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May 22

[meta-jacked] Jrocknyc Review Smackdown

Ken:  IN PHYSICAL (2009) vs VAMPS:  VAMPS (2009)

Written by Go at Jrocknyc

ken-in-physicalAfter the massacre that was “Jack in the Box 2008″ I had zero hopes for Ken (of L’Arc)’s solo album.

It’s so fun to be happily surprised. In Physical is the best solo album by a jrock guitarist in a decade.

Ken beats Anchang (who he sounds a lot alike here, only smarter and with better support) and Circuit V Panther and Sugizo and Inoran and J and Tetsu and Hyde and Pata and Heath (of course) and sits down next to Hide’s brilliant mid-90s solo jobbies.

In some ways In Physical is even better than a Hide album, as it never condescends with whoa!~weird~cartoony~voices! or distracting sound effects or lame little fillerific non-songs. Ken’s straight up and from the heart, writting and playing with dedication and brains.

Best thing about it hands down is the guitar tone. It’s like walking into a guitar shop with someone really good playing a great axe through a great amp, a very natural, full, textured sound that seems impossible to capture on record (whenever a guitar sounds great in a room, it ends up sound like crap on tape, yanno?)…

The hard rocker “S” is definitely my favorite, whereas the title track that follows it is more about mood than metal. “Spin Along” is another Anchang-on-nootropics barnburner, with a great solo; Deeper (the single) rocks, “My Angel” reanimates the verse guitar chords of L’Arc’s old classic “Milky Way” (Heart, 1996), “Gimme Your Name” has an early-Shiina Ringo vibe (“Identity,” I’m thinking).

Though there are a few songs I’ll tend to skip over, none of them suck. Whereas…

vamps…whereas Hyde & Kaz’s moneymaker Vamps (now on iTunes, for sale for real next month) is a ream of soggy photocopies apparently being purchased solely by silly women who you’d think would know better despite themselves.

This album, composted from the various schlocky singles already in wide release, is so dull, so charmless, so unwilling to challenge or engage the listener in ANY WAY, that it barely qualifies as music. I’ve heard kitchen appliances with more character, LITERALLY.

winner: KEN   : )
loser: VAMPS   : (

3 comments

  1. Laurette J Wms

    Now I am going to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming over again to read additional news.

  2. Tsuki

    I totally agree with this review. Ken’s cover art is absolutely awesome. Kudos to the photographer. I also love the music. The songs are well crafted and I’m happy because he included some nice piano along with the guitar in his arrangements. His vocals still need work, but he’s getting much better. In fact, there were some brief moments in “Relax Over” where he sounded a LOT like Hyde does right now; especially in his upper register. I’m really enjoying this album.

    The Vamps cd looks cheap. The cover art is cheezy as are many of the song titles and the opening non-song “Bite” just made me roll my eyes. The melodies also lack originality. When I listen to the songs they sound like I’ve heard them before. There isn’t ONE that makes me stop, close my eyes and just sink into it. It’s a real disappointment to me they didn’t include their cover of Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” because I really loved that.

    Maybe Vamps is just Hyde and Kaz having fun, but they could do that and still make good music. They’re both capable of writing great songs but I just didn’t find any real greatness here. Some of the songs are o.k, but definitely nothing to rave about. This cd isn’t at all what I hoped it would be. It’s something that should be put out on the shelves at Wal-Mart for Halloween along with all of the cheezy horror flicks as a party soundtrack, maybe. The vampire theme would be at home there where nothing is taken too seriously.

    1. Kathy Chee

      I think Ken is using the same photographer for all his albums. The movement and the lighting looks the same from his previous album. I wonder who the photographer is.

      VAMPS doesn’t feel like a serious project, but maybe Hyde and Kaz aren’t serious about music the same way Ken is.

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