Release date: April 27th, 2016
It’s been about 14 months since I reviewed Dempagumi.inc’s last album, WWDD, and the time since that album had the group being pulled in a multitude of different directions as far as their music and activities are concerned, some for good and some worse.
Most of 2015 and 2016 showed them moving away from their more underground Akihabara roots and more into the mainstream of J-pop in many ways, including an increased amount of product and company tie-ins with their music and activities, as well as a moving away from their more eclectic music producers like Hyadain and Tamaya2060% and towards more mainstream J-pop producers like Tom-H@ck and Takashi Asano.
Within this period, they released around 10 singles, most of which are included in this album, so let’s take a look at how those singles turned out for me and also delve into the new tracks this album offers.
The album starts with a short instrumental number, just like the previous albums, and this one’s track title is simply the name of the album, “GOGO DEMPA,” and it features a fairly typical “fantasy” style intro with some synth Japanese traditional instruments throughout. This barely lasts for one minute, so there’s not much else to say here, but you can check out a preview for it (as well as all the other songs) on iTunes.
Next up is “Ba! To the Future,” a digital single released earlier in 2016, and unfortunately there’s not much to note here. It’s pretty par for the course of what their recent music has sounded like, being some unexciting, fast-paced pop music with a seemingly out of place arrangement. The arrangement mostly consists of acoustic jazz instruments and while the songwriting does feature some jazz flair to it, it feels like the song would have been much better suited with a more electronic or rock arrangement like much of their previous material, because this one just makes it fall flat. You can check out the song here:
Next up is “Fanfare wa Bokura no Tame ni,” another of the songs released as a digital single earlier this year, and thankfully it’s one of the better tracks they’ve released in the last year. The arrangement is almost exactly the same as the previous song, yet it fits more, since the song is a little more slow-paced. This one is quite enjoyable among their more recent offerings, even if it’s not the most exciting or unique thing they’ve done. Definitely give it a listen and check out the mini-PV for it here:
“Wakusei★Seika 〜Planet Anthem〜” is next, with a pretty run-of-the-mill trance/EDM arrangement full of pianos, and unfortunately they also chose to record most of the vocal tracks for the song with a vocaloid-type auto-tune filter that ruins what could have been some pretty good vocal performances from the most featured members: Pinky, Eimi, and Risa. It’s not awful to listen to, but don’t expect anything you haven’t already heard from EDM and vocaloid music a few thousand times already. You can check out a preview of the song on iTunes.
With the next new album track, we finally see the triumphant return of arguably the trademark Dempagumi.inc producer of their whole career, Tamaya2060%, who has written and produced the bulk of their most unique and popular songs to date. The track is “STAR☆tto to Shichauze Harudashi ne” and the result is easily the best song they’ve released since 2014’s “Dempari Night,” which was, not surprisingly, also the last Dempagumi song produced and written by Tamaya.
“STAR☆tto” is full of fast-paced dempa madness, with a Country-Western bluegrass flavor to the whole track, featuring tons of twangy guitars, furious banjos, a galloping rhythm with accompanying bluegrass percussion, and synth fiddles galore. The chorus soars sky-high like most of their best songs, and it has a fun “horse race” bridge in the middle to give it even more of the bluegrass taste.
There’s a beautiful piano solo section for Eimi and Nemu around the 3:25 mark to finish out the bridge and lead back into the key-shifted chorus and finish out the song. This track has everything that makes Dempagumi.inc great all packed into one song, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not check out the song and it’s fantastic PV here:
Next up we have a song released in Summer of 2015, with “Akihaba Life♪” and we have what is probably the best out of the previously-released Dempagumi songs since the last album. It has a fun, cute rock arrangement with a relatively simple and cute pop composition, and while it may be simple by Dempagumi standards, it still offers a little more variety and surprises than most similar songs of this style. The song also doesn’t overstay its welcome at about 3 minutes long, which is a great choice for a song as relatively simple as this. Check out the excellent PV and song here:
Next we have another 2015 single, “Otsukare Summer!,” and unfortunately, this might be the worst song they’ve released since the last album. I’ve always failed to find any lasting appeal in this song, even though Hyadain co-wrote the track with another writer, as you can’t hear any of his classical influence come through in the final product. I remember him saying he had very little to do with the songwriting process for this in an interview, and it really shows.
“Otsukare” ends up being a loud and uninspired “Summer” idol song without much to set it apart from the droves of this type of song that get released every year. The chorus is catchy and it has a really big, funky bass line throughout, but it gets to be a bore to listen to after the first chorus. It might be your cup of tea, despite not being mine, so you can check it out here:
Next is another 2015 release, this one is a Halloween-themed song, with “Towa Zombina,” and I’d say it’s pretty hard to get Halloween-themed songs right in the J-pop world. I can’t say this song gets it fully right, but it’s mostly enjoyable throughout, since it doesn’t rely on the Halloween association too much and just goes for more of a fun dempa song with just a little Halloween in it.
