ZIGZO

The Police during a concert. From left to right, back to front:
DEN (bass), SAKURA (drums), TETSU (vocals and guitar), RYO (lead guitar)

I'll be honest: the only reason I ever listened to ZIGZO was because their drummer (and leader) was SAKURA. Little did I know they were actually a supergroup, really. Of course there's SAKURA, ex-L'Arc~en~Ciel, but there's also RYO and DEN of the early '90s visual kei group BY-SEXUAL, and then TETSU from early Malice Mizer, mega8ball, and nil. They achieved rather significant popularity rather quickly, thanks to many people already being familiar with the members of the group. In the few years they lasted they toured frequently but only released two full albums and a handful of singles. The reason for their breakup is not known but many speculate it was TETSU's desire to return to nil (and possibly SAKURA wanting to rejoin with ken to form SONS OF ALL PUSSYS).

SAKURA is the leader in title, and indeed he probably did a lot of the backstage work. However, vocalist TETSU is mainly responsible for the group's songs. In fact it's quite interesting that RYO, DEN, and SAKURA hardly did any songwriting for the group. So, for the most part, what you're getting is TETSU's music as conveyed by the group. Surely they brought about their own touch, but if you listen to TETSU's post-ZIGZO work... you can hear the relation. He definitely has his own style. Most of his melodies have a fairly pop touch, set about to fairly heavy rock music, and always, always given some sort of interesting touch, usually in the middle of the song. By "interesting touch", I mean drastic tempo change, bizarre key change, or anything else very dramatic.

In that light, it's easy to see why I'd be into ZIGZO. On one hand it can be enjoyed as catchy pop (which much of it is), but it can also be appreciated at a deeper level. "tonight, I will fall" is a wonderful example. As a single, of course it is required to have a big, catchy chorus, which it certainly does. But the middle! Suddenly the song stops, a lone guitar is left, playing something altogether new but not totally dissimilar from the rest of the song. The song of course then builds back into the chorus, but it's so much more dramatic this way. This kind of touch is TETSU's signature, and you're going to notice it in a lot of his work.

TETSU's vocals are not for everyone. He has a fairly high-pitched voice, likes to scream (especially live), and generally just tries to sounds rather wild, which the music often calls for anyway. It can be grating for a lot of people, but I think it fits in nicely with the band's sound. The rest of the band is all incredibly talented. Often there's not a lot of showing off going on between them. Usually it's just more impressive the way they're all cohesive and stay together during the odd meter changes, odd tempo changes, that sort of thing. Never missing a beat! So, while they're all skilled enough to handle these things without a problem, rarely are you going to be absolutely blown away by a guitar solo, a bass lick, or drum fill. Well, scratch that - SAKURA often blows me away. But for most people, that's the case.

Now, onto the reviews...

BEST ALBUM
MONSTER MUSIC

Rating: 4
Release date: 1/10/1999
Favorite song: sleep
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Wonderful Day4TETSU; ZIGZO
himawari5TETSU
chi to ase to namida no uragawa no HAPPII [album style]3TETSU
stranger's meloncolia5TETSU; ZIGZO
yorokobi no uta2TETSU; ZIGZO
sleep5TETSU
my problems5TETSU; ZIGZO
BURABO4TETSU; ZIGZO
hadaka PISUTORU5TETSU
white,daydream6TETSU
AJIAN ROKKU4TETSU
Ah, good old MONSTER MUSIC. In some ways, I feel like "Add9" is the stronger album in the sense that ZIGZO becomes more aware of what sound they're shooting for, and you get more personality. However, you also get some stuff of questionable quality. Here, everything is quite strong with a number of absolute gems. Picking a favorite was incredibly difficult but I ended up going with "sleep", a wonderful slow tune that is quite powerful. "white, daydream" was another strong contender, especially after the magnificent performance of it at THE LAST SCENE. It's another slow tune that builds to a powerful climax, and has an interesting "heavy" part in the middle. Finally, "my problems" is a favorite of mine, with it's quirky verses and heavy chorus, all in a bouncy 6/8 time. There's several other classics here too: the band's anthem "Wonderful Day" which is interesting (huge drum part!) but a bit slow and plodding for me to give it a 5; "himawari", a short but addictive fast rocker, and the back-to-back rockers "BURABO" and "hadaka PISTOL", the latter of which I find rocks a lot harder. "chi to ase to namida..." was the group's first single, but while catchy I find the verses and constant double-time a bit annoying. Nonetheless, a solid debut.


Add9 Suicide
Rating: 4
Release date: 2/21/2001
Favorite song: tonight, I will fall
TracklistRatingWords; Music
add9 suicidexZIGZO
3days in a well4TETSU
nani kara nani made4TETSU
I am a slider5TETSU
RUSH!!!4TETSU; ZIGZO
splash!5TETSU
warau tsuki5TETSU
Humbug Song2TETSU; ZIGZO
got "S" & deathxTETSU, RYO; DEN
hullaballoo room4TETSU
WALK3TETSU
tonight, I will fall5TETSU
fukai mori ni ita3TETSU
a line to exit4TETSU
mou 2do to aeinai kimi e4TETSU
As I mentioned above, you get a more ZIGZO-ish sound from this album. The organ sound has been eliminated with TOORU's departure from the group, so they've been stripped to a typical rock format of guitars/bass/drums. The sound is a bit more raw and heavy this time around. A lot of times this works. "I am a slider" rocks hard, and "warau tsuki" just has this great coda, with the band jamming after the last chorus. Almost took the spot as my favorite but I just had to give it to the single, "tonight, I will fall". It's chorus is just so friggin' addictive, how can you say no? "WALK" is another slightly annoying double-time song, reminiscent of "chi to ase..." from the last album. "Humbug Song" is just plain bizarre, and plods on a bit too long for its own good. "hullaballo room" is another bizarre song, but this one is MUCH faster, and gets so out-of-control its hard to resist. "3days in a well" and "RUSH!!!" also see the band rocking harder than anything on the past album. The slow songs are considerably weaker though, "nani kara nani made" and "a line to exit". The former does have a powerful climax though, and of course I give it points for being in 6/8 time, but give me "sleep" or "white, daydream" anyday. The album ends on a solemn note, a light rocker that is harmless but not altogether impressive. Anyway, I rated it the same as MONSTER MUSIC but I find myself listening to that one more, but you may disagree. Either way, no matter which one you start off with, if you like it the other album will become absolutely essential as well.