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Review: Supermarket Fantasy

December 21, 2008

As a fan, sometimes I buy albums out of loyalty. For instance, I keep on buying all Bon Jovi albums although I no longer feel connected to the music or the band post ‘These Days’.

When Mr Children came out with It’s A Wonderful World a few years go, I remember trying very hard to like the album and was bothered that  I did not connect despite repeated listening. Sure, there were a few songs that I really liked like Drawing, Fasunaa and Birdcage. But the tone and mood of the album felt off, it didn’t gel with me, and I was left wondering if the band had grown too mature and too sophisticated for my taste. I know as a whole it was a thoughtful and well-produced album, but I didn’t get it.

So, when I placed my order for Shifuku no Oto, I didn’t have the same giddy feeling that I  used to have when a new Mr Children comes out. How wonderful was it that Shifuko no Oto was, short of calling it perfect, a perfect combination of songs and styles that represent Mr Children’s versatility? Til this day, if people ask me to recommend an album, I would always go back to Shinkai and Shifuku no Oto, the two albums that, in my humble opinion, would best show off what Mr Children has to offer.

Supermarket Fantasy (SF) would be the third.

When I first listened to it, I had mixed feelings.  It is no doubt a very good and balanced album. If this had been someone else than Mr Children, I would even venture to say that it is one of the best albums of 2008. But because it is Mr Children, I stop short of saying that for a couple of reasons:

  1. The album is too ‘big’, I’ll explain this in a short while; and
  2. It feels too intent on espousing the good in people that it seems preachy at times.

Allow me to explain the first point.

Actually, I don’t have to. If you watch this commercial for  SF, you will understand what I mean. You will notice that the songs have the same styles. They all sounded ‘big’ (for lack of a better description) and complex . Gone were the quiet sounds of Chi no Kuda or Surrender, or the simple rocking sounds of Everybody Goes and Hana Memento Mori. SF is like an album full of Owari Naki Tabi and Shirushi. Don’t get me wrong. This kind of arrangement worked very well in both Owari Naki Tabi and Shirushi – in fact Shirushi wouldn’t be half as good or devastating if it’s not for the build up and the searing chorus and refraints.

But to have a whole album arranged that way was just too… much. It’s overwhelming. It felt too decadent, almost like having too much of a good thing. Like I said in an earlier comment, at  first listen I felt it would only be fair for Mr Children to release an all accoustic album as a follow-up to SF to balance out the extravagance that they displayed so liberally in SF.

Now my explanation of the second point. While Sakurai has always written songs for the common man, never has he been so optimistic and rah-rah like he is in SF. Every song seems to have a moral to it, an uplifting message, a silver lining in the clouds. Is that bad? No. Their songs have always made you think anyway. But it makes SF feel like a motivational album instead of a rock album. I can’t help but think that Gift sort of became the blueprint for the whole album because all the songs seem to go back to a common message: believe in yourself etc etc.

Now that I have those two out of the way, let’s rate the album.

SF, I must say, is a well put-together album. The quality of the songs are consistent, meaning, you know for a fact that there are no fillers or songs that they put in there simply  to make up the numbers. If you listen to it from start to finish at one go, you will notice that they put a lot of care in arranging each song to make sure that it sounded unique and different from each other while retaining the same “big sound” style. That must be tough.

Next, the quality of writing is exceptional. When I started to write this review, the transliterations were not up yet in utau-inu so I could only concentrate on the sounds (they are now). Reading the transliterations make you realize how far Sakurai has come, his writing is mature and thoughtful, and it’s no longer about me-me-me-me-me. He is more aware of the other party’s emotions and reactions, and conscious in addressing that in his writing. He is no longer angry or petulant or headstrong. SF displays his softer side, one that looks both ways and firmly believes that things will work out in the end. The positivity can be a bit too much to take it at one go especially since SF reeks of it, but taken individually the songs can be very inspiring and calming.

So what’s the verdict? SF is a pretty album and it’s a pretty good and strong one at that. Despite my  grouses I really like it. If you talk about consistency, this is as good as it gets. I wished it had been more diverse and Mr Children had taken more risks like they did with Shifuku no Oto and Shinkai, but that is like complaining that I wish I could drive my Porsche faster than the 120km speed limit of Malaysian highways (you get what I mean). It is definitely an enjoyable, above-average album that showcases Mr Children’s maturity and musical skills. On a scale of 10, I give it a high 8.

