The brilliant green vocalist Kawase Tomoko’s concurrent solo careers, nerdy 80’s pop singer Tommy february6 and eyeliner-caked rocker Tommy heavenly6, were traditionally a chance for the entire band to let loose and make funny—but still quality—songs about baby candy pop and jumping pumpkin monsters. Literally, the entire band: Bassist Okuda Shunsaku and guitarist Matsui Ryo wrote the songs under pseudonyms. The bubblegum world Kawase fashioned for herself—where she was alternately drunk or sugar high, and surrounded by cheerleaders and toys—provided an endearing, comic alternative the brilliant green’s no-frills rock ‘n’ roll approach.
But with the brilliant green MIA and solo Kawase frequently releasing musical treats, we weren’t getting a substantial main course of music.
Maybe Kawase felt as overdosed on candy corn and lollipops as we did, because her third solo album as Tommy heavenly6, lovably titled I Kill My Heart, is a drastic and edifying departure from the act’s previous bubblegum rock albums. It’s based on a 90’s alternative rock sound like the Smashing Pumpkins. (Now Kawase’s lyrics about pumpkins carry a new meaning.)
The growling guitars and gloominess of “Wait For Me There” recall the brilliant green’s excellent Los Angeles. “Leaving You” is eerily spacey, while the guitars screech in “Shut Up.” In the closing track “You Should Live in the Sunny Light,” Kawase sings with just the accompaniment of a guitar.
Compared to Tommy’s earlier albums, and even the brilliant green’s, I Kill My Heart is surprisingly devoid of hooks and compositional variety. No ballads like “Hey My Friend” change up the flow, no ambitious songs like “Lollipop Candy Bad Girl” provide a centerpiece, and no catchy choruses like that of “Heavy Starry Chain” get stuck in your head. Instead, the songwriting focuses on creating a low-key, melancholic mood and avoids anything that would have compromised it. At only 37 minutes, the album makes for a nice injection of darkness without lasting long enough to become monotonous. But fans expecting more of Kawase’s pop-rock confections may not warm up to I Kill My Heart.
They will be happy that the singer’s memorably quirky lyrics remain intact. “Why do you have to kill the prince?/Why do you kill yourself?” Kawase asks in “Sad End To A Fairy Tale,” one of the best songs on the album. “Wait For Me There” name-checks a number of Kawase’s favorite subjects, such as in the verse “The candy house is screaming out!/I’m running through the dancing tombstones/The pumpkin fields forever!” These funny lyrics contrast nicely against the dark music and remind us Kawase never takes herself too seriously.
The brilliant green have said they’ve left their old management and are working on a comeback. I Kill My Heart makes a nice transition between Kawase’s solo music and her meatier band work, but it is also a great album in its own right. If this turns out to be the last Tommy album, it’s a pleasantly surprising closing that reassures us the pumpkin fields will be forever, even if Tommyheavenly6 won’t.