DINOSAUR BRAIN is rebooted into something new! Let’s check out the new release from the group that managed to avoid extinction.
I thought I would take a break from the Japan trip write-ups to try something brand new. I’ve never reviewed a musical release before, so this will be a new challenge for me. Feedback is more than welcome!
So, SPARK SPEAKER is a group I have history with… sort of. They used to be known as DINOSAUR BRAIN, which I became a fan of last year with their album “Brainwash”. They used to be an electronic dance music group, but underwent a very abrupt transformation with a few members leaving, a new name, some new members joining and a change to pop-rock music. This was not even a month after their first album was released, so I suspect foul play of some kind that led to the sudden transformation. In any case, it worked out for the better as this group is now much stronger in pretty much every way.
The album begins with a quick intro track. Right away, we can hear some obvious changes from the DINOSAUR BRAIN days. It seems like they’ve traded in their synthesizers for some proper instruments. This becomes more apparent as we get into the first full song, “still in a dream”. It’s a really upbeat pop-rock song that starts off with some distinctly English lyrics. The instrumentals are very lively, the chorus is really catchy and it’s a pretty strong intro to the album. However, this awesome song is marred by some production issues. It feels like this song is clipping in some of the more energetic parts. The mix also feels a bit off overall. It’s unfortunate, because the material itself is great.
The crescendo of energy on this album continues with “Kyoumei Street”. This song has a really strong opening and the smooth transitions in the instrumentals are a real treat on the ears. The chorus feels like some kind of super epic anime opening theme, but perhaps a little higher quality than those tend to be. The vocals are all very well delivered and keep up perfectly with the hype of the backing track. This is a very strong song all around.
As we reach the middle of the tracklist, “SHOOTING STAR” takes the energy down just a notch, returning to a similar formula of the second track. It’s still very unique in its own right with some synthsezers joining the guitar lines. I think the vocals in this one shine a little more here compared to the past songs. Perhaps it’s just the weird mastering striking again, but they seem a little louder here. It’s nice to hear the girls in front, even if the instrumentals so far are great to listen to.
The intro of “Spark of Light” immediately reminds me of PASSPO, but perhaps lacking a little kick. Luckily, the song breaks into a lovely pop tune very quickly. Rock elements are still there, but this is by far the most pop-oriented tune on the album. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. It’s still really energetic and fun, although the lead in to the final chorus could have been a little better. It’s just a bit too much of a mess and feels out of place. Luckily, the song gets back on track and finishes off strong.
“Tell Me” gets back on the rock train immediately. I love the vocals on this one. The contrasting notes leading up to the chorus as well as the chorus themselves sound really good. The harsh guitar riffs also give this song a lot of attitude. Some of it reminds me of Kamen Joshi songs, but with a much better presentation. I kind of wish this song had a more unique ending to it, but that’s just me being picky to try to keep this review from being a complete gush fest.
“Hands Up” is definitely a song that could be used to wrap up a show leading into the encore. While it still has plenty of the guitars and energy we’ve been exposed to in this album, it definitely has a more subdued feel. With the constant references to the group’s name in the lyrics, it also has a theme song kind of feel to it as well. It’s definitely something you could fling towels around to. Even if we do take a step away from the awesome energy this album has given us so far, it’s a nice song in its own right with a really pleasant final minute.
I guess that makes the final track, “Go my way!”, our encore song right? It definitely fits the bill. The song raises the energy level back up a bit, but not quite to the point where it’s demanded something follow it. The instrumentals follow the formula we’ve been given this whole album, but the vocals here seem more on point than many of the previous tracks. Not to say they’re bad anywhere in the album, but this song feels like it does a better job of featuring the members. It’s a great song to wrap up the album with.
So, as far as reboots go, I’d say this one is a success. I really enjoyed DINOSAUR BRAIN’s album, but it’s honestly not something I’ve gone back to very much. This album definitely has a lot more re-listen value to it. The pop-rock sound is very fun to listen to and the vocals fit the theme quite nicely. The tracklist is a bit short, but when every track is really good that’s not much of a problem. The only negative I can find to attach to this album is the mastering and/or production issues. Unless something is wrong with my setup, the clipping and sometimes odd mixing I mentioned in the first track is present throughout the album. Some songs more than others, but it’s there. Luckily it’s not really bad, just noticeable. Hopefully at some point we’ll get a “remastered” version of these tracks in the hopeful event this group becomes more popular. Their talent and sound are definitely worthy of it.
I can also gloat just a little and say I got to meet them at one of their regular street lives in Akihabara during my trip this year. It was pretty cool. I just wish I could have seen them at a proper show, even more so after properly hearing their new material.