SCANDAL - Masterpiece / Mabataki

review - 04.30.2019 20:01

New single, new beginning.

It’s been a while since SCANDAL released a single. Take Me Out was more than two and a half years ago. The time since has largely been taken up with their tenth anniversary celebrations and recording and touring their last album Honey. The release of double A-side single Masterpiece / Mabataki might be a welcome return for their fans, but it also marks an important milestone in their 13-year career. Aside from their early indie days, they’ve spent their entire major label career signed with Epic/Sony. These new tracks are the first release on their own personal label Her, an imprint of major record company Victor.

Masterpiece carries on where their last album, Honey, left off, embracing their garage rock roots. Kicking off with a beefy, Led Zeppelin-style riff, it bursts into the pacy, energetic, pop-rock that SCANDAL do so brilliantly. It’s a heavier sound than you might normally expect from them and Rina’s aggressive drumming adds some bite. The lyrics are something of a departure too, seeming to reflect on the band themselves, their journey so far and where they’re heading in the future as this new era begins for them.

While Masterpiece proves that SCANDAL rock, the flip side track Mabataki shows that they don’t need to sacrifice any of their femininity either with this light, sparkling pop number. Tomomi returns to a lead vocal role, after passing up singing duties on Honey, and her sweet, higher-pitched voice is the perfect fit for this laidback, slightly melancholy love song. The title Mabataki translates as the blink of an eye, which in the song sends love’s tears falling, but the word also has another meaning, the twinkling of a star, and the synths give that extra sprinkle of stardust. The contrast between the two tracks is intriguing, showcasing SCANDAL’s versatility. They can play the tomboy rockers or share their sensitive, feminine side with equal ease.

The single comes in three variations with a bonus instrumental version of Masterpiece; the regular CD, and two limited editions, one bundled with a t-shirt and the other with a Japanese language magazine. The magazine includes an interview on the creation of their new label, Her. It’s entitled Her Volume 1, so it looks like something that’ll be an ongoing extra for fans rather than a promotional one-off.

The release is also available internationally on iTunes and Spotify, and the accompanying music videos are on YouTube, which makes a refreshing change. Sony/Epic frequently geo-block their artists’ material outside Japan, which always seemed remarkably short-sighted given SCANDAL’s large following overseas. Hopefully, having control of their own record label means that SCANDAL are now free to share this new chapter of their story with all their fans around the world.

After 13 years in the business it’s understandably tough to keep things fresh and exciting. So many bands explode onto the scene with a great debut that they’re somehow never able to surpass. SCANDAL are one of those bands that carry on pushing ahead and improving, never happy to rest on past achievements. The title Masterpiece might have a touch of self-knowing irony about it, but regardless of whether the single matches up to the claim, this is still SCANDAL on top form.

Masterpiece / Mabataki is available from iTunes and Spotify.
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