2021 • ALTERNATIVE • SUBPOP
Japanese musical group CHAI’s third record, WINK, shows ambition but often sounds boring and dull and almost always lacks energy.
Like everyone else, last year, the CHAI girls had to cut their avant-garde clothing performances and locked themselves in a domestic setting, something that, to them, never seemed to be a major concern but also never seemed to be the best scenario. Over the past year, the Japanese women’s quartet has developed several new passions, such as pottery and social media accounts for animals. But, the biggest of all was the creation of songs that they would like to hear in this period of isolation. Their newest record, WINK, which was inspired by the optimistic side of Mac Miller’s “Good News,” sounds like something that comes from the heart but is undeniably boring and lackluster.
WINK it’s CHAI’s third record and the first with their new label, Sub Pop. It follows their two latest albums, their debut 2017’s Pink and their great 2019’s PUNK. However, although these two albums present a great improvement and advancement in their sound and composition, here, in WINK, they seem to lose everything and go back to an absurd tyro stage. Japanese group’s third record sounds amateur due to a shallow and totally badly finished production, seems to have no progression for being in a dull state almost all the time, and, through its precocious lyrics, seems to try to force itself to be something it is not. In a nutshell, it’s a big disappointment.
The biggest problem with WINK is its lack of energy, brightness, and mood. Throughout the entire album, it is possible to notice several promising sonic facets that, if performed correctly, would have resulted in something great. However, what really spoils the whole package is the production. In a nutshell, the entire execution of the album, despite showing a certain readiness and ambition, ends up being shallow, superficial, one-dimensional, slow, and with no progression at all. In several songs, they show beats, most of the time DIY lo-fi pop, which are in a monotone state that is not helped by their voices, which, in turn, do not deliver much interesting stuff either. In other words, it’s the classic case of good ideas but (really) bad execution.
The opener, “Donuts Mind If I Do,” it’s the best example. While they sing about the real love of their lives, food, the instrumentals in the background and their voice look like something dead. And it’s not even like if something had died and they are sad about it since nothing really sounds emotional here. It’s just… apathetic. Next, another bad point on the record is the track “IN PINK,” which features weird-childish laughs that were supposed to sound laid-back but ended up sounding like something creepy, which, in its turn, doesn’t match the rest of the record. By last, songs like “KARAAGE,” “It’s Vitamin C,” and “Miracle,” you won’t even remember how they sound, neither for good nor for bad.
However, there are some decent cuts in here. The second song, “Maybe Chocolate Chips,” although still sounds boring, features nice lyrics by making a metaphor between chocolate chips and the moles on Yuuki’s face. “Today, my moles are chocolate/Pour all with black coffee,” she sings. Meanwhile, the 80s-inspired “ACTION” appears as one of the strongest on the record, standing up like a friendship manifest between them and the listener. They sing, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay/Action is more than words.” For last, “END” it’s the catchiest due to the vocal work in onomatopoeia, “PING PONG!”, in its turn, even though it sounds a little bit dull, still kinda nice, and “Wish Upon A Star” appears as the sweetest on the album. But even so, it’s still a boring and tiring record. It’s not because a boring song is called “Nobody Knows We Are Fun” that everyone didn’t think it was boring.