Only Love Hurts’ first studio album is a collection of brand-spanking-new recordings of Omokage Lucky Hole’s “greatest hits,” appropriately titled Greatest Hits!! ~updated Omokage Lucky Hole~. Basically a self-cover album, O.L.H. endeavored to create the definitive versions of their classic (?) tunes (likely to sell to people who attended Iyaounashi Ni). Being stuff fans have heard before, it’s not particularly full of surprises, but it is pretty good.
A bulk of the album’s 54 minutes are taken from the band’s pro debut album, Dairihaha, followed by selected tracks from other albums, arranged in chronological order. The songs are all very cleanly mixed, with all the instruments coming in with crisp clarity. The disc bursts into the earlobes immediately with Ore no Sei de Koushien ni Ikenakatta’s bombastic opening horns. The new recording cuts out a lot of the campy synth of the older one, opting to let the pure sounds of traditional instruments take center stage. Something one notices immediately is that the guitar is mixed to come in loud, almost stealing the show with a wild, unrestrained energy. The record’s guitarist is none other than Nishimura Tetsuya, who was with the band for Whydunit?, Typical Affair, and On the Border. He has apparently moved to Kyoto and can’t do shows often, so the band likely wanted to give him free reign to do what he wanted, and make sure everyone could hear it. It sounds good, and gives the song an edge that it lacked before. On the whole the instrumentals are more loose and funky, with aCky being very fun and creative on the vocals, resulting in a cut of music that offers up something different than the original. I won’t necessarily say better, but it sounds really good. Konya, Sugamo De is similar. Cleaner mix, bolder guitar, and a few surprises. However, between hearing this song nearly a zillion times live, along with possessing about five recordings of it (including this one), I have to say there are others I like better.
Track three sees the album begin to mix things up with a new version of Anna ni Hantai Shiteta Otousan ni Beer wo Tsugarete, which got the music video treatment late last year. This song is one of O.L.H.’s older hip-hop tracks that is driven by heavy electronic backing in its initial studio cut. For live shows, these tracks are rearranged in order to be performed by a full band, and it would seem that with this track and others, one aim of Greatest Hits!! is to get clean studio versions of these arrangements that fans could previously only hear at the group’s shows. That said, this cover of Beer strikes a nice balance between the original studio version and its live arrangement. Opening with a funky electronic beat, the track comes in with heavily guitar-driven instrumentals, climaxing with horns, then cuts back to the original beat, giving the song an extra level of variety and color over both its studio recording and live versions. Suki na Otoko no Namae Ude ni Compass no Hari de Kaita already has two studio versions, and this one just feels like another take with the band’s current lineup–which is what all of these songs are, but this one doesn’t offer up much new. It’s a nice cut, but hardly any surprises.
The album’s crowning achievement is undoubtedly the sexiest studio version of Pillow Talk, Tagalog-go the band has ever recorded. The version on their pro debut is rich with deep and sexy R&B synth and bass, while the original version on their indie debut is more akin to a ’70s love ballad. However, neither version is as drawn out as the song’s live arrangement, which is extended, and allows one’s ears to drown in its longing and sorrow. This recording is The Ultimate, delivering all the emotion of the live experience, and then some. With perfect atmospheric effecting on the backing percussion and flute, along with a luscious keyboard, the song drowns you in its deep jazzy sound, putting you right in the middle of its tragic and sordid story. The song employs inventive use of an electronic sitar, putting a twist on its traditional jazz backing. Tet-chan cuts in with a dreary and minimal guitar solo in the middle, and Kaori follows up by accentuating the song’s melancholy with a lush and longing saxophone solo. Much like Tet-chan who came from far away to play on the album, Kaori comes in just for Tagalog-go with her sax and flute. The rest of the tracks are handled by the new saxophonist, Okamura Tomoko.
Following is Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De. While originally a hard hip-hop track (that opens with a brutal exchange between an abusive husband and his wife–a precursor to the events the song depicts), funky guitar and punchy horns are the order of the day on the Greatest Hits!! version. The song switches gears mid-way for an interlude by the chorus (“You, like a child, sleep in my embrace. You, like a child, in my embrace.”) backed by Tet-chan’s yearning guitar backing, followed by an explosive trombone solo from Sasuke. This is probably my favorite studio recording of the song.
The album then surprises with a retake of Kyuuryoubi-san, the sole track from Ongaku Girai on the record. The original cut is heavily disco, with robust and deep synth instrumentals, delivering all the sounds one wants in a disco track. This new recording drops a lot of the synth, but retains a funky rhythm track headed up by an equally funky guitar, with the breakdown making highly effective use of a sample from Santa Esmeralda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The track on the whole has a harder edge than the original with its bold guitar and bass, giving new life to one of the band’s older and somewhat minor songs.
The three tracks that follow are the most boring, failing to offer up much over their originals. After Kyuuryoubi-san comes Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni Umarete Mamonai Musume wo Kuruma no Naka de Shinaseta… Natsu. It’s a nice retake, and samples in police sirens for a thick lacquer of added sorrow and harsh reality, but it’s more or less the Same Song. Following is Atashi Dake ni Kakete, which is at a determent lacking the original’s female backing on the pivotal “kake kake kake kaketeeee“s. Ai no Blackhole is just a studio version of Ai no Xanadu with the original “blackhole” (read: vagina) lyric in place of the more family friendly lyric, “Xanadu.” Originally a theme song for a movie, the band was asked to change the “blackhole” lyric due its vulgarity.
The final track is an unreleased recording of Dairi Haha’s Chiisana Mama Ni (as opposed to re-recorded; I assume it’s an alternate cut they had lying around.) While the original recording is carried by wistful guitars, this recording comes in strong with a hard funk guitar and commanding organ backing, bestowing the song a far more bitter and dramatic tone to its profound woe. It’s a really cool take on the song, and features a red-hot R&B guitar solo in the middle. The horns come in louder, elevating the drama at just the right moments.
The album comes with extra discs (CD-Rs, the type which one buys at the local electronics store) featuring special recordings of different songs depending on which store one purchases the CD at. As such, I bought a copy of the album at all the participating shops to get the bonuses. Was it worth it? Probably not, but I’m a completest, and I can sell my extra copies back to BookOff. The Tower Records bonus was an alternate mix of Ore no Sei de, which offers up nothing new, and is somewhat disappointing. However, it also came with a ticket to a signing in March that is to be preceded by an in-store acoustic show. The rest are live recordings–Disc Union gets you Gomumari, HMV gets you Onna no Michishirube, and Amazon gets you Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De. If you’ve been to O.L.H.’s shows before you know what to expect, and the recordings are taken at a low volume, making them difficult to listen to if you don’t edit the files yourself. As a stupid fan, I am happy having them, though. Apparently they were taken at some “SECRET LIVE” in Yokohama in 2013, giving the tracks a bit of an air of mystery, being performed at a show normal people presumably did not know about. The recording of Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De is notable because it features a hilarious interlude by aCky in Kansai-ben playing on this old song.
Greatest Hits!! ~updated Omokage Lucky Hole~ is a good album to get new people into the band. All of their trademarks are right there, and they’re all re-recorded and expertly mixed for a rich and clean experience. For existing fans, it’s nice hearing old favorites again, but I’m keeping my ears open for new songs.