avex trax - 2008
While I’m horribly biased and believe Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (or Skapara for short) can do no wrong, I do believe that TSPO can make forgettable music, and their last album, Wild Peace, was definitely forgettable (despite a few stand out tracks). So a year and a half after the release of Wild Peace, how does Perfect Future stack up? In this reviewer’s opinion, I believe that this album is one of the stronger albums that TSPO has released in the last couple of years, especially since the release of their album, Answer.
The thing is, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is not your average ska band. They are known for combining countless styles of music, from punk, to jazz, to surf, to world music, to swing, to even rap and electronica (rest assured, none of the tunes in this album contains rap or electronica if you’re a little wary of that), and through all that, they are still able to stay true to their roots, and can still create and play songs that would please the most traditional of ska fans.
Perfect Future starts things off right, with the title track being a blazingly fast jazzy ska tune which sounds like it came straight off the soundtrack of a Cowboy Beebop episode. Following that, we’re plunged into a vocal song, “女神の願い” (Goddess’ Prayer), sang by Skapara’s very own drummer, Kin-Ichi Motegi. While I don’t understand a thing that Motegi is saying, the song itself sounds very beautiful.
You’ll find a variety of musical influences here, from their Latin-themed, “Latin Scorcher,” to their Calypso flavored “A Song For Athletes” (probably made to support the Japanese athletes in this past summer’s Beijing Olympics). Fans of traditional ska will appreciate “Warrior Chant” or “Last Temptation.” And while Perfect Future doesn’t contain the “who’s who” of Japanese Pop music like Wild Peace did, it does have a track featuring the vocals of Fumio Ito, singer for the now broken up Japanese ska-punk band, Kemuri. The song, “Pride of Lions” should please fans of the ska-punk…to me it sort of sounds like one of the poppier Bosstones song (minus the vocals)!
My favorite songs? Definitely “Punch’n’Sway” and “964スピードスター” (964 Speedster). “Punch’n’Sway” is a fun, bouncy, organ driven, early reggae-esque song that will make you want to get up and just dance, while the hard hitting, surf-ska “964スピードスター” will pump you up.
There are some weak songs…I find myself skipping “Me & My Skyline” and “Transit Passenger” often. They’re just a little boring and don’t seem to fit the album well. However, these songs are very much in the minority for this album.
Final Word: With Perfect Future, you’re not going to be stuck listening to one type of “ska,” but rather, you’ll be listening to the multiple styles that each individual member brings to the band itself, creating a unique style of ska that Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra have coined: “Tokyo Ska.”
Finding TSPO albums can be a little tough (and pricey), but I usually buy my albums from either of these two sites: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/ and http://www.yesasia.com/
To learn more about Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, check out: www.tokyoska.net
Side note: This album happens to be Tatsuyuki Hiyamuta’s last (for now at least…) album with Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. As noted in this article, Hiyamuta has left the band as of July this year to focus on recovering from an injury he suffered 12 years ago.