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Compared to its predecessor, the relaxed and sun-drenched Teenager, Chronicle is an inspired kick in the shins, but thankfully, Fujifabric's newfound punkish charge is a means to a better end, not an attempt to hide a lack of inspiration under guitar fuzz, as sometimes happens. Fujifabric were always good with speedier songs, and they waste no time reestablishing the fact: right off the bat, the album throws some very strong power pop/rockers at the listener, with "Sugar" and "All Right." Simple, sure, but also pure aural goodness. The band's bright vibe is still in full force, and Masahiko Shimura's voice sounds as charmingly nerdy as ever, but some Weezer-sized riffs amplify the effect -- Fujifabric even stray into Asian Kung-Fu Generation territory now and then, but since AKFG have been losing ground, it's only welcome. Besides, the need for speed prevents the band from playing around with the arrangements too much, which used to bog down big chunks of their earlier albums. Chronicle isn't all perfect, however. Towards the end, Fujifabric still indulge in some guitar meandering, and the album loses steam, because the slower tracks don't have hooks the same size as "Baumkuchen" or "Merry-Go-Round" -- definite highlights of the album. This isn't solely about tempo -- the better portions of the album simply feature stuff above and beyond the classic power chords, like the synth and vocal variations, and a violin drone in "Merry-Go-Round," not to mention the clever guitar licks and textures. Although the band can make a slower track work (see the sparse, piano-led "Taimumashin"), it looks like there simply wasn't enough good stuff for the whole album, which runs at a generous 67 minutes. But even with all the filler trimming, there's too much catchy alt pop on Chronicle to pass it up.

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