Chemical Pictures Peek Out From Under the Radar
What looks good, sounds good and goes well with cream…?
A lot of visual bands start out with a concept to match their name, but few put much thought or effort into it beyond the initial impact. Chemical Pictures, however, used that concept to set the mood for their live without any drama or cheesiness. The opening film reel which announced their upcoming single release and tour crackled like an old film, blue ink bleeding into the title. That ink then took on the form of photographic negatives of parts of each member’s face in different colors, making for a creative introduction. Then, flashing a blinding red, the screen was pulled aside to reveal the band who launched into a heavy jam that immediately worked the crowd up to a high of energy and excitement.
Alternating between heavy, funky, and the occasional catchy pop-rock tune, the first half of the set was made up of songs that felt unusually short. If you’ve ever felt that some visual kei music (however good the song) can really drag on forever, then perhaps this is the band for you. Short, sweet, and right to the hard, fast chase. Vocalist Taira’s husky voice pleasantly melded with the music yet often rose into wicked shouts so that no matter whether a mainstream sound, hard and dirty or an edgy swing, there was a constant sense of masculine energy to the music. The blase tone of his voice, while contradicting the heaviness of the instrumental music, was complemented by his lazy action of swinging the mic up and around and catching it in his hand. “This isn’t the time to be getting embarrassed!” he yelled at the crowd as the band launched into “Tsubasa wo kudasai,” the musicians all going nuts, heads and bodies seizing erratically.
“Having fun?” asked Taira as bassist Taka struck up a solo to accompany the emcee. “This might sound cliché, but lift your hands higher,” he ordered and the crowd raised their clapping hands above their heads. “It looks like you guys have been having a great time, so no need to hold back. Unlike the usual way of today’s VK, there’s no need to worry about the people round you. Just go nuts.” Prompting them from the continuing clap into an overhead wave, Taira yelled at the bassist who tried to take a break. “Don’t stop! And you guys just keep doing what I tell you,” he instructed the crowd. Next, they began yelling, fists flying at Taira’s whim. Then it was guitarist Joe’s turn to lead the congregation, and congregation they became, the guitarist continually blessing himself neatly in rhythm with the music. However, the crowd didn’t quite pick up his silent explanation. Only when Taira stepped in to explain did a few girls up the back begin crossing themselves. “Okay, this is not catching on, so we’ll just put an end to that,” said Taira, receiving a playful kick to the behind from the guitarist. Proceeding into a jump, Taira finally worked the fans up into a continuous yell of “Ai! Ai! Ai! Ai!” before the whole band struck up for a quick blast and then wound down to a bluesy finish making for one of the most entertaining emcees in all of visual kei.
In the thick of the set, highlights flowed continuously from the following number “MyHarlotBrOker” in which Taira flapped gracefully like a gull on the wing, the crowd interpreting the motion into a jump. Adapting to the heavy mood, the vocalist fell back on his platform, kicking his legs up into the air even as he sang on. “Haha!” he laughed. “Let’s do this properly!” The crowd then propelled themselves back and forth with relish in answer to his words before dissolving into a messy mob of thrashing heads. A soft, gruff solo over gentle piano then rose up the octave for a heavy repeat with full musical support. Keeping up the impressive performance, “Belamy” took a heavy turn, inciting chaos until the instrumentalists all slumped upon the last note of the vocal line before viciously head-banging it out. “Is that all you pics have got!? Let’s tear this place down!” Following the passionate cry, the gentle introduction to “Yamu sora” came as a surprise. A groovy interlude via guitar then led into the verse which panned out between the two opening themes. Crouched on his platform, Taira sang, bent forward at the waist until the number picked up, proving worthy of his shout at last as the crowd moshed across the floor. Well written, and well performed, the number featured a gorgeous vocal line that then became distant through sound effects before blasting out at the finish.
Then began a speedy, hard number, Taira screaming out with everything he had… into dead silence. As he turned to discover the problem, the band proverbially knocked him flat, breaking into a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Revealing a little cake, Taka and a staff member struggled to light the candle amid strong air conditioning while Taira took his shock out on them with taunts. At last the candle was lit – for all of a second – before the vocalist extinguished the brief flame. Taking a big messy bite, he promised to eat it later, meanwhile trying to bully Joe into licking the cream from his finger. About this point, Shota began tapping off some swing cymbals which started up another jazzy jam in accompaniment to Taira’s ramblings. “This is our second anniversary oneman and my third oneman here at AREA. Right?” Yelling up to the sound desk, Taira was rewarded with a tolerant “Probably.” Following some announcements, the vocalist then tried once more to inspire the crowd to wild abandon. “Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll clean up after you, so just go crazy! Throw stuff! Don’t hold back!” While the crowd never quite flung their bras up onstage, they did let loose their hair in a fury until the band settled into a typical blues scale, wrapping up the emcee.
