A review of Puffy's new album Honeycreeper by Andrew, webmaster of J-Pop World and Puffy AmiYumi World.
Voices Sweet as HoneyIt's been over eleven years since the 1996 release of Puffy's first album AmiYumi. In that time they have gone from aspiring youngsters to seasoned veterans of the Japanese music industry. As Ami and Yumi begin to take on the more mature look of their thirty-something years their fans have been wondering what path Puffy's musical journey would take next. Well the wait is over.
Puffy's latest album Honeycreeper was released in Japan on September 26th, 2007. Just as the Honeycreeper bird drinks nectar from several flowers, Puffy have called upon an impressive array of international songwriting and producing talents for the CD's thirteen tracks.
The lead track, Oriental Diamond, was written by the esteemed Tamio Okuda and Yosui Inoue, who co-wrote Puffy's very first single eleven years before. The song takes us back in time to the fun, lighthearted feel of much of Puffy's earlier music. Even the accompanying music video features Ami and Yumi donning playful Panda headgear and romping down a Tokyo street, showing the same sense of fun and vibrancy of their first video, Asia no Junshin (True Asia).
Butch Walker contributes a pair of harder cutting songs, both sung in English. Ain't Gonna Cut It (co-written with Robert Schwartzman, lead singer of the band Rooney) is a no nonsense rocker powered by a defiant attitude from Ami and Yumi. Closet Full of Love (co-written with Kara DioGuardi) carries on with the same "we're not gonna take it" sensibility, lamenting hidden anger and unhappiness while yearning for a better future.
Chiba Yusuke from the Birthday changes the pace with his song Kimi to Ootobai. Ami and Yumi let their voices soar in a more earnest, pleading vocal performance. A similar sound can be heard in Hayai Kuruma (Fast Car), the first of two tracks by Mashima Masatoshi of the Blue Hearts.
Mashima's second song, Hasan Jauze, lets us return once again to a very younger sounding Puffy, more reminiscent of the Jet or FeverFever years. One reason for this might be the producing and arranging talents of Takashi Furuta. Furuta has been Puffy's drummer off and on for eleven years, the man of a thousand smiles who now brings a good bit of nostalgia with him.
For pure rocking fun Kazuya Yoshii from the Yellow Monkey offers up Kuchibiru Motion (Lip Motion). The song is brilliantly arranged, changing deftly from head banging power to a sweeping sense of uplifting emotions, to the mischievously almost baby-talk vocal solos by Ami and Yumi. The video features our Ami and Yumi all grown up, sporting fishnet stockings and a leopard dress.
Yamanaka Sawao from the Pillows tones down the CD a bit with his song Sayonara Summer. Ami and Yumi sing with a sweet, flowing grace over the accompaniment of Yamanaka Sawao and Manabe Yoshiaki's guitars and Suzuki Jun's bass. His second song would be the only track on the CD to feature lyrics by Puffy; Complaint, another faced paced rock tune.
Of notable absence on Honeycreeper's musical credits is Andy Sturmer, the "godfather" of Puffy who was so essential to making their music more appealing to the West. But two of his apprentices, Anders Hellgren & David Myhr of the Swedish based group the Merrymakers would contribute a pair of songs, both of which would be featured on the two singles released prior to the album.
The first, Boom Boom Beat, would come about as a result of a sudden request from Puffy's management. According to David: "It was at the end of mixing Otomemoriaru which had been going on for weeks and suddenly they needed a song more or less within a day. So Anders sat behind the drums and I picked up a guitar and this riff came up and a few hours later the demo was finished" The rocking bilingual song that resulted shines with a head bobbing frantic energy. Ami and Yumi's voices bellow out with power and bravado as they lament "You all wanna see us act happily -- not reality."
The second Merrymaker tune, Oh Edo Nagareboshi IV (with words by Pierre Taki) is a bubbly happy pop song that was used on the 2007 anime series Oh Edo Rocket. It's more in line with Splurge's Beginnings and Nice Buddy.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Honeycreeper comes in track eight. A three minute ghost story precedes Kudou Kankurou and Tomizawa Taku's song Youkai Puffy (Ghost Puffy). Tomizawa Taku's guitar roars through the song as Ami and Yumi belt out lyrics such as "Puffy the Monster Go! Go!"
The final track, Island by Chiba Yusuke, is another major surprise. After a CD heavy with faster rocking songs we hear the swaying melody of a traditional Irish folk song, complete with an Irish bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, accordion and fiddle. Puffy once again expertly adapt their ever versatile voices, letting their emotions soar upward in a final sing-along.
And when it comes down to it, that is after all what has kept these two Japanese women together and popular for so long. Their songwriters and producers come and go. Their fashion seems to change with each photo shoot. But one thing no producer or management company can create has always remained. Ami and Yumi have an ability to bring their separate voices together with a perfect harmony and make the songs they sing their own. On this score Honeycreeper stands up as another impressive achievement in their musical careers.