Perfume – Cling Cling | SINGLE REVIEW

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All the Perfume fans around the world have been waiting for new music from their favorite group for a long period of time now: Since the day the quiet but solid Sweet Refrain was released during last November, right before the beginning of the huge and successful 4th Tour in Dome LEVEL3, Perfume have been unusually quiet during the first half of this year, but still managed to work really hard behind the scenes: Not only they wrapped up the above mentioned sold out Dome shows and a small national tour featuring great japanese acts, they released a majestic Live Blu-Ray concert, a long awaited collection of music videos, and announced a new national tour for this summer and also the Perfume World Tour 3rd, that will see the three girls from Hiroshima traveling around the globe in three different continents for the first time, for another huge milestone that went from dream to reality.

Seeing all the things they did and planned this year despite the absence of new music, it’s no wonder why the fans have been more patient this time, and the long waiting has finally come to an end with Perfume’s twentieth major single Cling Cling, a release that definitely dragged attention not only for its heavy oriental influences in both the name and the art direction, but also for its particular structure: If you thought Spending all my Time‘s tracklist was a unique case in the girls’ discography, then you’ll probably go insane in front of Cling Cling: Four all new songs including relative instrumentals for a total of eight tracks and a bonus DVD for each version, for the biggest Perfume single ever released, to the point where it’s fair to ask if we’re in front of a very special single or a true EP.

However you consider this release it’s no doubt that there’s a lot of stuff going on, and with four new tracks and lots of different musical and artistic influences in each song there’s a lot to analyze to understand what approach our girls and their historical producer Yasutaka Nakata adopted for this special release, leaving us with a pretty difficult question: Was the eight months waiting worth it?

[A-SIDE] Cling Cling

The A-side of this single is also the most particular song of the entire package: Starting with the girls singing the chorus part, the sound develops towards a syncopated dubstep beat (a constant in recent Nakata productions) to then evolve in a house tempo, an alternation of rythms that characterizes the two verses of the song and give a nice variation of vibes for the whole duration of the track, between a slower and slightly melancholic feel and a more house/danceable vibe that will make your head bang; All of this is helped by synths and melodies that fill the entire composition marking even more each section of the song with unexpected variety if compared to the average Perfume track, with a various but consistent sound as result.

One of the biggest improvements in Cling Cling (and in each track of this single) resides in the vocals: Nakata, while still slightly altering the girls’ voices, make a way smarter and constructive use of their singing with a wider use of back vocals and extending them with benefits in the overall atmosphere of the song, especially in the slower parts, a detail that while it may not seem fundamental on the surface it is of primary importance in a song where the mood plays a huge role. Indeed the atmosphere in Cling Cling is a factor directly linked to the art of this single: The overall oriental influence is heavy and immediately noticeable both in the sound and in the visuals, and while the track can be generally considered catchy, it also shows many improvements and also what is possibly the new sound identity of Perfume: The song catches your ear immediately, but it’s also also deep and complex from a musical standpoint, it’s fast but also slow, it’s melancholic and happy, the singing is funny but also reflective in some parts: It’s the combination of two different approaches and moods combined together without compromising the overall flow and consistence of the song, also helped by a a standard but well thought structure that reaches its peak in the transition between the second verse and the last chorus, with a bridge that flawlessly leads the song to its final part. To make a simple comparison, it’s like fusing the mellowness of Sweet Refrainand the house/oriental-influenced vibe of Handy Man, and the result is nothing short of amazing.

Long story short, Cling Cling not only represents its status of A-side greatly, but shows a new side of the Perfume sound created by the fusion of different influences and helped by a smarter and now more influential singing by the girls, with a catchy yet complex song as result that’s worth every second of your time.

Hold your Hand

After the catchiness and the atmosphere brought by Cling Cling, it’s now time to relax withHold your Hand, which is the classic sweet and thoughtless song by Perfume that we all need from time to time. With a classic intro-verse-chorus structure, this track doesn’t actually do anything in particular to be an unforgettable piece of the Perfume discography, nor it pretends to be like it, a condition probably due to its tie to the NHK drama whereHold your Hand finds its place as main theme. Yet, despite its simpleness, it’s still a pleasant song to listen to, and while it doesn’t perfectly fit into the main context of this single, the cute melodies, the lovely mood and the sweet singing by the girls helped by the above mentioned smart use of back vocals give to this song a nice feeling, representing the right track when you’re in the mood for a thoughtless and easy listening track.

Because, let’s admit it: Between beat storms and dance masterpieces, we still need some cuteness once in a while, as Perfume is also a pop group. And Hold your Hand fits this role in a way too simple but still lovely way.

