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May 12 2016

BAND-MAID – Brand New MAID (Review)

BAND-MAID
Brand New MAID

Review by David Cirone

JRock247-BAND-MAID-Brand-New-MAID-verA-CD-review

BAND MAID has made a point in recent interviews of celebrating the contrast (sometimes they call it “the gap”) between their “kawaii” maid personas and their hard-rock sound. Their latest album Brand New MAID, clocking in at an adrenaline-filled 30 minutes, seems designed to push that contrast to its max level.

Compared to last year’s New Beginning, this album is even leaner, even more eager to fight, with songs composed to deliberately position you for a knockout punch. Japanese bands like to play games with English capitalization and punctuation, and when I first saw the title, I considered it a “cute” gimmick, but after diving into a few hours of repeat-fueled listening, I understand the title’s real significance — just like its simple rhythmic structure (“bop-bop-BOOM”), Brand New MAID finds a way in each of these 8 songs to rock, rock, and EXPLODE.

“the non-fiction days” opens the album with fierce energy and a perfect anime-opening structure. (Challenge: close your eyes and imagine your favorite program’s character intros — swear to God, it works.) “the non-fiction days” is Exhibit A in the explosion department, and it’s the first shot in a series of tracks that proves BAND-MAID’s ready to crush any protests that their cute persona disqualifies them from the “real rock” club. Packing the last year with steady touring has made their sound bigger, tougher, deeper. “Look at Me” is a guns-blazing, motorcycle ready shot of classic rock-n-roll, with a stellar, out-of-nowhere guitar solo from Kanami. “ORDER” doubles down with a solid bass solo (yes!) from Misa, and “Brand-New ROAD” comes in right after that with a bridge section devoted to nothing but jamming.

“Yuragu” once again gives the guitars the spotlight, and it’s a fun display of the synergy between the twin-guitar combo of Kanami and Miku (who’s also killing on backing vocals). As I listened to the album, the word “confidence” came to mind again and again. Brand New MAID is just overflowing with certainty, spunk, and expertly-measured variety. Each member continues to escalate her technical skills, and the songwriting easily sets them apart from the typical “girl-band” flavor. “Get out of my way,” says Saiki in “FREEDOM”, and it’s a clear warning to any and all haters, backed up by killer rock riffs.

Where can they go from here? Vocalist Saiki is showing an impressive depth of range throughout. She’s in her sweet spot when she injects her earthy, soul/R&B rock feelings (a la Robert Plant, Stevie Nicks), but she would benefit from spending a little more time on the English sections if the band is going to continue to prominently feature English lyrics in their work. Give her an A for effort, but there are times when the English is noticeably syllabic, sharply contrasting the effectiveness of her native Japanese. That’s a small complaint, and Saiki’s performance in “Before Yesterday” is a beautiful showcase for how far she’s come since the band’s debut.

“alone” closes the album with one of the band’s strongest hits yet, and if you’re one of the fans (like me) who’s added a few thousand views to the YouTube video since it came out on Valentine’s Day, you might be prone to take this song for granted, but on CD I found something new to love every time I cranked this one up in my headphones.

Wish list: BAND-MAID’s MVP drummer Akane is so strong on this album. She just slays-slays-slays the drums on track after track, and a 30-second drum solo is so completely ready to happen. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that live album everyone needs (check out the live version of “REAL EXISTENCE” on the Type-B release for a small taste).

BAND-MAID Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bandmaid
BAND-MAID Website: http://bandmaid.tokyo

BAND-MAID
Brand New Maid

Track List

[Type-A]
1. the non-fiction days
2. LOOK AT ME
3. ORDER
4. Brand-New Road
5. YURAGU
6. FREEDOM
7. Before Yesterday
8. alone

DVD
・the non-fiction days (Music Video)
・ORDER (Music Video)
・alone (Music Video)

[Type-B]
1. the non-fiction days
2. LOOK AT ME
3. ORDER
4. Brand-New Road
5. YURAGU
6. FREEDOM
7. Before Yesterday
8. alone
9. REAL EXISTENCE (live version) [bonus track]

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Order BAND-MAID – Brand New MAID from CDJapan!