Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fire Bomber - "Re.FIRE!!"

Well, this shows how far out of the anime scene I've become... this album came out last year, and I didn't even know about it! Pretty bad for a guy who named his kid after one of the characters in it.

Re.FIRE!! was put out to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Macross 7. Story wise, it's a reunion album for the band-- apparently Basara never returned to City 7 after Macross Dynamite 7, so Fire Bomber was no more. But for this reunion album, Basara worked with the old gang virtually to create a new reunion album: hence, Re.FIRE!!, featuring two remakes of classic songs, and -- be still my heart-- ten all-new Fire Bomber songs!

In the real world, I was a little worried. When Macross 7 ended, the band who did Fire Bomber's music, Humming Bird, went on to do theme songs for other anime shows and a bunch of albums of their own. I eagerly went after these albums, but I usually wound up disappointed. It turns out Fire Bomber has two very important elements that Humming Bird doesn't have: keyboards and Chie Kajiura. As much as I love Yoshiki Fukuyama's sound (and he ain't hard on the eyes, either), Humming Bird was definitely not Fire Bomber.

The thing is, the last few Fire Bomber projects started sounding more like Humming Bird than Fire Bomber. Chie Kajiura's voice on Dynamite Fire!! are more backup vocals than duets, for example. (But seeing as how Mylene and Basara spend most of that story apart, it makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose.)

So while I was definitely excited about Re.Fire!!, I also approached it with a little trepidation. After all, I'm not the same guy I was 15 years ago. I guess that's why they say you can't go home again.

The first few songs, "Bullet Soul," "Burning Fire" and "Daimon," seemed to bear that out. Very Basara and guitar heavy with Mylene providing only back-up vocals on the first two tracks. Which is okay in and of itself, as long as it's only part of the album and not the whole thing. But it's kind of a shame because "Daimon" sounds like just the kind of song that Mylene would normally get.

Up next is "Love It -AD 2060-," Mylene's anniversary remake of one of the original Fire Bomber songs. On the one hand, it's an odd choice, since it was never actually used in the anime. On the other hand, it was definitely my all-time favorite Mylene song and possibly even my all-time favorite Fire Bomber song, so I just have to assume someone else liked it enough that they felt it deserved the spotlight too. While the remake is nice, the strings in the original version are completely abandoned here, and so the song loses something very special. I can understand the changes-- I've always said, if you're going to remake a song, then don't just copy it, remake it-- but the melody of the strings should have at least been kept, even if it wasn't done with strings this time. But that's just me-- again, I hold the original so high that I doubt anything would have come close for me.

"Big Bang" has some nice horns in it towards the end. Between that and "Love It -AD 2060-" I was definitely starting to warm up to this album.

The turning point came in the next track, "Ready GO," Mylene's first full-vocal original on the album. It totally swept me away. Bouncy melodies, Chie's voice, airy backgrounds-- this is what Fire Bomber's been missing. This is probably my favorite track on the album.

By this point what I really wanted was a good old fashioned Basara/Mylene duet. And the next track, "Song of Eternity," totally delivered. Both voices featured prominently and playing off each other. It's more of a ballad than their other big duets, but the few English lyrics give it that same feel of love & music having the power to change the universe. Again, absolutely awesome.

By now I'm in the right mood, my fears have been allayed, and I thoroughly enjoy the remaining tracks. "Stardust Highway" is a fun fast-paced Basara song, "Plastics" another Mylene song. "Totsugeki Love Heart -AD 2060-" is the second remake, and much more successful for me than "Love It -AD 2060-" was. "Magic Rhapsody" is a hard-rocking duet in the vein of "Holy Lonely Night." And the album closes out with a Basara ballad, "Waiting for You." And it's easy to picture Basara walking away, his guitar slung across his back, still wandering the galaxy and singing for anyone who will listen.

Giving the album a second listen and knowing what to expect, I found myself getting into the first three tracks a lot more as well. All in all, Re.Fire!! is a wonderful album, a welcome return of the Fire Bomber sound, and a much better "final album" for the band than Dynamite Fire!! or ZZNKQB / Zola - Radio Fire!! Thanks, guys!!

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