DISPLAY

The promised club anthem and tie-in for the new generation of 4K televisions created a huge hype around its dubstep beats and edgy synths (not to mention the masterful video editing work), and since the one and a half minute preview has been released more than a month ago every fan out there was legitimately waiting for a strong track to dance and headbang with: But the final result has been pretty different from what everyone was expecting, and not in a good way sadly. Just to be clear, the part of the song you’ve been looping for the last month is still there and yeah, it’s still one of the coolest things in recent Perfume productions: The vocals make everything epic, the beat is still hammering the way we love it, and the synths frame a musical portrait that’s neat and genuinely cool… The problem comes with everything that surrounds it.

Even though the song starts pretty well, everything that follows is pretty much inconsistent and plain boring: What you’ll find after the beginning is the same beat and melody that we’ve listened in the first seconds of the Panasonic commercial looped until the part featuring vocals and dubstep beats we’ve been loving in the last weeks kicks in: Repeat this another time, add a long and boring filler, and you have DISPLAY, a collage of the same thing repeated twice with no sense of a logical musical structure or entertainment that places this song far from techno anthems like Party Maker, Sleeping Beautyand Spending all my Time; Because while these songs are surely repetitive, they aren’t boring, and there’s a huge difference between being repetitive and being boring in music, and sadly DISPLAY finds its place in the second category. This will probably make mad those who where expecting something more from this song and instead got the same CM theme looped twice filled with the same beat over and over again, or make happy those who just want something cool to play when they’re in the right mood (and DISPLAY may fit such situations), but even them will probably get bored in front of such laziness and musical inconsistence where it’s hard to get a convincing impression. After all, you can’t save a song just by doing it well for barely half of it.

DISPLAY went from one of the most anticipated and exciting tracks of this single to the poorest one, and it’s a real shame since the expectations were pretty high and there were plenty of good reasons to be hyped for it. For the moment, it’ll be only a missed opportunity that may find justice in a future album mix and a song that makes sense from a mere promotional point of view, but not musically. A real shame.

Ijiwaru na Hello

After the bad surprise hidden in the previous song, what we would really need now is, well… a good and genuine Perfume song. AndIjiwaru na Hello is here to please our ears, as it can be definitely considered not only one of the best songs on this single but also one of the most convincing and lovely Perfume tracks in a while, and it’s like Nakata traveled with a time capsule back to the time where the pop side of Perfume was still reigning above the techno influences, and added a bit of its more recent composition style to it. Let’s forget about tie-ins, commercials and syncopated beats that lurk every corner of the industry, this is the Perfume sound everyone loves and made all the fans fall in love with these girls: Ijiwaru na Hello it’s shiny, upbeat, happy, it’s everything that you would expect from a group like Perfume. The structure and each section of the song are perfectly balanced and flow in a way that will make you listen to this song so many times you’ll even forget about the other tracks on this single, all framed by classic and not-invasive house beat, synths and shiny samples that make the atmosphere of this song funny and plain lovely, while the bridges after the choruses and the one leading towards the end of the song bring back the more electronic side of the girls’ sound without breaking the overall mood of the song, creating the right balance.

Ijiwaru na Hello is a track wisely developed that will satisfy all the Perfume fans out there and a great ending of a single that gave us amazing moments, but also raised a few eyebrows. There are many terms that could be used to describe this track, and all of them are positive, but the most appropriated would definitely be “Happy”.


Verdict

Perfume’s twentieth major single is a release that offers many great moments, but also a couple of doubts: There’s Cling Cling andIjiwaru na Hello, two tracks that represent the new sound of Perfume with all its improvements and the old fashioned tehcno-pop style in a modern key that it’s impossible not to love. And then there’s Hold your Hand andDISPLAY, two songs whose weak points reside in their nature of tie-in compositions, and while the first one can still deliver nice vibes in a simple structure, the second one totally fails in convincing from a mere musical standpoint despite its cool and edgy nature and a couple of well developed moments. All of this represents a clear will of experimenting and improving a formula that evolved and changed during the years without leaving behind the origins, but also a dangerous commercial influence that’s clearly present and heavier than ever in half of this single. This would normally result in a fifty-fifty verdict, but the greatness and maturity showcased in the first and last song cover the still acceptable second track and the chaos of the third one.

All in all, Cling Cling is a single that’s worth your time and money, and while you may not find much inspiration in the central tracks, all the rest is pure gold and talent, leaving a final impression that’s more positive than negative.

Vote: 8/10


Tracklist

1. Cling Cling
2. Hold Your Hand
3. DISPLAY
4. Ijiwaru na Hello
5. Cling Cling – Original Instrumental –
6. Hold Your Hand – Original Instrumental –
7. DISPLAY – Original Instrumental –
8. Ijiwaru na Hello – Original Instrumental –

– Alex

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