Before I start, can I take a moment to give Rock n’ Roll (track #5) the awesome nod that it deserves? Man, what a song!
As a longtime and longterm fan, it is not hard for me to like Sense. While it continues to explore the “big sounds” that I complained so much about in Supermarket Fantasy, for me, this album feels like Mr. Children has finally become comfortable in its skin. They’re no longer experimenting and trying to figure out what kind of a band they are, or what is the sound that represent Mr. Children. They’ve grown up.
I have listened to Sense many times to try to pigeonhole it. Is this a rock album? Pop? Crossbreed? And if it is a crossbreed, a crossbreed of what? Even Rock n’ Roll is not really rock n’ roll in the musical sense (I think). Yet it describes and represents rock n’ roll perfectly – the carelessness, the carefree-ness, the rebelliousness; it’s exactly this song’s non-conformity to the commonly accepted rock sounds that makes it so, well, rock n’roll.
P. Wicke in, Rock Music: Culture, Aesthetics and Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), argued that because of its complex history and tendency to borrow from other musical and cultural forms, “it is impossible to bind rock music to a rigidly delineated musical definition.”
So? How would I describe Sense, then?
I’d describe it as an adult album. It’s not light, but it doesn’t have the heavy sweetness of Supermarket Fantasy. In a sense, it is freer. You can sense the abandon, like everyone had a good time working on this one. Like they are no longer pressured to prove themselves, no longer pressured to put out a “good album” (i.e an album that sells millions), no longer pressured to write ear-candies. They were allowed to do what they wanted, exactly the way they wanted it.
The result is an album that contains rock-out pieces like Fanfare and Rock n’ roll (seriously, you have to give this track a listen and if it doesn’t make you scratch your head and go eh? then this review is not worth your time); pensive numbers that would make you think of your youthful days like Ao and Haru; and big anthems to give your spirits a boost in 365 Nichi and I’m Talking About Lovin’. I think it is well-balanced and addictive, the more I listened to it the more and more I am liking it.
Sense may alienate some of Mr. Children’s younger fanbase (how is that for irony?) and those who cling to the Shinkai days (to be fair, I do miss Arifureta Love Story and Namonaki Uta sounds) would probably think Mr. Children has turned soft and irrelevant. I mean, over the years I myself have been uncomfortable over what I term as transitional albums like It’s A Wonderful World and And I Love You where Mr. Children was sort of pursuing several sounds at the same time to see what fits. But they really came through in Sense, and I think they will attract a new kind of fans as well.
Would I recommend Sense? Not to my 20-something friends. For them, I would push Shinkai or Shifuku no Oto, then ease them into Home and Supermarket Fantasy, before I can finally introduce them to Sense.
But to my friends who have lived a little, who don’t rely on the radio to look for music to download for their MP3 players, friends who are looking for a soundtrack that mirrors their lives, I would absolutely ask them to give Sense a chance.
Sense is a solid album. It is not mind-blowing, but it is not comfortable or complacent either. It is not lazy. There is a lot of love and care that went into producing it and you notice this as it plays softly in the background while you stay up all night finishing your work or crying your eyes out over another heartbreak. The quality of songwriting, lyrics and arrangement, as always, is excellent- something that I have come to expect from this band. Some people may argue that Sense is not Mr. Children’s best work. I’d object; it’s certainly in my Top 3, displacing Supermarket Fantasy. Definitely, certainly, in my humble opinion, the most “human” album and one closely reflected who the band members are as a person. If I had written this album, it would be something that I’d be proud of. It resonated very personally with me.
I give it 8.8/10. Better than Supermarket Fantasy (which is another solid album, I must say), but slightly below Shinkai and Shifuku no Oto. My pick of songs would be Rock n’ Roll, Ao and Fanfare. Get it? Yes, please.