Here's to the Sexy Beasts

Hey kids! It's a week late, but we are now pleased to present to you the kanji, romaji, and annotated translations for "Night of the Beasts" and "Rondo," so we suggest you head over to This is NOT Greatest Site right away to check them out. The translations are both singable with the original melody, and these songs are catchy as hell and great fun to sing, so please go ahead and sing away. Sing in the shower, sing in your car, sing in the street, sing wherever! Buck-Tick are on the up-and-up again - on our way back from Night One of Locus Solus Bestia, we stopped into our neighborhood Lawson only to hear "Kemono-tachi no Yoru" playing over the sound system. The only places we've ever heard Buck-Tick songs played on the regular as background music for shopping are Closet Child and the (now long gone) Atelier Pierrot store in Laforet Harajuku - Buck-Tick are a cult band these days and they don't get much public exposure anymore, so hearing them playing in Lawson feels like almost as much of a delicious trip back to 1992 as the massive bombast and sensual gothic romance of Locus Solus - recapturing the spirit of the OG, utterly brilliant, long hair, swishy-pants, synth guitar and roses Climax Together... but more on Locus Solus in a bit - right now, let's talk about the new single. 

On first listen it might sound like mostly fluff - dark, sexy, goth/industrial fluff, but fluff all the same - simple, repetitive melodies tailor-made to worm their way into your ears forevermore, and straightforward themes designed to be accessible to wider audiences. "Rondo" lives up to Sakurai's promise to deliver a kid-friendly version of Buck-Tick-style goth, with so many dreams within dreams that Inception is ready to wet its pants with jealousy (real talk kids, Inception is a fantastic film. If you haven't watched it, go watch it right away). "Night of the Beasts," on the other hand, feels like one of those classic dance club tracks that are all about... dancing at the club. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this. Catchy, fluffy songs are lots of fun and not even a goth as gothical as Mr. Sakurai wants to be clinging white-knuckled to cosmic life and death every minute of the day. Sometimes you have to take a break and let your hair down (or put on a giant feathery gangsta coat and tell the bitches in the hood to shake that thang, as the case may be). Plus, it's great that Buck-Tick are getting more anime theme exposure, and it was wise of them to write the catchiest, most memorable song they could, in order to snag some young new fans. But the more time you spend in Buck-Tickistan, the more you realize that nothing in Buck-Tickistan is ever as simple as it seems on first glance.

The fact is that "Rondo" may sound simple, but it's actually quite a sophisticated piece of music, calling for much more vocal coloratura from Sakurai than most of Imai's compositions require - a tribute to the fact that Sakurai has done a lot of work to improve his vocal technique, especially since The Mortal, and has become a much more powerful singer as a result. Beyond that, it's clear that Imai has spent a lot of time practicing guitar lately. The gypsy noodlings in the instrumental section are far more zippy and complex than anything he normally writes for himself to play - not to trash on Imai here, but usually, he leaves all the hard parts to Hide. Imai's guitar style may be instantly recognizable, but he's always been a more accomplished songwriter than guitarist, and even as recently as Razzle Dazzle, he was notoriously sloppy with his solos during live shows, and made mistakes onstage all the time. Which was fine - part of the fun of live performance is watching the performers mess up, and Imai always managed to make his mistakes sound good. But starting around the release of Yumemiru Uchuu, it became apparent that he'd been practicing more, and his higher level of technical mastery made the songs more fun. He's done nothing but improve since that time, but "Rondo" is the first song where he showing off his new chops at full power, and it's a thrill.

Also, "Rondo" though may sound a bit similar to the third incarnation of "Victims of Love," especially since "Rondo" features another guest performance by Kokushoku Sumire, this time, Imai did everything right that he did wrong the last time. The violin and accordion feel natural here, true to the aura of European folklore the song evokes. Rather than the saccharine timbre of genteel chamber music, this violin is raw and grating, calling up images of something much wilder - caravans and carnivals and late night dancing around the bonfire. Pay special attention to the second verse, in which the violin becomes the voice of the cat sitting on Sakurai's lap! We're pretty sure this was Imai's idea - he was already making cat noises on his guitar during performances of "Gustave" last year (and we're pretty sure he stole that whole "make animal noises on your guitar" idea from King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, from whom Imai has stolen a whole lot more than cat noises over the years, but that's also just fine - Picasso himself said "great artists steal" and Adrian Belew is a pretty cool dude.) 

But in any case, props to Imai for coaxing something that sounds like music out of Kokushoku Sumire, because this is something nobody has ever done before. We ourselves thought it couldn't be done, but Imai did it, which is just more proof that he's a mad genius (as if you needed any more proof). And whether because Imai has refined his sensibilities, or because Acchan-chan put his diva "there can be only ONE vocalist in this band and I am it except when I let you rap because you are my husband and you enjoy rapping so I will let you do it because I love you" foot down, the guest vocals from Kokushoku Sumire's vocalist Yuka are pretty much only present in the credits in the lyric booklet. You can sort of hear her laughing on the "fu fu fu" bits, but she's mixed down to a level that she might be nothing more than a shadow on the wall, exactly where her tuneless wailing belongs. Politics! It's a beautiful thing! She gets her royalty check of more money than she's ever made in her whole life and bragging rights and gets to blah blah blah I sang with Acchan blah blah blah his vocals are so erotic blah blah I don't know what eros is because I'm a lolita and it's a known fact that lolitas think that Clitoris is a city in Uruguay (or was it Zimbabwe?) blah blah at every lolita fangirl party from now till she dies, and the rest of us get to walk away without our ears bleeding! Buck-Tick are over 30 now. They are real adults. They have seen some shit and now they know how to swing it so everybody wins.

