Perfume: ‘Cosmic Explorer’ – Album Review

Released: April 6, 2016

It’s hard to believe that Cosmic Explorer is Perfume’s fifth studio album (sixth overall). Over an entire ten years together since their major debut, J-pop’s fabulous threesome have taken then signature Techno-pop sound, and updated it yet again (all thanks to their long-time collaborator Yasutaka Nakata). Over the main course of their career, the girls have played along with the ideas of Yasutaka Nakata, who at the same time has managed to experiment with some one-hit-wonder compositions. But on that note, Yasutaka is basically the vessel of the bands success and consistent sound; he has constructed one of Japan’s best pop offerings, molded a significant resurgence of the techno pop genre, and to its result? Number one hits every time. So, what is the result of Cosmic Explorer?

Well… Cosmic Explorer is not near better or an improvement than, let’s say, Level 3. But I can easily say it’s better than Triangle. The hooks and choruses are catchy, the composition is extremely polished and sophisticated, and the girl’s vocals are sweet as always. But, because it’s their fifth studio album, these elements are the exact same as their previous efforts. Nothing on this album, in particular, is new or game-changing. You get the album remixes of the tracks “Sweet Refrain”, “Tokimeki Lights”, “Star Train”, and “Cling Cling”. Whilst “Star Train” may sound like a pop song from North American radio, or “Tokimeki Lights” maybe a more simplified tune, all of the single tracks are quite basic; nothing particularly interesting, nor bad. But that’s the main issue with this album; its let down by the generic pace of the singles. Thankfully, “Pick Me Up” and “Hold Your Hand” are not remixed, keeping its rather fun and agile structure together, whilst delivering irresistible hooks and sounds. However, the latter songs placement at the end of the album is controversial. The album’s worst song, by far, is the weak and boring-as-hell “Relax in the City”. Whilst the albums best album remix is the speedy dance flair, “Flash”.

Conversely, Cosmic Explorer is more renowned for its non-single tracks. The title track is something quite new. It’s more bassy, and captures a more contemporary pop radio essence; not to techno pop, but more pop. “Story” is a weird-ass, yet epic dubstep/industrial/electro house composition. There is always one instrumental-ish track on the bands albums, and this is quite the bang! But there are three tracks on here that shine the most; the EDM “Miracle Worker”, the 70s cyber disco “Next Stage with You”, and the cutesy pie “Baby Face”. The first track could sound like something out of Level 3, and keeps the band’s music refreshed and inspired. “Next Stage to You”, the albums undeniable top track, is a slick disco pop song with catchy choruses, elements of technopop, and massive hooks (everything for a Perfume song). The last song is “Baby Face”, which is the bands more subtle yet cutest entry.

Overall, Cosmic Explorer is like every Perfume album; back to basics and really good. Regardless of whether it’s an innocent pop album, with fluffy lyrics and technpop elements, it will be guaranteed a massive J-Pop tune. But whilst it’s all fun and games for Perfume to make music, Cosmic Explorer is a sign of cracks on the wall. Their music may be predictable for the fans to enjoy on the next album, but for a group of 15 years together, and a new album that lacks a certain type of depth or creativity, you would probably question the longevity of their career after this effort. But again, it’s all fun and games so let’s play along and see where it takes us.

Track list (Bold means best tracks)

  1. Navigate
  2. Cosmic Explorer
  3. Miracle Worker
  4. Next Stage With You ~Liam’s favorite~
  5. Story
  6. Flash
  7. Sweet Refrain
  8. Baby Face
  9. Tokimeki Lights
  10. Star Train
  11. Relax in the City
  12. Pick Me Up
  13. Cling Cling
  14. Hold Your Hand

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