The verses of “Zombina” are extremely well-done, with banjos and layered acoustic guitars backing up the cute vocal patterns, and the pre-chorus ends up continuing this style with some added “creepy” organs in the background, but still remains cute. The chorus is also fun, with really rapid repeats of “Zombina” chants over the jumpy rhythm. Definitely check this one out here, as the things it does right definitely shine through in the end:
Now we have another new track made for the album, with “Ensemble wa Tenohira ni” which features a swinging lounge jazz arrangement playing what is mostly a pretty typical idol jazz song. This style usually has to do something very special to catch my attention, so it rarely ever does much for me, but this isn’t too bad of an attempt at the style, even if it doesn’t appeal to me personally. The arrangement is done well for what it is, and thankfully they kept the song very short, but only the choruses truly stand out here. Check out a preview on iTunes to hear for yourself.
Next up is “Kitto, Kitto ne,” another new song for the album, showcasing a fun Shibuya-kei style arrangement, full of acoustic guitars with a poppy rhythm and synths/strings over most of the sections. This isn’t the most exciting thing they’ve done, but it’s fun, cute, and a good listen, just don’t expect much dempa style here. Check out the song here:
Next is another single from last year, and unfortunately a Christmas-themed track, which is another holiday that’s hard to get right when it comes to J-pop songs. This one is “Dem Dem X’mas,” and for each thing it does somewhat well, it has a downfall nearby to bring it back to mediocrity. It features everything you’d expect from idol Christmas songs with just a slight touch of dempa style here and there.
“X’mas” features a jazzy arrangement that’s almost identical to the one in the 2nd and 3rd tracks of this album, with some added bells and “Christmas-y” sounds throughout. It’s cute for what it is, but doesn’t stand out like most of Dempagumi’s older catalog. It’s available to preview and purchase on iTunes in the West, here.
Next up is a B-side from a single last year, with “Munasawagi no Himitsu?!” and this one is a strange collaboration with the Hello Kitty brand. The song is pretty good, but doesn’t stand out quite as much as most of their older music, though it’s one of the better songs they released in the last year. The songwriting has some dempa elements to it, and the arrangement does a good job at getting the song out there, even if it’s missing a little intensity due to being mostly organic jazz instruments and tones. You can check out the PV here:
“Kibou no Uta” is next, another new song, a very calm ballad-style track featuring lots of reverb-laced Hammond organ sounds, accordion, folk-y acoustic guitar, and chamber strings. This is actually one of the stronger songs on the album with some gorgeous vocal performances from all of the girls, including some sweet vocal harmonies throughout. This is a rare example of a Dempagumi ballad done right, and I can’t recommend this enough. Check out a preview of this gem on iTunes.
Getting towards the end here, we have “Yume Sasu Ashita e,” another new song, but with a fairly typical and predictable low-intensity pop rock composition/arrangement, again featuring lots of jazzy guitars and drums, but nothing really stands out here. No interesting melodies or chord progressions here, it sounds like a pretty usual Japanese rock song you could hear from any softer rock band out of Japan nowadays. Check out a preview on iTunes here.
Finally, we close the album with “Ashita Chikyuu ga Konagona ni Natte mo,” another single released last year, and yet another boring and uninspired song that sounds like most other J-pop in the market today. This one almost reaches anime-theme levels of generic, which is somewhat expected since it’s arranged by Tom-H@ck. Not a great way to close the album, but pretty typical for J-pop to have the slower, more ballad-y songs all piled at the end. The PV looks nice, so at least there’s that. You can see the PV and listen to the song for yourself here:
The album leaves me a bit perplexed of where it places in the lineup of all their albums. Both of their albums since their major debut album, World Wide Dempa, in 2013 have had a pretty small amount of new content, but were loaded with lots of great singles and previously released material.
This one falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, where a lot of the previously released material was lackluster, but some of the new songs really make up for it, and there’s a lot more new songs this time (almost half the album.)
One issue with the album that I felt throughout is the familiarity of the arrangements featured here. Their previous albums were goldmines of unique and creative arrangements that complimented the songwriting extremely well, but with all the 2015-2016 material, it seems to have fallen into a trend where most of the songs have almost the exact same arrangement, and it’s not a very exciting or special style at all.
Almost half of this album has nearly the same arrangement and instrumentation used, and it’s not one that fits their sound too well, so it can get a bit boring when listening to the album all at once, even if a few of those songs are quite good on their own.
All in all, there’s a lot of good music to enjoy here (7 songs) but that leaves the other half of the album feeling a bit unimpressive. I’d say this is just slightly more consistent than the previous release, WWDD but not quite as strong as World Wide Dempa.
Check this out for sure if you’re a Dempagumi fan or if you’ve just lost contact with them over the last year or so, and you’re sure to find something to enjoy here. The album is on iTunes in the West as well, so it’s easy to just get the songs you like. Feel free to discuss what you liked or disliked about this album in the comments or on Twitter, it’d be fun to discuss. Until next time.
Purchase GO GO DEMPA:
Regular CD version:
Limited CD version: