Melon Batake a go go – to IDOLS to US to YOU
Idols from outer space.
The rockabilly superhero sidekick idols from outer space are back with a new line-up and a new mini-album. Following Rukatama’s departure in February 2020, Nakamura Soze, Rutakame Run and Sakimura Yuffie, were joined by Tomoyo Chiyo and Amino Coromi from sister group The Grateful a MogAAAz, with the new girls pulling double duty as members of both groups.
to IDOLS to US to YOU is Melon Batake a go go’s first album (albeit a mini-album) since signing with major label Nippon Columbia. If there were any fears that they might tone down their rockabilly creep show act for a wider audience, they’re dispelled by the reassuringly daft title track. It’s more of an intro than a song but the congregation of chanting idols and gothic horror synths evoke something like a supernatural cult initiation, enticing you to join the family… forever.
Melon Batake a go go often load their songs with schlock horror movie tropes but for the mini-album’s first proper track, Don’t Shoot RUTAKAME!, they trade western drive-in frighteners for some homegrown Kaiju monster action. The retro tokusatsu-style intro gives way to a super perky, hyper-active tune and in between the bubbly vocals, dialogue plays back and forth between the group and their gruff-sounding captain, as if Melon Batake a go go have enlisted in the Science Special Search Patrol from '60s TV classic "Ultraman". Thankfully the Kaiju turns out to be friendly so Tokyo is saved from its umpteenth monster-induced destruction.
The Melon’s back catalogue is dominated by old-school American rockabilly and surf rock-inspired tunes. Their producer is Kinoshita Moritaka, the former bassist of cult Japanese psychobilly band THE MONSTER A GO GO’S, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but they’ve avoided becoming a one-trick pony by chucking a variety of influences into their madcap mix. After the nostalgic pop culture fun of Don’t Shoot RUTAKAME!, they pull a handbrake turn of a switcheroo with Itsuka no Ookami.
The piano-led ballad gives centre stage to Rutakame Run, whose echoing vocals bring a wistful feel to this sad breakup song. After that melancholy interlude, it’s back to full speed with Muteki no Idol, which is more bossa nova than rockabilly and somehow manages to sound simultaneously like a '60s TV spy show theme and an '80s synthpop hit. Continuing the theme of mixing it up, the mini-album’s lead track Kaizoku QUEEN AMAZONES sees the superhero sidekicks acting up as hard-partying pirates, and their rockabilly style takes on a definite pop slant.
The album closes with a bit of a throwback to Melon Batake a go go’s indie days as STILL DEAD OR ALIVE goes full bore at their signature rockabilly sound. Like many of their earlier tracks, this is a reworked version of a song by THE MONSTER A GO GO’S and it has a noticeably rougher edge to it. Yuffie takes the lead here and her lower-toned vocals deliver bags of sneering rock ‘n’ roll rebel attitude.
Melon Batake a go go’s work here is done in a shade over twenty minutes, but it’s no crime to leave the crowd wanting more. to IDOLS to US to YOU is a hit-and-run raid of retro-rock and knockabout fun. They haven’t always had the easiest go of it in the past with multiple line-up changes, some fractious interpersonal relationships, and Soze even wrecking her knee ligaments stage-diving, so they deserve their chance at major label success.
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