However, personally, our favorite part of "Rondo" is the ending - you expect it's just going to go out with a dramatic but utterly predictable "bum bum BUM." But it doesn't! Instead, Sakurai's voice lingers mournfully over that last "yume," floating away over the lamenting violin just like the dream melting into black smoke. Lovely! If only they'd managed to use real candles in the PV instead of cheap Christmas decor from American Wal-Mart, we could have time traveled straight back to Juusankai wa Gekkou. But real candles would have been a fire hazard and possibly burned Hide's beard off, and that simply will not do. Sadly, life is full of sacrifices.

"Rondo" is a beautiful piece of music, and it represents a major step forward for the band in terms of technical skill. "Beasts" feels like classic late-90's Buck-Tick by comparison. So what's new in this one? More than you might think. Take a closer look at the lyrics. Is this really just a song about the kids dancing up in the club, or is it a glorious celebration of Sakurai's return to the stage at the Nippon Budoukan at the end of last year, following his near-collapse onstage at Zepp DiverCity?

"Time to rip through the curtain, time to let the night begin" - sounds like the beginning of a Buck-Tick show, doesn't it? "Shaking all over" - that's the pre-peformance nerves for you, and he probably felt more nervous than usual that night, considering that he was still recovering and probably felt some trepidation about whether he'd be able to deliver, after what happened three weeks earlier. "Sing of love and dying and living" - that's what Mr. Sakurai does, and from the moment he stepped into the spotlight that night, he was positively slithering with enthusiasm, clearly pleased as punch to be back on the stage. He made a speech at the end of the night and nearly burst into tears as he tried to thank the fans for all the support and get-well cards they sent him while he was in the hospital, and the people who cheered him on when he bull-headedly insisted on finishing the encore despite the fact that he was literally bleeding inside. The lyric about the smiling kids is for the fans (or at least, for the fans who smiled! Most of them don't smile, but it's nice that the ones who do are getting some Acchan-chan love). Sakurai has been identifying himself with Pierrot since "Aku no Hana," and staying on stage till the end is certainly what he did, both the night of his collapse and the night of his comeback. 

But what about the devil? In the first chorus, it sure sounds like he's calling the dancing fans devils... why? Well, remember that line in "Devil's Wings" about "human being, human devil"? "Devil's Wings" was a lament about climate change, overpopulation, and all the other fucked up things human beings have been doing on and to the planet. But Sakurai has obviously felt a new love and appreciation for life on earth after his illness, and now he's re-thinking his bitterness a bit. We may be devils, but boy are we some cute devils, eh? 

And that's what "Night of the Beasts" boils down to: the tremendous visceral sense of triumph that our animal bodies feel when we succeed at survival. "I'm alive," he sings. "My whole body's boiling over." There's nothing like losing your health to put you back in touch with how precious your body is, and how good it feels to be alive in a healthy body. There's nothing that feels better than regaining all the strength and stamina and energy you lost to illness. Nothing that feels better than getting up out of your sickbed at last and putting on beautiful red makeup and shimmying into some PVC hot pants and lace tights and going out into the hot lights before an adoring crowd and shaking your ass and killing it like a boss - because every minute you lay in the dark sweating and suffering, incapacitated and riddled with pain, wondering who you are and if you'll ever get better and if you'll ever get to be you again, you wished so profoundly to be back on that stage, in command of all that power you had, that you took for granted, that you lost, that you fear you'll never regain. 

Major illness is terrifying, demoralizing, debilitating, humiliating, and it puts you directly in touch with the animal you are. When your flesh is locked in the grip of illness, it becomes a prison for your soul. And you could leave your body and drift off into a dream world... but more than anything you want to get back into that body, to make that body  beautiful again like it was born to be, to dance and sing and fuck, to do what it was made for. And when you worry you'll never get that chance again, and you get it again, nothing is sweeter. You are a beast and you exult. You will luxuriate in physical sensation that is pleasure rather than pain. You will hunt. You will growl. You will prowl. You will love and rut and howl. You are alive. You will survive.

Don't ask us how we know this stuff. We just do.

Anyway, great jorb, Buck-Tick. You've gone and done it and outdone yourselves again. Please never stop. We just want to get higher and higher from now on and we prefer that you be the ones to take us there.

Next up, Locus Solus live report. Because dear sweet Jesus, we were waiting to hear "Ai no Uta" live for twelve whole years, and even that seemed like no big deal when compared with the shredded falsetto jazz scat Spanish guitar erotic ecstasy of that all-acoustic "Seven Deadly Sins." (All-acoustic Buck-Tick say what? Acoustic what? They did WHAT!!?) And don't even get us started on the cherry blossom petals. Or the pink eye shadow. Or the black feather flapper dress. Or Imai rapping about fish to video visions of a red-lipped Sakurai crooning and mooning in an actual fish tank. As the kids like to say these days, we literally can't even. We need some time to calm down. Give us a few days, an ice cream, and an ice cold shower. And if you liked the translations, buy us a Ko-Fi, because we spent six months too sick to work but we've got rent to pay.