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Mar 30

Buck-Tick – memento mori: Did You Remember to Die?

Laundry. Check. Take out the trash. Check. Pick up a gallon of milk. Check. Remember to die. Check!

memento mori (First Press)

The album art remembered to die.

Thank the powers that be for Buck-Tick. Without their blatant message and title track of their new album, memento mori, I may just forget one of the most important things on my list of life’s to-do’s. For those of you Latin buffs, memento mori roughly translates to “remember to die,” though it’s not explicitly a command. Regardless, memento mori demands that I take notice of an often morose, sadistic, yet surprisingly optimistic message that only B-T can properly convey.

While not deliberately a concept album like 13kai wa Gekkou, memento mori attempts to tell a musical message through mood and obscurity. Whether it’s successful or not is up for debate. Opening with a cacophony of wails, “Makka na Yoru” spoon feeds the ears with a heaping helping of madness over a whirlwind of guitars. By the time I reach “Les Enfantes Terribles,” I might get sucked into thinking this is a tale about the descent into embittered insanity. Vocalist Sakurai Atsushi’s tone is venomous, the guitars abrasive, and everything about the world sucks. Maybe I should jump ahead to the last thing on my list.

But no, Buck-Tick bounces out with a bubbly, pop-rock ditty. This is where I return to my to-do list and wonder where I can fit “remembering to die” into my day. With a moderately upbeat tempo that you could gaily dance to, “Galaxy” is an overly optimistic silver lining on this otherwise dark album. I can forgive this moment of commercial appeal as I blissfully “forget to die.”

However, I soon realize that bliss was only momentary once I reach “Umbrella.” While the verses boast a rather likeable staccato beat, the instrumentals accentuating the chorus make the song sound irksomely like a bad, early 90’s anime opening theme. “Memory” follows the same annoying route, aging Buck-Tick with an extreme level of sappy camp. Not only am I “remembering to die,” but I now wish to take my own life to save me from this absurdly romantic drawl.

But hey, maybe it’s a bad idea to kill myself over a couple diabetic coma inducing songs. Buck-Tick can’t be all maple syrup and Skittles, right? Luckily for me, the voice of reason returns in “memento mori” as guitarist and noise expert Imai Hisashi exclaims in his best English, “Dance dance! Ha ha! Remember to die!” The most intriguing aspect of this song is the melody, which sounds strikingly similar to “Shima Uta” by The Boom. With that in mind, Sakurai belts out the chorus with enough vibrato to make prima donnas crumble at his feet.

The mood quickly changes with “Lullaby III” into a dark pile of cynical sarcasm. Higuchi Yutaka’s mellow bass plods rather ungracefully under the surface of Imai’s lackadaisical guitar wailings. Before long, Sakurai’s jaded voice pipes in with an almost inebriated drone. Death is around the corner, and Buck-Tick knows it. Now is the time to get drunk on champagne, sing bitter songs, and dance because the “party’s over,” as Sakurai sulks.

The latter third of the album is nothing but a bitter epilogue to this message. But there has to be something better in the world beyond. Death isn’t the end, is it? That’s when “Heaven” floats listlessly above me like a team of angels taking me up to… well, Heaven. While not a far cry from the pop-rock mode of “Galaxy,” “Heaven” provides a sweeping sense of hope, utilizing Hoshino Hidehiko’s always earthy acoustic guitar accompanied by Imai’s alien distortion.

Alright, Buck-Tick, I’ll remember to die. You’ve convinced me that life is madness, you grow old, make outdated and corny love ballads, and finally go to Heaven with a certain sense of peace. It may have taken you fifteen tracks and about seventy minutes to get that message across, but overall I get the point.

7 comments

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  1. EccentricSage

    The lyrics of Lullaby III are actually rather fun for a fan of the band. They refer back to characters and imagery from songs throughout their discography, going all the way back to Imai’s Mr.J from Taboo. It’s very gothic but not serious. Hell, it’s downright silly. A sardonic little dance number for the gothic minded who can’t get enough of 13kai.

    Anyhow, I don’t see where the author of the article is coming from on Lullaby III at all. The bass is ungraceful? How? What does that adjective even mean in reference to a bass line? It’s a samba. She completely overlook the melody. There’s two guitar parts, remember? The wild distorted chords are part of creating a certain discordant atmosphere that Imai has long been fond of; like Bauhaus, one of their major influences. The guitar parts actually are all very tight and don’t just waft about like she says. The author of this article likes to pretend she understands music to justify her snark, but lacks the verbiage to concisely explain what exactly it is she takes issue with.

    Hell, she doesn’t even mention some of the songs on this album at all. What about Coyote? What about Motel 13? What about the fact that there is no song on this album called “Memory”? You can tell the effort she put into this when she doesn’t even get the names of the songs right!

    As for the Umbrella songs, Imai was recently wed. I don’t get why the author is so bitter. She doesn’t like heartfelt love songs of a newlywed, she has equal distaste for anything playfully dark. Maybe this album was most well suited to fans who are familiar with B-T and their way of doing things, but still, I don’t think a non-fan learns much of anything from reading this article except the name of the album and how the author feels about a mere handful of the songs. A fan, on the other hand, just sees a woman who has no clue what she’s babbling about, playing at being a music critic with no credential.

    1. Sarah

      I’m extremely late on this, but it should be noted that BUCK-TICK is my favorite band. No lie.

  2. Sarah

    Kathy, since the late 90′s at least, Buck-Tick tends to write four or five extra songs on an album that just get put aside until the next release. Kyokutou I LOVE YOU and Mona Lisa Overdrive were supposed to be a double-disc album, but the record label decided to split it into two releases. Same thing with 13kai wa Gekkou, though they’ve spread those leftovers across two additional albums.

    History aside, Buck-Tick is not necessarily incapable of creating the perfect ballad, but they missed on this album. There’s no instrumental substance behind the vocals, and the piano part sounded like the Spinal Tap ballad (though this one is not in the key of E).

    Tsuki, I never took Latin. That language is dead to me, I say! Dead!

    1. EccentricSage

      13kai wasn’t suposed to be a double disk. Rather, Imai seems to tend to play around with far more arangements than he knows they’ll use, and then only chooses some of them for the album. Lullaby III is one of those peices that didn’t fit onto 13kei. The lyrics were writen specificly for Memento Mori.

  3. Kathy Chee

    Nice review Sarah! And also to Tsuki, I also thought the singles were completely different from the actual album. I was expecting one thing and got another. I think Sarah told me this, but does Buck Tick really write all their songs at once and then kind of release them bit by bit?

  4. Tsuki

    I thought memento mori meant more along the lines of “remember that you are mortal” or “remember that you must die” or “remember you will die” and that “remember to die” was just Imai’s take on it. I took a year of latin in school. It was excrutiating.

    I loved Memento Mori as an album because of the variety and I even liked the ballads. Maybe I’m getting a little old and sappy myself? I put a review in my myspace blog, but I’m no writer, just a B-T fan. If anyone’s interested, you can find it here:

    http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=219546580&blogId=477779468

  5. Sarah

    Spam!

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