My pick of songs would be Shounen, Hanabi, Gift and Kaze to Hoshi to Moebius no Wa (did you notice that there is always a song about wind in all their albums?).  In the ranks of albums, it’s in the top 3 best Mr Children albums, together with Shifuku no Oto and Shinkai, though not as diverse as the two.

Get it today.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. jamieson permalink
    December 27, 2008 12:22 am

    ah… i dunno, there are some good songs, but i feel like the entire album is just too overproduced and mainstream. I know they’ve been moving towards a more typical pop sound with their latest albums (i still liked Home tho…) but this one feels like he went too far. i appreciate what he’s been trying to do with the lyrics and the themes of Home and Supermarket Fantasy, but the songs themselves just don’t seem inspired.

    still listening to it tho, maybe it’ll grow on me.

    Shifuku no Oto was my favorite album too. Then maybe… Q… or Bolero… Too many good songs! heh

    • December 27, 2008 7:58 am

      Yeah I still feel it’s overproduced too, but as far as a thematic album goes, it’s a very good one. Originally I felt they would have problems performing these songs live, but evidently from the vids, they’re doing just fine. I gave it a high rating because despite the similarity in arrangement style, the individual songs are distinct and you can recognize each one right away. That’s tough to do. Many concept/thematic albums fall prey to sounding just about the same from one track to another. But Supermarket Fantasy have legs, I feel each song could be released as individual singles and each one would be a hit. It’s just that putting them all together in one album is a bit too much indulgence.

      Like I said, they should release an all-acoustic album after this to restore balance to the universe :-D

      Btw I missed my flight to SG so now hanging out at Coffee Bean waiting for the next flight out.

  2. Shiro permalink
    December 30, 2008 1:02 am

    First, sorry for my bad english, I’m from South America; second, wow, great blog about Mr.Childre, I love them too.

    I agree with you about the “big” this album is. I liked almost all the songs and, wow, my favorites one are the same one as yours… 少年, Hanabi and 風と星とメビウスの輪.
    Those are great songs, specially the last one.

    • December 30, 2008 9:27 am

      Hi Shiro, don’t worry about your English :-)

      Thanks for visiting this blog. I used to be frustrated for not being able to find English information on Mr Children and hope this blog will help other non-Japanese speaking fans to know the band better. I try as much as possible not to copy what other blogs are doing so that we don’t duplicate each other’s efforts and am happy to see that many people have responded so positively to this format.

      Re Supermarket Fantasy, the “big” sound seemed to be the number 1 comment that people have about the album. I have been checking the Japanese reviews as well (as much as I could understand by using Google’s translation tool) and while people agree the album is good and polished, most feels it is too much of a good thing.

      Any other songs from other albums that you like?

  3. Shiro permalink
    January 2, 2009 4:48 am

    Well… songs like: and I love you, Not Found, Shirushi, Hero, Wake me up, Everything (it’s you), Dakishimetai… most of them are “slow” songs and not so electronic (like Fake, but I still like them).
    Personally, I pretty like how Mr.Children perform their concerts, Sakurai “transmit” a lot of feelings in the show, his facial expresion and voice, in his songs.
    Favorite concert: Home -in the field-.

  4. Shiro permalink
    January 2, 2009 4:49 am

    Btw. Happy New Year ^^.

  5. January 2, 2009 9:34 am

    Hi Shiro,

    My favourite concerts are probably Q, and the regress~progress tour but that’s also because I feel more connected to the songs that they wrote/played back then than the recent ones.

    But unlike you, I always feel a bit wanting when I watch their concerts, maybe because I compare them to Glay and SMAP who stage completely over-the-top, physically demanding concerts. Mr Children is a lot more quiet and all the action is focussed at the centre of the stage and on Sakurai rather than the whole band – which is something that cannot be helped I supposed, given the kind of material that they play.

    I think an unplugged performance in a concert hall with good acoustics will be off the charts. Still crossing my fingers and hoping they will come around to doing something like that someday.

  6. sakura permalink
    December 4, 2009 11:12 pm

    totally agree…i did like the album but some of the songs did give me that ‘too big’ feeling. However i am a big fan of 終末のコンフィデンスソング , ロックンロール,少年, and エソラ.

    But to me…HOME album is just EPICLY nice!! That album is on my top list of all time FAVORITE albums


  1. Album: Supermarket Fantasy « Mr.Children (English Fansite)

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