ATARASHII GAKKO! are a group on the move. The dance and vocal outfit had been getting along quite happily since their major label debut in 2017, but their international profile has been given a significant boost after signing with
US based label 88Rising in 2021. Japan always takes pride in one of their own succeeding overseas and it seems that it’s had an effect back home too. They recently announced a one-man live at Nippon Budokan in 2024, a sure sign in Japan that
The whole subject of Japanese schoolgirls as a cultural export can be an awkward minefield to tiptoe through, but if you can get past the thought of grown women wearing school uniforms, there’s a lot to enjoy with this lively quartet. Suzukais
both the ace and the joker in the ATARASHII GAKKO! pack. Her deep, chesty voice and dramatic delivery belies her ‘cute but psycho’ personality that perhaps plays to her Osaka roots a little. She’s backed by the trio of twin-tailed
Mizyu, funky Rin and graceful Kanon, who are all competent vocalists but serve to let Suzuka’s voice shine through. They come into their own with ATARASHII
GAKKO!’s self-choreographed routines though, complementing their songs with creative and amusing dance moves, executed with razor sharp precision.
They’ve been releasing a steady stream of singles and EPs over the past couple of years but ICHIJIKIKOKUis
their first album, albeit a mini-album, since signing with 88Rising. The album’s title translates as “Temporary Return to Japan” and the accompanying tour We’re in Japan but this is
Only Temporary reflects where their attention has been lately.
Atarashii Gakkou no Leaders, to give them their full Japanese name, have developed a more eclectic style in recent years, working with a variety of producers from different genres and ICHIJIKIKOKU continues that trend. For the
opener JANAINDAYO they’ve turned to Jon-YAKITORY who, much like ATARASHII GAKKO!, is on an upward trajectory. After starting out as a Vocaloid producer he’s moved from virtual vocalists to working with real life stars like
Ado. He’s penned them a fairly straightforward yet fun pop-rock song, but with their eye on the lucrative USA market, perhaps a safe, commercially slick track like this is something they need to have in their locker.
If you want a hit, who better to turn to than Kenta Matsukuma, the prolific songwriter who pumps out song after song for WACK idol groups and turned
BiSH and EMPiRE into arena filling acts. SEISHUN WO KIRISAKU HADO is his contribution, and you get a hint of that ‘Kentacore’ sound in the choruses when it flips from the spiky, frantic verses.
They switch up styles again with Giri Giri. The title is one of those catchy little Japanese ‘gitaigo’ phrases and the urgent bounce of the EDM beat reflects its ‘just in the nick of time’ meaning. In contrast,
Suki Lie is altogether more downbeat and has some harsh lyrics calling out a cheating love-rat to go with its pop trap sound. Even the jazzy little break can’t disguise the bitterness.
The lyrics to OTANABLUE are similarly edgy,
recounting a frustrated sexual longing that might be considered a bit iffy given that ATARASHII
GAKKO! are usually decked out in school uniforms. It isn’t a new song, it actually dates from 2020, but it’s included here to coincide with their performance of the track on popular YouTube channel THE FIRST TAKE. It originally went viral on
TikTok, appearing in more than 3 billion (yes, billion!) videos, and blew up again on YouTube, racking up 100 million views between the official music video and their THE FIRST TAKE appearance.
The album’s final two tracks are both something of a throwback, written by H ZETT M, who produced
ATARASHII GAKKO!’s first two albums. He’s revived the group’s original jazz-influenced sound with OTOME NO BIGAKU, which has a Latin-infused 1950s Miami cocktail lounge vibe, accentuated by Suzuka’s melodramatic vocals. With
ODORU NO HONNO 01 the experimental jazz pianist has unleashed a strange kind of cut-up piano jazz punk, if you can conceive of such a thing. While ATARASHII
GAKKO! are looking to break out to a wider audience they’re certainly not afraid to chuck something in from way out in left field.
There’s no doubting that ATARASHII GAKKO! are a ton of fun, but perhaps on record you’re only getting the vocal half of their dance and vocal appeal. Their full on, all-singing, all-dancing performance goes down a storm live and pulls in
untold millions of views on YouTube and TikTok, but maybe they haven’t generated such big numbers in actual record shops when they’re confined to CD. All the same, ICHIJIKIKOKU is an entertaining, if somewhat scattershot, collection of tracks that
shows the world what ATARASHII GAKKO! are all about.
Links to download and stream ICHIJIKIKOKU on various music platforms are available here.