Group Action - Super Music

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Super Music is the third album from Group Action (集団行動) and finds the band living up to their immense potential through the continued growth of their lead singer. On Super Music, it feels like Group Action is entering a new stage in their career, focusing on what works best for them and placing emphasis on vocalist Rina, who is now ready for her close-up on the cover. So if you're just getting into Group Action, this is arguably the best place to start.

To recap, Group Action are a four-piece band established by former Soutaiseiriron member and guitarist Manabe Shuuichi, who writes the bulk of the songs and lyrics. There's a few similarities between the bands including cute voices and a variety of styles, but Group Action feels like a sunnier, happier version where the band gets to stretch out and try lots of fun stuff.

Especially on Super Music, they've dived into old school rock n roll, creating songs that often sound like throwbacks to the 50's and 60's while retaining a modern flavor. They're not strictly homages, not as faithful as something like Soleil, it just feels like they really dig those sounds. Coupled with the often light hearted subject material, it brings the sound of this album a lot closer to classic Shibuya-kei, which also borrowed heavily from those times in addition to 70's soul and 80's new wave.

The clearest example of this is "Sedan," which apes Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode down to the "Go go go," except this is about the joy of riding around in a four door sedan as opposed to a two door coupe. Counting 1-2-3-4 isn't about beats, it's about doors. "Crime Suspense" is an upbeat rockabilly tune about stereotypical detective drama shows which explore the dark secrets hiding in Tokyo Bay. "婦警とミニパト" sounds like a new wave song with fun guitar riffs and chronicles a female police officer's frantic efforts to catch traffic criminals.

As such, the true charm of Group Action lies in the lyrical content, which differentiates it from proper homage bands. Instead of singing about love, relationships, emotions or dealing with life, we get songs about the joggers around the Imperial palace in Tokyo and the high definition vision of television. The songs often feature clever word play and riffing on onomatopoeias which are very common in the Japanese language - the runners breathing "suu suu ha ha", police whistles that go "pii pii" and soup which is hot like "a-chi-chi-chi." That's not to say the songs are devoid of insights. "The Crater" helps you realize that if a meteor falls from the sky, then nothing will matter, whether you're a manager or a CEO, if you've got a partner or not, it can all be taken away in an instant. And with its exotic instrumentation and chanting, the album's closer "Tigris River" will have you contemplating your existence - where does it all go? (No one knows)

Smart, catchy, diverse, accessible and fun, Super Music is an excellent record that will have you wondering why you've been listening to normal music this whole time when you could be listening to super music instead. Superb.

Royce Leong