Release date: February 19th, 2015
Dempagumi.inc has been taking the J-pop world by storm since their popularity took off in early 2013, rising in the charts and pop culture consciousness with their infectious, colorful Akihabara style and traveling the world to spread their awareness around the globe.
February 2015 marks the release of their third studio album, titled WWDD, containing all of their major music releases from 2014 as well as a handful of new songs which feature interesting production credits from some unexpected players in the industry.
After not being terribly impressed with their last album, I was curious to see how this one compared against their sophomore effort, so I’ll give a rundown of all the tracks contained within, along with audio-visual previews when applicable.
The album starts with a short instrumental number “Dempa na Sekai ~It’s a dempa world~” with a fantasy/carnival theme, much like their previous album, but the track doesn’t really accomplish much, musically or stylistically, it’s just an intro, seemingly for it’s own sake, since it doesn’t set a tone or establish a theme very well.
Next up is “Dempari Night,” their fantastic single from late last year, and one of their best songs in years. The jumpy and layered carnival/fantasy theme of the entire composition and arrangement combined with the calculatedly intricate and hyper-active denpa sensibilities here really set this apart from most J-pop you can find today. If you haven’t heard this gem yet, do yourself a favor and check it out here:
Next is “Dance Dance Dance,” one of the new songs, which is a mid-paced disco-style dance number with lots of synth strings and heavy bass, and a far cry from Dempagumi’s usual high-energy sound, but it’s not exactly a bad thing. The song has good composition and style, but also has some annoyingly-used auto-tune on the vocals that detracts from the song a bit. It’s still a good listen, but lacks a bit in the arrangement and vocal recording. This sounds close to something like a lesser version of their older track “Tsuyoi Kimochi, Tsuyoi Ai” from the Demparade Japan release.
“NEO JAPONISM” is next, featuring composition and arrangement from NAOTO from rock band Orange Range. NAOTO also wrote and arranged for Dempagumi last year, on one of the solo songs from the Sakura Appareshon release, and this track is somewhat similar to that one, featuring a hard, driving electronic dance sound with elements of dubstep, hardcore techno, new wave synth and many more for an eclectic mix of sounds that all mesh together into a unique track. There’s a creepy and jarring breakdown about half way through, where the beat completely slows down and takes a 180 degree turn, the members start rapping and using strange, wavy vocal patterns and melodies before spastically jumping back to where the song left off. A very well-made track, and hands down, one of the better new songs on the record.
Next up is “~FD2 ~Raison d’etre Daibouken~” meant as a sequel to Dempagumi’s first hit single “Future Diver,” following it in style and aura. While it doesn’t quite surpass the original, it’s a very worthy follow-up to it’s predecessor, featuring tons of wonderful chip-tune sounds, quirky synth keyboards, jumpy rhythms, plentiful tempo and style changes, heavy guitars, and everything you’d expect from Dempagumi’s classic sound. I’d say this is the strongest new track on the album by a margin, and if you check out any of the new songs, this would be it.
Another single from 2014 follows, with “Chururi Chururira,” and while it isn’t even close to one of their best songs, it features a pretty fun and listenable composition and arrangement from Hyadain, featuring everything you’d expect from the more hyper side of Dempagumi. You can check out the song here:
A 2014 B-side is the next song, with “Mamonaku, Dempagumi.inc ga Ririku Itashimasu” from the Dear Stage e Yokoso single. The song is arranged by famous denpa artist MOSAIC.WAV, featuring many classic denpa sounds like chip-tune and other archaic electronic sounds, making for a really fun listen if you like the style, but it doesn’t break any boundaries.
Fittingly, the next song is the single, “Dear Stage e Yokoso,” which has always been a troubling song for me, given that it features over three minutes of talking and drama before and after the song which makes their home theater in Akihabara sound like it’s as vast and wondrous as Disney Land, making it a bit bothersome to listen to, even if the music contained in the middle is pretty charming and cute. It’s still a fun song, regardless of unnecessary padding, though far from one of their best.
Another B-side from 2014 follows, with “Bali 3 Kyouwakoku” from the Dempari Night single, a song that I saw as a bit of a weak link in their 2014 discography and never quite caught on with me. The arrangement and production ends up sounding too busy and yet extremely boring at the same time, as the ideas never seem to touch on any new territory, just repeats of something they’ve done before without much to differentiate it and with less care in the production than some of their previous similar efforts. Have a listen for yourself, as the song became popular enough to be the theme song for their TV show from last year as well:
Next is a B-side from last year’s Sakura Appareshon, called “Fancy Hoppe u-fu-fu,” or more affectionately known as “that Chupa Chups song.” Watch the video below and you’ll see why. I felt this was another weak link in Dempagumi’s 2014 discography as well, as the style is really just a standardized cute pop song without much to distinguish it.
Next up is another 2014 B-side, “Lemon Iro,” from the Chururi Chururira single, and one of my favorites from last year. The song features a unique and slightly dramatic style of flighty electronic sounds with a cute melody and lots of strings to back up the candy-sweet layered vocals. Have a listen to “Lemon Iro” for yourself and feel it’s charm (the PV is also unique and fun):
Next is finally another entirely new song, “Brand New World,” this one being composed and arranged by Matsukuma Kenta, the mastermind behind previous Dempagumi collaborators, BiS, so that may give you a bit of an idea of what expect here. This falls somewhere around one of BiS’s more dramatic and emotional rock songs like “Primal,” not quite on the heavier metal or punk side that BiS often ventured into in their works. The song works well for what was intended here, though it feels like a bit of a black sheep on the album and doesn’t fit Dempagumi’s normally bubbly style at all. If you’re a BiS fan, this will probably be your go-to track here.
Getting towards the end, we have one last new song, “Irodori Sekai,” which is another strange departure from Dempagumi’s sound, as this is a very slow-paced J-pop ballad with lots of very calm guitars and electric organ throughout. It’s a pleasant song besides a few sour vocal lines scattered about, as long as you aren’t expecting it to sound like usual, more energetic Dempagumi fare.
Finally, the album closes with “Sakura Appareshon,” possibly my favorite song of theirs from 2014, and one of my favorites from their whole discography. It’s a little odd to have this as an album closer, but it’s placement isn’t of much consequence. The dance-able, hyper-Japanese composition and arrangement from Tamaya2060% of Wienners calls back to some of Dempagumi’s best work like “Demparade Japan” or their denpa-pop cover of BiS’s “IDOL,” both previously handled by Tamaya as well. You can listen to the song for yourself here:
This album comes out as a stronger effort than their previous album, WWD, just based on quality of the new content alone, not to mention this containing two of the best singles in their career and a few other quite good previously released songs.
While this album may lack cohesion or flow as a whole, the content within stands on it’s own as a nearly comprehensive collection of their music released in 2014 with a few new gems thrown in, where I could say the previous album only had one truly great new track.
The album does actually tread some new territory for Dempagumi, delving into a few styles they haven’t touched on very much before with the new tracks, which speaks to the diversity or progressiveness of their sound for them as an act.
Fans of Dempagumi.inc should enjoy this album thoroughly, while others may be discovering their style for the first time, and I’d say this album isn’t a bad place to start for that, if you’re unfamiliar with them.
(Also of note, the deluxe two-disc version of the album features all the solo tracks from the Sakura Appareshon release, a few of which I consider to be some of the best music made in 2014 overall. If you consider these songs to technically be a part of this album, then this would bring the musical merit of this record up quite a few notches, but since this version is unfortunately extremely hard to find, I hesitate to include it.)
You can pick up the album from the links below, and here’s a preview video of the album where you can also hear snippets of a few of the album tracks:
Regular CD version: