Ready? [Jacket B]

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Back together after a few album-free years and an at least temporary division into older (20th Century) and younger (Coming Century) pop groups, V6's Ready? provides a fairly extreme breadth of sound. To some degree this is perhaps unsurprising -- a lot of Japanese boy bands have taken to exploring new genres and sound elements in recent albums. Still, it can be a strong mark for or against a band depending on its ability to adapt to new ideas. This album opens with a few basic pieces -- pop rounds and standardized ballads. Midway in, however, the palette opens up a bit -- there's an entirely pointless but happy singalong in "Swing" that involves '80s-style rap interludes to comic effect. "Chou" incorporates a flamenco-style guitar to develop an Enrique Iglesias-like piece of Latinized pop. A bit of club music in "Radio Magic" finishes out the main portion of innovation for the main album. From there, the album goes back into traditional territory, not changing much from the milieu of modern J-pop. As with other boy bands, though, there's an additional album of tracks from the individual artists attached, and that's where there's always some interesting material as the separate singers branch out with their own interests a bit. "Dancing Machine" is taken up by the older half of the group (20th Century), but could easily have been a leftover Soul'd Out track. The Coming Century contribution uses a much deeper round of electronica, but ends up relatively lackluster despite this. There's an entirely surprising piece of country courtesy of Inohara Yoshihiko, and a shiny urban jazz track from Morita Go. These pieces, by themselves, are plausibly worth the price of admission for the album as a whole. Fans of the genre should pick it up to see where the individual components are branching, but Ready? by itself has a little less to offer.