for me, even with everything else excluded.

    (And I speak as someone who DOES buy a lot of stuff electronically... but that's because I resent putting free money in the hands of the Royal Mail and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.)

  5. Hey Cayce,
    Ok, I know you think I'm kissing your ass with this, but I love the way you express yourself in this age of dribble crap. Your insights into B-T's new offerings is dead on. And your translations (with notes) is much appreciated. Thank you!

  6. @ Tsuki33 - Why thank you...though you know, I don't say no to ass kissing...sounds pretty sexual XXXXX to me!

    @ Mawb - If 5% appears too small, be thankful I don't take it all.

    @ Angel Tears - Next time, make it clear and concise, or please just start your own blog. It's free. I call your attention to Rule #2 on my Rules For Commenting post (posted Oct 2010) as to why I am not publishing any more comments that are essays in disguise.

  7. Cayce, if people are not allowed to write larger and more complex posts, then why not limited the amount of characters of someone's post. And what exactly is wrong is larger posts? I dont get it at all. Isnt that suppose to be a goal of the blogger; writing quality content so people are willing to take the time to respond in a serious manner? You should be eager to get this kind of messenges. I was just responding to your translations and all that, lol. But whatever, i will count my words next time.

  8. The songs on this single seem like a compromise between mid-career Buck-Tick, and "straight rock" Buck-Tick. The arrangements are still pretty straightforward, but there's a bit more of the sonic layering and noise that used to be a trademark of the band. Just from a listener's point of view, it seems like they want to get closer to their old style again, but for whatever reason (either because they're not sure its financially viable, or just because they're a bit rusty) they're dipping their toes into that pool very slowly and carefully.

  9. girl, you sure have a way with words.
    Congrats on this "knowledge backed-up" work :)

  10. Really insightful commentary!

    I am curious, though, on your thoughts concerning the "inexplicable white girl" in the preview for Miss Take...

  11. I always love reading your B-T lyrics, they're absolutely gorgeous. Every time a new single comes out, I think about trying my hand at it, but you always do a better and faster job than I ever would anyway... One day I want to be that good at translation, too. =D

    I like Elise, it's catchy and I picture Imai doing that duck walk every time I listen.

  12. Angel Tears, I agree with you and feel you get picked on unfairly just for sharing your opinion, which is all ANY of us are doing. Yeah a word limit might be in order if that's what someone wants on their blog. Make it simple. Maybe one thing we can all agree on is that Cayce is certainly passionate and that's why we love her!

    But really, I just think she fancies you is all ; P

  13. @ Lawrence - I'm not sure they're trying to get back to their old style exactly, but I suspect they have been freed from a certain amount of pressure from their label to do things a certain way. Imai never does the same thing twice, probably because he would get bored otherwise. But I wouldn't say that the recent songs are any less layered than the older songs, Buck-Tick's sound has always been based on piling up simple layers into a complex collage. It's just that recently, they haven't been using as many obviously weird instruments and techniques (guitar bowing, theremins, etc.)

    @ Angel Tears and Anonymous - The point of the comment threads is not to be a shoutbox for people's stream of consciousness personal opinions. The point of the comment threads is to be a place where readers can discuss the contents of each post. Types of comments that invite discussion include: asking questions, comparing and contrasting Buck-Tick's works or the works of other artists, bringing up little things you noticed, etc. A few well-placed words of personal opinion may be appropriate, if they are constructive. But if you leave me paragraphs' worth of your personal opinions, I will suspect you of using the Blog-Tick comment threads as a place to draw attention to yourself. If you want to write about your personal opinions at length, the place to do that is your own blog, or perhaps livejournal.

    I reserve the right not to publish any comments that violate the Rules For Commenting.


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