A round of upbeat ballads, interestingly embellished by digital beeps, sweet piano, and a pinpoint spot over Taira showed off the band’s softer side. Then… “Kenzy? Who the hell’s this Kenzy? All I hear is Kenzy, Kenzy, Kenzy!” the vocalist complained in response to the crowd’s unintelligible cries. In celebration of their second anniversary, Taira then handed over to each of the band for a word or two, resulting in much rambling about cars and Doraimon, not much of which made a whole lot of sense as the vocalist himself interjected. When Joe took the mic, Taira suggested he continue blessing himself as he spoke, the rhythm supposedly a cure for nerves, but the action only seemed to confuse the guitarist who is evidently not a multitasker. However, he wrapped up nicely with “You can pray to God or whoever you want, so let’s all just get along.” Taka tried to get out of the spotlight after a few sincere words, but Taira wasn’t having it. He ushered the bassist out front on the main mic, draping the bass about his own neck. Jokingly, Taka suggested a song to get out of talking which proved to be his downfall as Taira was all for it and soon slammed out a sweet solo on the bass, the rest of the band following his lead. After several false starts and much complaint, Taka reluctantly sang out the famous first line of the old jazz standard, “Stand by Me.” One line was all that could be achieved, though, and Taira laughed in disbelief. “You have to be the only person who could be dragged out so far and still not give in and sing a few lines.” However, the vocalist’s grin seemed to suggest that he was satisfied, having successfully plucked the random chance to prove his instrumental skill.
This time, three true rock ballads calmed the atmosphere, Taira’s smoky tones proving to be well suited to softer music. “I’m investing my heart in this next song. “Chikkyuu to iu na no norimono.” I want to sing out to the Earth,” he said. His gentle “Yeah-oohs made for a nice embellishment over the music. Then “Yami ni kudaru Planetarium” sped things up again with a real schoolyard rock feel, bass heavy, and wild. Lastly, an awesome guitar solo by Joe opened “Walking Ashland,” slipping in even between the verses. The song itself resulted in a wild mosh, the fun yet unusual number hitting off well with elements of old-school British rock. “Thank you! That was super fun! Peace!” cried Taira. After he left, the musicians launched into the instrumental piece “I love suG my life,” each taking turns to rile the crowd in their own style before letting loose on their weapons. All too soon they were gone, but the crowd quickly struck up a call of “CPS” in order to draw them back out.
Little did they know what they were in for… or, rather, that the band were in for. In relation to various fan club activities, two of the members were charged with facing punishment, known in Japan as batsu game. Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide the loser, Taira and Taka faced off. Elated, the vocalist roared his victory and Taka was ushered offstage, soon to return in a black lycra bodysuit. The next challenge went three ways between Joe, Shota and, again, Taka. This time, the bassist was spared by an incredulous Joe staring at his traitorous hands. In punishment, he received several plates of cream to the face, the sinful substance mashed ruthlessly into his red locks. Then, Taira on bass once more and Taka claiming Joe’s guitar, the guitarist himself was instructed “The mic is over there.” Still fussing over the cream in his hair and eyes, Joe gave in fast and sang along until his own laughter made singing impossible. Just to consolidate the celebratory atmosphere, the crowd preempted Taira, beginning to sing Happy Birthday before he cut them off. “Can you celebrate this with us?” he cried. “Last song! Happy Birthday!” However, instead of the traditional birthday piece came “38ｍｍ Birthday Special.” Taka in his bodysuit, and Joe all covered in cream made a valiant effort, even as the guitarist struggled to spare his instrument from harm.
A second encore, however, featured a decidedly grumpy Joe vigorously polishing his guitar. When called cute, he all but growled. “No way in hell is this cute!” he snarled, referring to the large streak of white marring his stiffening hair. “You’ve never called me cute before, so why now? Why don’t you all get creamed and then walk around outside and see how you like it?” Despite the harsh words and his determinedly furious tone, a disgruntled smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, softening the blow and only fanning the flames, for shouts of “Cute!” doubled. “Let’s get dirty!” cried Taira, spinning Taka off into a groovy bass solo for a groovy number. Undeniably jazzy, the song’s inspiration was given away by the title lyrics “Stand by me” and although the tune was a far cry from the original, famous number, it portrayed the same sense of loyalty and unity. In fact, when the instruments pulled back and Taira held out his mic, the crowd took up the chorus like a fully rehearsed choir, sounding fantastic and wrapping up a great night.
With a truly rare atmosphere not only for visual kei but in the world of rock itself, Chemical Pictures put on a fabulous show from all perspectives. Impressive music, performance, and a relaxed, fun attitude all led to the question: “Where has this band been hiding and how have they lasted two years without being spiraled off into fame and fortune?”
- Subarashiki Imaimashisa
- Warau Picasso
- Tubasa wo kudasai
- MC(Blues-Fast Version)
- Yamu sora
- Oboreru sakana
- MC(Blues-Slow Version)
- Junpaku no zetsubou to Canvas
- Mune ni furu ame, atama yurasu koe
- yOdori zoi no kouen
- Chikkyuu to iu na no norimono
- Yami ni kudaru Planetarium
- Walking Ashland
- I love suG my life
- 38ｍｍ Birthday Special
- I WannA GEtAway
- Stand by me
There are 38 photos in this visual kei exclusive.