MUCC – SHANGRI-LA: Reviewed

Hold on to your tophats, music mashers MUCC release their brand new album SHANGRI-LA today across Europe and the UK, and it pushes their spectrum of sound further than ever before. But does having such a broad range in style lead to musical utopia, or does it feel like they’re clutching out at a lost horizon? While we contemplate how many people get the reference, take a look at our thoughts on the regular digital edition of SHANGRI-LA. European label Gan Shin promises a special edition CD version will be skimming its way across Europe from Friday 25 January 2013, containing two discs and a total of 23 tracks.

SHANGRI-LA marks 15 years of MUCC. A band that started life embracing the darker side of visual kei, and slowly became more colourful and adventurous with every release. Their previous album, 2010’s KARMA saw the group develop a disco theme with heavier focus than ever before (check out Falling Down to see what we mean), and if SHANGRI-LA proves one thing, it’s that MUCC’s not through with dabbling with dance yet. After all, the very first single taken from the album, ARCADIA, features Hokkaido’s house hero DAISHI DANCE. Follow up single NIRVANA confirmed the group’s electronic-inspired path, though proved they were still keeping their metal roots, with flickers of thrashy guitar riffs and solos thrown in for good measure. Then there’s their latest single MOTHER (click for the digital EP, the second track of which sees the foursome play around with dubstep), featuring as an ending theme in the anime Naruto Shippuden. It showed a much safer pop-rock approach without a single digital sounding beat or bip. It was, however, nothing particularly exciting, at least not when compared to some of MUCC’s mightier back catalogue.

Thankfully, at least for the rockers out there, SHANGRI-LA blasts off with a speedy dose of aggression and growly vocals in the form of Mr. Liar., followed by the head thumping G.G. reminiscent of Kyutai-era MUCC, quashing any fears that the group’s going soft in their later years. In fact, besides the singles, the remaining tracks aren’t anywhere near as pop in sound. HONEY sees the outfit return to  punk (the vocals sound authentically intoxicated too), while Pure Black is a jazzy little number with a blues-inspired bassline, accompanied by piano and fiddle. Closer SHANGRI-LA, the track from which the album finds its name is clearly the proposed standout track. It’s a slow moving, yet beautifully smooth track the build’s into an all out distorted rock number by the end, and left us feeling as if by finishing the album we’d just completed some kind of journey. Exactly what type of journey, we’re still not sure; it had its up, it had its downs, but ultimately fun was had. And sometimes that’s what counts.

Artist: MUCC
Title: SHANGRI-LA (Regular Edition)

01. Mr. Liar (4:18)
02. G.G. (4:27)
03. ARCADIA (ft. DAISHI DANCE) [PV](4:53)
04. NIRVANA (Shangri-La Edit) [PV](4:02)
05. HONEY (3:30)
06. The Bell At the End of the Line (3:25)
07. PURE BLACK (3:40)
08. Kyorankyosho ~21st Century Baby~ (3:25)
09. Marry You (4:08)
10. Night Sky Craypas (4:08)
11. You & I (4:16)
12. MOTHER (3:55)
13. SHANGRI-LA (6:16)

Available from Amazon MP3 stores and iTunes UK (and others) across Europe.

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About Tom Smith
Some say he's fuelled on nothing but energy drinks, and that when he visits Japan, he spends the whole time engaging the ground in an all too familiar way. But what we do know is that his words on the country's entertainment and culture find their way into NEO Magazine on a monthly basis, while everything else finds its way here. Be it quirky news item from the Land of the Rising Sun, or a story so gruesome it'd be rude not to pass it on, you'll find it here along with his general posts about life, work and most importantly play. And yes, he has had articles printed in the likes of MCV, GamesMaster, 360 Gamer and more, thanks for noticing.

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