The buzz created by B’z, Japan’s all-time best-selling rockers, could easily escalate to a roar in America with their new self-titled, five-song iTunes release. B’z, resounding with 80s-style charismatic metal, is the first done in English (perfect, I might add) by vocalist Koshi Inaba and acclaimed guitarist Tak Matsumoto. The two joined forces in 1988, racking up 45 consecutive #1 debut singles and selling over 80 million albums in Japan, and even earning themselves induction into the U.S. Hollywood Rock Walk. But with this new release, the potential limitations of a mere five songs could put a vice grip on showing off their chops. It could — but it doesn’t.
The tunes on B’z will have you scrambling for your air guitar, and will stay stuck on “play” in your head long after you’ve actually turned them off. They’re infused with a passion that belies the guys’ 20-plus years together, and the lyrics have been retooled into English that flows, rhymes well, and makes sense. The set kicks off with the dynamic, spirited Love Bomb, a Green-Day-meets-Poison confection played and sung with such enthusiasm and a topped with such a sweeping, adept harmony lead that the song will leave a permanent imprint in your auditory canal.
The first single, Into Free – Dagan (featured in the video game Dragon’s Dogma) benefits from a clever arrangement deceptively starting with a somberly sweet piano and orchestra — is this gonna be a ballad? — that are suddenly pummeled away by a heavy bass and churning, melodic hard rock, a soaring solo, and ending with unexpectedly ethereal keyboards.
These surprise elements appear on other songs, tweaking the band’s 80’s sound with a unique flair. Splash undercuts its infectiously catchy tune with a funky groove, and the always spot-on solos by Matsumoto that could be mini songs-within-the-song. Ultra Soul also begins with deceptive whispers and twinkly techno keyboards before igniting into a rousing, anthemic ode to following your dreams, punctuated with numerous shouts of “hey!” that would be perfect in a concert setting. Juice seems to be leading you down a boozy, bluesy path when it U-turns into driving hard rock, and lyrics aimed at regions below the belt, rather than behind the rib cage.
Within the short span of five songs, B’z pulls off a winning, spirited set, and demonstrates that when it comes to the universal language of music, they speak it fluently.