HOWLING out of the shadows
Nishikawa Takanori, better known as T.M.Revolution, has been working in the Japanese music industry for over 15 years, and in the mainstream market for 11 of them. Throughout these years, he’s done visual kei, and more recognizably, the blend of electro-pop and rock originated by Asakura Daisuke that his powerful voice works so well with.
But after 10 years, Nishikawa has set aside the name to work with his side project, abingdon boys school. While the name first surfaced on the LOVE for NANA compilation album back in 2005, it was a year later when we learned it was actually a full band instead of another stage name.
Nishikawa’s strong voice has always combined wonderfully with the electronic pop-rock he has worked with, but of course, there were those who wanted him to lean more towards rock with less of the pop. While they got their wish… who knew it could be so addictive?
One of the biggest problems I’ve had with Nishikawa is how all his songs sound similar. I bought his coordinate album when it was released and tried to listen to it all in one go. The songs ended up meshing into each other – something that hasn’t changed with each sequential album. A big part of that is how he sings the same way each time – passionately and powerfully. Not a bad thing in general, but not when every single song is done in the same way.
This same singing style works great with the electric-guitar fueled rock though, and the music allows for more variety. Such is the case with the two tracks on their second single, both in a distinct genre and in the same style but sounding different.
HOWLING, the A-side, also happens to be the opening theme song for anime Darker than Black, making this the second time abs has done an anime tie-in. It opens up ominously, with a female voice apparently monologuing – these same lines tie in well with the anime’s subject, but adds an interesting “story” to the song even without the anime.
The lyrics, written by Nishikawa himself, are as emo and desperate as rock gets, but he sings it in a way that makes it sounds more angry and uplifting. The hook is especially catchy, and I rather like how there’s the sudden intrusion of a stuttered piano chord at the end of the song to break up the monotony of the guitars while also ending the song on an equally ominous feeling.
The B-side, NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, sounds every bit like a throwback to classic rock songs. I can’t tell you what, I never listened to those much, but it sounds familiar despite being an original song by abs. Of course, it might be saying something that the band is apparently influenced by Radiohead – but I never listened to them much either.
Once again Nishikawa wrote the lyrics himself, but this time it’s all in English. Surprisingly decent English as well, and he sings it equally well, his accent only marring a few words every so often. It’s a lot better than his English version of Web of Night from two years ago – the result of his having been to America and hearing it so often so suddenly? Whatever it is, I like. A lot.
Despite resting on T.M.Revolution’s laurels, abingdon boys school really has nowhere to go but up. If they keep up with the quality, this is one wolf that could rise to the top of the pack regardless of Nishikawa’s past successes.