Break the Records: By You & for You

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For their fourth album, the Johnny's-based boy band Kat-Tun pull out all the stops. There are epic full-band efforts. There are sentimental solo ballads. There are group love songs, Christmas songs, and simple dance tracks. All possible listeners get their own renditions of Kat-Tun on the album. The album opens with a bit of spy-style electronica that morphs its way into a straightforward guitar-laden dance piece with a little stop-and-start action between the group members. Elements of "Sadistic Love" mirror melodic ideas from Yoko Kanno's works, but showcase more intricate chord progressions than one might have expected from the group. "Rescue" uses a speeding aesthetic to emphasize the power behind the group as well as pushing the harmonies to a higher limit. There's a strangely uneven attempt at modern composition in "Water Dance," but perhaps more odd in its own way is the sudden change in the middle of the album to give all six members of the band individual solo pieces. These are strikingly different from one another, but none really gets far without the help of the rest of the group. There's a decent power ballad from Jin Akanishi, an intriguingly dark piece from Kazuya Kamenashi, and a small spread of filler following. When Kat-Tun regroup, they move through some higher-tempo pop, an off-key piece with some basic R&B production, and a lackluster Christmas song. The album ends (luckily enough) on a pair of stronger entries -- a basic group ballad that hits right in the sentimental core of Kat-Tun's abilities in "Neiro," and an odd dance theme that contrasts thrashing, sludgy guitars with clean, crisp koto work. This probably isn't the best Kat-Tun album by any measure, but it shows a lot of incremental gains in ability and composition over previous efforts. The rawest energy and emotion captured by the band in some other releases may not always be present, but on Break the Records Kat-Tun nevertheless take a lot of steps in the right direction toward being a more mature band.