There were some curious rumors flying around prior to the release of “5th Dimension,” the second album by idol quintet Momoiro Clover Z, some of them intriguing (“It’s going to be a concept album”) and some worrying (longtime producer Kenichi “Hyadain” Maeyamada reportedly called it “tedious and uninteresting” before hastily erasing the offending tweet).
Momoiro Clover Z’s songs work best when the songwriter uses each of the five members individually in the music rather than allowing their voices to blend together into a shrill wall of sound, as on the second track “Kaso Dystopia.” There’s nothing especially wrong with the song — it’s an upbeat 1990s-style J-pop tune, like AKB48 at their best or Judy And Mary at their worst — but it sounds like it could have been written for anyone. Maeyamada made the group work by having the girls trade vocals like a Busby Berkeley musical against a hyperactive pop-opera/techno hybrid backdrop, and newer songs such as “Otome Senso” seem to follow in a similar vein. Another effective approach stems from 2011 single “Rodo Sanka,” penned by Ian Parton of The Go! Team, where the five members play off each other in a hip-hop style, which is also used to good effect on “5 The Power” and the poppy, bubblegum “Get Down!” by Damian Kulash of OK Go.
There seems to be a law requiring all idol albums to fill up as much of a CD as possible, like the musical equivalent of Costco value packs of discount ham, and it really could have stood to have about 30 minutes shaved off its running time, but the result is far from tedious. It’s also far too disjointed for any sort of concept to show through, unless the concept was meant to be “mad child attacks parents’ record collection with crayons, glue and dynamite,” and despite the label’s attempts to push it as an evolution, it’s not that either. It’s more a return to the drawing board in the absence of Maeyamada (his only two songs on “5th Dimension” are a single from more than a year ago and an insipid closing ballad) as they scrabble around for a new way to make the group work.
While “5th Dimension” is not the “Rocky Horror”-style rock opera the group will hopefully one day make, this eclectic mishmash of an album proves that Momoiro Clover Z haven’t lost their sense of fun.