It’s fitting that the leadup to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s debut album has focused heavily on her image. She’s a fashion blogger and model now pursuing music, her clothes grabbing as much attention as her songs. Her savviest move was releasing three bonkers music videos over the past year featuring stuff like giant onions and skirts made of snack bags. Those clips went viral in the West, and turned her into an “act to watch” in this publication. Yet all the clips and promo shots distract from “Pamyu Pamyu Revolution” as a solid collection of simple pop.
The songs come courtesy of Yasutaka Nakata, the man behind bands Perfume and capsule. Working with Kyary forces Nakata out of his musical comfort zone, pushed away from the computer and into a playroom. “Revolution” features the freshest production from Nakata in years, as he has to make pop using sounds aligning with Kyary’s image (music boxes, bells and anything colorful). He pulls it off — the playful bass-hopping of “Minna No Uta” (“Everyone’s Song”) also incorporates the French-cafe vibe of 1990s Shibuya-kei, while the very-Perfume-like “Giri Giri Safe” (“Just Safe”) swaps out electronic-maximalism for twee bell twinkles and whistling. The back half of the album drags a bit though the weakest moments betray Pamyu’s image (“Suki Sugite Kiresou” [“Almost Mad Cause I Like You Too Much”]) or are momentum-slaughtering lullabies (“Oyasumi” [“Goodnight”]).
If you want music that’s saying something concrete, turn away, because “Revolution” is an album that embraces how words sound. “Kyary Anan” is unrelentingly chipper, with a chorus that goes “an an an an an/Kyary Pamyu Pamyu” because “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu” is fun to say, so why not say it frequently? I’ve seen people scoff at “Candy Candy’s” chorus, particularly the line that goes “Cutie cutie XXX (pronounced chu-chu-chu) chewing love.” Never mind that the line is probably a clever little pun on chewing candy and “chu” (Japanese for “kiss”), but it sounds wonderful in a sunny pop song. Album highlight “Ponponpon” also succeeds in turning monosyllables “pon” and “way” into an aural equation for joy.
“Revolution” is an album about simple pleasures — candy, tasty drinks and love. Oh, and fake eyelashes on “Tsukema Tsukeru” (“Put On the False Eyelashes,” although Kyary boasting her own line of fake eyelashes makes this a bit more suspicious) — told through infectious, summery pop sounds. Kyary’s album will square-off against a Mr. Children best-of collection for Oricon chart supremacy, the latter anchored by a ballad so self-serious and melodramatic as to be a total drag, its stabs at emotional payoff designed by a boardroom somewhere. Pamyu’s debut, meanwhile, works because it embraces the small joys life is actually about, and gives them a proper soundtrack.