Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
One OK Rock
Written by: LF on 01/02/2017 15:38:28
I have always heard One OK Rock described as the most American-sounding of the big alternative rock bands in Japan trying to export their success to the Western world. It seems they have been working towards this goal for some time, for instance collaborating with producer John Feldmann on their last two albums. With their new eighth album, they have even released two versions with partly different tracklists - an English one through Fueled By Ramen, and a Japanese one through their regular Japanese label A-Sketch. This review naturally focuses on the English one.
The overshadowing effect of this tactic of really shooting for the stars and trying to please a specifically Western audience is that it all comes off as pretty superficial. The album consists of mainly euphoric and simplistic sing-along friendly songs with choir effects and lyrics that are as generic as the title of the album itself. The screams that have previously played a part in marking them as a post-hardcore act are completely gone this time around. Both versions of the album end with a song that features 5 Seconds of Summer and the English one also includes "Jaded" that features Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, both really pointing at the strike for a teenage fanbase they seem to be making (instead of "Jaded" and Gaskarth, the Japanese version features Avril Lavigne heavily on "Listen" whereas she can only be heard in the background choirs on the English version).
The prize for being the most disgustingly calculated song here is no doubt won by the unbearable "American Girls" with its narrative of coming "straight out of Tokyo" to meet the American girls: "I wanna take you out / I wanna show you off / I like the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you rock". I mean, come on. "Bombs Away", that is the first song of the album after the useless intro track "Ambitions", even has some kind of mock-Asian-sounding synths all over it presumably to further enhance the promotion angle of being the exotic band from the East. The single "Bedroom Warfare" as well as "I Was King" both use a darker tone that sets them slightly apart from the rest, but along with their firm beat, they mostly resonate with a worn out sense of teenage rebellion, the latter song also utilizing horribly cliché violin movements.
The only song here that is actually appealing is the underplayed "Taking Off" that has a very compelling drift forward throughout, retaining momentum in a somewhat unusual way that's refreshing compared to the constantly predictable and huge-sounding build-ups that infest the rest of the album. The almost acoustic "Hard To Love" also has the advantage of standing apart from the bombastic arrangements of the other songs by being calmer and sweeter with its simple instrumentation. Still, the placement of the song in conjunction with the rest of the album makes it feel like 'The Quiet Love Song' that is just part of going through the motions of making a popular album.
And that's really the main problem with "Ambitions" as a whole. It's not that it isn't super catchy but it feels so calculated and empty as every song uses either a cliché rhythm or melodic jump. The sheer length of the thing, clocking in at 49 minutes, makes any goodwill I have previously had towards the band run out completely every time I listen through it. Instead of bringing anything new to the genre of American post-hardcore, they are now apparently just another run-of-the-mill arena rock outfit.
Download: Taking Off, Hard To Love
For The Fans Of: Sleeping With Sirens, All Time Low, 5 Seconds of Summer
Release date 13.01.2017
Fueled By Ramen