By Paris365 on May 24, 2013

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Momoiro Clover Z -- affectionately called Momoclo by their fans -- is a Japanese girl group made up of five members: Kanako Momota, Shiori Tamai, Ayaka Sasaki, Momoka Ariyasu and Reni Takagi. Prior to their debut album, Battle and Romance, the group had several other members but the line up has been stable since then. Each of the girls has their own color that they always wear and their costumes are like a cross between cheerleading outfits and superhero costumes. The group also stands out among the girl group crowd because they incorporate gymnastics and ballet, as well as other types of dancing, into their live performances.

Momoiro is the Japanese word for pink, and "pink clover" was chosen as their name because it represents innocence. The management later added the Z to their name simply in the interest of being artsy and hoping to get people to talk about it, to speculate about what it could mean, but so far as I've been able to dig up it actually has no meaning.

When 5th Dimension, the girls second album, was released it sold an impressive 102,855 copies the very first day and it debuted at the top of the Oricon charts. Meanwhile, Battle and Romance skyrocketed back to number 2 on the charts, meaning the girls actually held the top two spots on the Oricon Weekly Albums Chart -- no small feat.

So, why are Momoiro Clover Z so popular? My best guess is that it's because their music is very original and forward-thinking. In fact, Yes Asia's product description states that 5th Dimension is intended to have a "unique sci-fi theme." And that much is obvious just from listening to the very first track, "Neo Stargate," which was the first single released from the album. At 8:19, it's a rather long song and it's what I would have to call progressive J-Pop. It immediately scores points for originality as it starts off with monks chanting along to intense classical music. I wish I knew what they were chanting -- I can't even tell what language it is -- and I wish I knew if this was a famous piece of classical music that they've sampled or if it's an original composition. In any case, the monks go on for roughly two and a half minutes before a thick dubstep beat drops and the girls begin singing. But the classical music continues in the background behind the dubstep rattling, meanwhile the monks continue chanting. I suppose some would say that the song is too busy, and there certainly is a lot going on, but it's certainly fascinating to listen to. I mean, monks + classical music + dubstep + J-Pop girl group vocals? These are not four things you'd ever expect anyone to combine. But it sounds magnificent and powerful. It's such an intense track that it'll leave you feeling like you've been kicked in the chest. It ought to have a warning that listening to it loudly may cause heart palpitations. Suffice to say it's a monster track and it's highly addictive. Kudos to whoever wrote it and produced it because it's like nothing I've ever heard before.

As if the first track wasn't astounding enough, the entire album is full of twists and turns you don't see coming that will make you want to rejoice. "猛烈宇宙交響曲・第七楽章「無限の愛」" (translation: "Fierce Space Symphony, Seventh Movement "Infinite Love") could be described as batshit crazy. Seriously, it's insane. The monks and classical element are back, but it also has an insanely fast and furious beat that's like EDM on a ton of crack. And it constantly shifts and does different and unexpected things, whether it's the girls seeming to argue, as though putting on a very dramatic play, or a blazing guitar solo that seems to come from out of nowhere. It should be difficult to wrap your head around, but it's so stellar that it'll just make you immediately crave more, more and more. And that's the magical thing about the group: their songs do such strange things and are unlike anything you've heard before, but at the same time they're immediately catchy songs that you need only hear once to fall head over heels in love with. Listening to this stuff is like smoking crystal meth -- from what I'm told -- because you just do it once and you're hooked. But, unlike drugs, this album feels better and better the more you use it, the more you listen to it. It just grows and grows on you until it's all you want to listen to anymore. It completely took over my life for days. I liked it so much that part of me didn't want to write a review of it because I feared that looking at it as a critic would ruin it for me. But listening to it again while writing this is actually just deepening my appreciation for it.

Even the least progressive tracks on the album are fascinating. "仮想ディストピア" (translation: "Virtual Dystopia") is essentially a metal song with ferocious guitars and a major drum assault, but there are so many layers to the song that it's hard to actually categorize it as metal. Besides, the girls sing it as though they're singing a J-Pop song. A very intense J-Pop song, but a J-Pop song nevertheless. Of course, plenty of J-Pop artists have used metal elements before, but few have actually gone totally metal. Like Ayumi Hamasaki. She's famous for songs that have screaming metal guitar solos, but I've never heard a song from her that's as heavy as Momoclo's stuff.

Another highlight is "労働讃歌" (translation: "Hymn to Power"), which features loud and proud horns along with clattering beats, metal guitar, etc. There's even a hip-hop part.

It would seem there's nothing these girls can't do. Suffice to say that you shouldn't resist them. You should immediately begin searching for this game changing album. Even if it doesn't quite sound like your cup of tea, I dare you to listen to it and not get hooked. Plus, other artists are sure to start "borrowing" dozens and dozens of the unique things that happen on this album, so best you hear the source before you inevitably hear the copycats. -Michael McCarthy

There are 3 versions of this album available: Regular Edition and Limited Editions A and B. The regular edition is CD-only, the limited edition A includes a CD with a live performance, and limited edition B includes a DVD featuring 2 music videos.

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