Wareware wa Dempagumi.inc da: an idol’s journey must continue, even if it’s no longer on stage
Dempagumi.inc rose to fame thanks to both their explosive musical formula and to the charisma of the group’s members (who over the years managed to cement themselves as character-like entities to later become archetypes for the Japanese underground idol scene). Even if five of the six members who got to experience this rise to success were not part of the group’s original lineup, people still associate them to group’s mythos. Especially now that some of them have left, and some newer faces have appeared, maybe to take their place, maybe to try and create their own legacy within the group. That very transition is what brings me to write about the groups’ latest album, Wareware wa Dempagumi.inc da (We Are Dempagumi.inc), and about the way it reflects the way the group has been changing since late 2017.
Released on January 1st, the album closes off a year of activities that have mostly been defined by the addition of new members Kaname Rin and Nemoto Nagi. While this record could be considered a triumphant way to finish their first chapter as a seven-member group, it also serves as a reminder of changes to come, given how its release predated Yumemi Nemu’s graduation from the group by merely a week. As if intended to wrap all this up, Wareware wa… heavily builds upon a space journey concept, something that translates into the way it sounds.
On a similar vein to the group’s previous full-length releases, Wareware wa…opens with a self-titled, instrumental number. This short intro not only alludes to the aforementioned concept, but it also ends in a spaceship wreckage, as if meant to remind the listener awkwardness is a fundamental part of the Dempagumi.inc experience. From this point on, the album’s first half alternates highly energetic, chiptune-infused tracks — like the pop-punk structured Precious Summer, or the anthemic Girametasu Dempa Stars — with more swing or big band-inspired numbers (Sekai ga Watashi no Mikata naraba… which has a show tune charm to it could be considered an example of this). Even if neither of these sounds is exactly new to the group, this first batch of songs highlights the fact that Dempagumi.inc has turned into a group meant to be accompanied by a live band, which is reflected in the way these new songs have more complex and refined instrumental arrangements.
FD3, DEMPA ROCKET GO!! and Moonlight Densetsu (a cover of the legendary Sailor Moon opening song), put the listener in what could be considered the album’s middle point, not only because of their position in the tracklist but because of the way both songs perfectly sum up everything this record has to offer. The most direct musical allusion to the space journey theme, FD3 alternates -in an almost narrative way- between mission control voiceovers, verses that could fit into any rock opera, and chaotic denpa song styled vocals. The result is a dramatic yet uplifting song that highlights the ultimately optimistic lookout on the future Dempagumi has turned into a trademark of their group identity. Moonlight Densetsu, on the other hand, brings back longtime collaborator Hyadain to turn an already iconic number into what could be described as surprisingly cohesive compilation of the different sounds that define the group’s musical aesthetic (the song has the added bonus of doing this in the form of an anime song cover, which feels like a neat callback to the group’s otaku background).
Wareware wa… takes a more organic sounding turn for its final stretch. This being particularly noticeable in the H ZETT M composed tracks, Oyasumi Polaris Sayonara Parallel World and Taiyoukei Kansatsuchuu Seimeitai, the latter of which serves as the album’s lead single. Once again, the fact that the group has started to rely on more polished compositions is evident in this set of songs, which combine the dynamic piano playing H ZETT M has made himself known for with Dempagumi’s colorful and playful vocal performance, with the result being two of the most interesting songs under the group’s catalogue. This final set of songs also represent this release’s emotional peak, with Evergreen and Kenran My Youth directly alluding to the topic of Nemu’s graduation, cherished memories, and the idea of everlasting happiness. All of Nemu’s solo lines in these two songs perfectly punctuate the fact that her time with the group was (at the time of the album’s release date) soon to be over and add a layer of emotional depth to what at first listen could be considered simple idol tracks.
All in all, this record makes a really great job at showcasing a concept, with every aspect of it (from its visuals to its lyrics) playing up to the idea of a space adventure, and the changes that might come of said adventure. As it is the case with all of the groups’ previous albums, Wareware wa Dempagumi.inc da encompasses a fragment of the idol group’s career in a neat, little time capsule that has the merit of being a pretty enjoyable listen when taken out of this context. In the context of the group’s own story, however, it also serves as both a farewell gift both to Nemu (giving her a final chance to shine her brightest within the group) and as a hint of what Dempagumi.inc’s journey is about to bring, both to its members and to its fans.