Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|L'Arc En Ciel|
Genres: World Music, Pop, Rock
A Splotchy Transition Album from a Fantastic Band
Crow Winters | Detroit, MI | 12/06/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to imagine the sheer pressure and weight that was dropped on the still somewhat callow L'arc~en~Ciel after their finely crafted pop masterpiece, "True", in 1996. No longer the underground sensation they were in the early 90s during their debut, "Dune", L'arc suddenly had an entire nation's attention on them for their next move, and it's quite possible that all the attention and pigeonholing going around took a toll on a band struggling with being out-of-nowhere stars. Most bands absolutely crumble under the pressure of what's expected of them and what they really want to do, and it's very possible for L'arc to have done the same. That said, L'arc did probably the wisest thing they could've done; they sat back, observed their new surroundings, and took nearly two years to make music on their own terms. In 1998, they released their 5th studio album, the aptly named "Heart".First and foremost, "Heart" is a very theatrical, over the top album. Just from the opening layers of piano and guitar on "Loreley", it's made apparent that this is a band both struggling to hold onto the past while constantly moving forward with their own voice. "Loreley" is a very epic and atmospheric song that shows off the finer aspects of Hyde's invigorated vocals and Ken's electric, complex guitar work. Not to mention some pretty hefty and fairly well done producing- there's a lot going on in this song, and it couldn't have been done better.Then, out of nowhere, we're thrown a curveball in the form of "Winter Fall" a horn-heavy, string-driven wintery pop song very reminiscent, almost to an extent that's too much for it's own good, of "True"'s "Fourth Avenue Café". There's comparisons abound, but regardless, it's still thoroughly enjoyable, if not somewhat predictable, pop fanfare.Picking things back up is "Singin' in the Rain", a goofy, laid-back jazz song driven by some stellar piano and complex bass-and-guitar lines that few bands could be competent enough to deliver. This is a very different song for L'arc at this point in time, and the general blues rock feel of the song could not have been pulled off better. This is defiantly one of the stand out tracks. Next up is the furious kick of "Shout at the Devil" a raunchy, rough riff-rock song that's an easy throwback of L'arc's very early underground days. Fast paced and belligerent, this song is a fine craft of addictive hooks and layers of crafty melody buried underneath a strong foundation of carefully placed feedback and distortion. One listen to Ken's uncontrollable guitar breakdown will make a believer out of anyone doubting the legitimate talent of this band."Niji" follows and easily, very easily, steals the show as "Heart"'s strongest track.. An eerie, animalistic song with a very unusual and undeniably unforgettable drum section, this song demonstrates all the key points that have made L'arc, up to this point and beyond, a force to be reckoned with. Ken's guitar crafting takes the mind on so many twists and turns that the song could have been perfect without Hyde ever stepping near a mic. Hyde's operatic theatrics only make icing on the cake, turning the song from an epic to a masterpiece. "Niji" is also an important landmark that shows the fine melding point between the many facets of all that is the electric band L'arc- their pop sensibilities, their heavy and dark rock, and their relentless quest for the strange and experimental, all wrapped up in one sterling song. If nothing else, "Niji" is worth the price of admission alone, and then some."Birth!" follows in "Niji"'s wake. "Birth!" is another face paced rock song, but is much more subtle then "Shout at the Devil", and digs a hook into your skin much quicker. It's very catchy and melodic, but despite the band's best efforts, the most noticeable thing here is entirely Ken's guitar work, which overbears over the entire song almost single-handedly, and makes the finer elements of the song unfortunately fade into the questionable mix.Next is the apoctolypic-tribal-meets-circus-beatles-rock of "Promised Land". An interesting homage to The Beatles more confusing tracks "Strawberry Field's Forever" can be found in the carnival ride of a chorus. This song is eerie and extremely unnerving- the whole dark image of a carnival and strawberry fields could have been enough, but the man-rambling-over-the-megaphone about taking everyone to a promised land rounds out the song's atmosphere."Fate" pops up next on "Heart"'s radar, but its appearance marks where the album's theatrics and production wear thin. "Fate" in itself is a slightly over-produced, over made song that could have been a "True" b-side. Despite all the best intentions of the band, "Fate", as ironic as it sounds, is just wearisome and predictable, and could have been done without. Even Ken's solo is forgettable, and that's not an easy thing to say about such an electric guitarist. Following afterwards is the sugary-sweetness of "Milky Way". Another very popish and upbeat track, unlike "Fate", "Milky Way" is very fun and delicious. The acoustics in this song are absolutely amazing, and Tetsu's background vocals really stand out during the song's pre-chorus. Ken's guitar work here may not be at it's top form, but that's easily forgettable in the simple joy of the song, which picks up, as much as it's needed, after the dreary mesh of "Fate".Closing out the album is the symphonic "Anata". Bearing a stronger resemblance to a film-score's closing credits then the work of a four-piece rock band, "Anata" is a string-swelling piece of heart filled proclamation. Despite everything that's going on, string gymnastics included, it's Hyde that stands out here, closing out the album with a hopeful, soaring melody and range that is at both touching and fantastically over the top.And thus, closes out "Heart". L'arc would go on to greater things- and greater albums- but the musical stamp they left at several points in their career is unignoreable, either during their "Dune", "True", or "Ray/Ark" days because, primarily, their focus has always been, first and foremost, the new heights and lengths that they can reach as a band and as a unit. And while Heart most certainly is not the most accomplished or the most consistent album they've released, it is, more then anything else, a very fine portrait of a band in pusedo-limbo, struggling to move past pre-conceptions being made about them by outsiders, while still maintaining their own ideals as to what they believe good music should be. Because of this, "Heart" may not be for everyone, but it certainly is far, far too enjoyable to be contained to only the completeist's dusty CD collections. There are several masterpieces: "Niji", "Loreley", "Singin' In the Rain" for example, on this album that I can't see any L'arc fan wanting to go without. Those that are already fans and used to the electric style of the band should immediately give "Heart" a go, but newcomers should probably try to get their heartstrings pulled by one of L'arc's more consistent and stronger albums, such as "Ray" or "True"."