Best Scandal

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For a band that so obviously tries to capitalize on manga stereotypes, presenting such a cute form of what is supposed to be a rebel grrrl power act, Scandal rock surprisingly hard -- harder, in fact, than many J-rock units, whether corporate creations or grassroots acts, inhabiting the Oricon charts. Scandal still sound commercial, because the arrangements are too polished to be associated with a bunch of teen girls, but the fact that they took the songs to heart and play them with vigor clearly shines through. The band is reminiscent of Avril Lavigne -- the same combination of youthful energy and mature professionalism -- and although Scandal's hooks are smaller, they still have plenty of groove. Simple riffs that could be garage rock if they weren't processed so much are mixed with smart guitar licks and disco beats played at a punk speed, and the band shows some nice variety, hopping from classic R&R-tinged numbers to the U2-styled "Kimi to Yoru to Namida," drenched in delay, and a bit of electro-rock on "Space Ranger," the best cut on the disc. The electronica influence is not milked for all it's worth, and some of the rock & roll tunes almost sound like filler, but the music is memorable, even hummable, which is more than can be said for many Japanese girl rock bands, even good ones like Chatmonchy. For the most part, Best Scandal still comes across as a bit artificial, as if the girls are pretending to be rock musicians in some anime series, and take themselves seriously at that, but if irony is lacking, the charm and the drive are genuine.

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