Back in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, albums were just a collection of singles. Greatest hits albums, in fact, were some of the first kinds ever made. In Japan, that model still holds true. Many Japanese pop acts tend to release three or four singles before an album, and those singles invariably end up in the final product.
Such is the case with Tommy heavenly6’s second album, Heavy Starry heavenly. If you’re a fan who bought every single since the release of Tommy’s debut, you already possess eight of the album’s 12 songs. In fact, the only coupling track not to make it on the album is "Always Somethin’ New" from the "Heavy Starry Chain" single. The album itself offers up only four new songs.
Luckily, I did not buy any of the singles, so Heavy Starry heavenly ends up sparing me from having to. (I’m not so much of a fan to be a completist.)
Tommy heavenly6 occupies a unique spot in the spectrum of pop commercialism and rockist credibility. The music remains some of the hardest she’s ever performed, even with her old band the brilliant green. But it has all the calculation of material geared for Clear Channel consumption.
Tommy heavenly6, herself, is just a persona, one of two characters played by Kawase Tomoko. (Derail: Can I just say now I’m kind of glad Tommy february6 hasn’t been around lately?) She’s as manufactured as her "Gothic punk" music.
But Tommy heavenly6 also demonstrates the joy of seeing — or hearing — pop culture in America filtered through a foreign lens. "I’m Gonna SCREAM+" is a case in point. The song starts off riding the Duran Duran gravy train that stuffs the Killers’ coffers before a nü metal riff (so 1999!) rudely interrupts. It’s like listening to Fall Out Boy without having to listen to Fall Out Boy.
"stay away from me" and "pray" traffic in the usual pop-punk gestures, while "Lollipop Candy BAD Girl" and "my bloody knee-high socks" marks the intersection between Japan’s cartoon culture and its dark undercurrent. Where in America can you find metal this cute?
The cover actually goes so far as to call Heavy Starry heavenly Tommy’s "’dramatic’ new album". Yes, "dramatic" is placed in quotes on the cover. The title track certainly lives up to the hype, and "I Love XMAS" could even find a fan or two in the American Idol viewership.
On the surface, Heavy Starry heavenly continues where the self-titled album left off, but a closer listen reveals a harder sound. Some of the tracks on Tommy heavenly6, the album, felt more like pop songs made to sound hard. On Heavy Starry heavenly, those songs really are hard.
Despite all the commercial indicators — because, really, how are four new songs any incentive to drop $30+ on a full-length CD? — Tommy heavenly6 is an entertaining endeavor. Here is rock music that doesn’t need to be taken seriously, even though it could be.