Enon Kawatani works best as a sad sack. The lead vocalist of J-rock outfits Indigo La End and Gesu No Kiwami Otome has stood out in the country’s rock scene thanks in part to his higher-pitched voice, and an ability to work in everyday details (and humor) into his lyrics. Not to mention how he frequently zooms in on downcast feelings between melancholy and self-loathing. Early Indigo La End numbers found him verging on pained screams, while even his biggest hit with Gesu was built around existential pondering.
The past year of Kawatani’s life has only given him more fodder for sad songs, even if it also turned him into one of the most ridiculed people in Japan in the process. Last year, a tabloid discovered Kawatani was having an affair with TV talent Becky, sparking a media whirlwind that turned him into a much-loathed personality online. A subsequent scandal later in the year only made him more toxic in the eyes of many, and resulted in the already-damaged Gesu’s latest album to be shelved until this past May.
The twist, though, is Kawatani seemingly feeds on all this criticism, and that helps make Crying End Roll, Indigo La End’s fourth full-length release, the best all-around album he’s ever worked on. It’s a tough one to accept; Kawatani has been completely in the wrong in both major scandals, and worse still, he seems to have very little repentance about it. He often comes across like he’s the victim, such as being cast as a puppet in a recent Gesu video and literally playing the role of a caged bird with Indigo (below). Yet he’s at his best when he’s wallowing, and it makes this one a good listen.
But what makes Crying End Roll mostly work, though, is an expansion of sound. Indigo La End’s music has always hovered between J-Pop mid-tempo balladry and post-2000s emo chug. They can do it well, but it also has resulted in a lot of numbers that sound like retreads, underlined further by the far twistier stylings Gesu like to dabble in. Yet immediately from the opening track “Omokiri,” new additions are abound, highlighted by backing vocals provided by women, which pop up on the spacious “Tenshi Ni Kiss Wo” and other cuts as well. It brings to mind Gesu, while other songs seemingly borrow from Kawatani’s other projects too, such as the jagged guitars on “Shiranaichi” or the general tightness of the bass playing throughout. This collection doesn’t work because it sounds closely like Gesu, but because Kawatani and company adopt a mindset more in line with Gesu but with their outfit in mind.
The other big change is by letting other artists help dictate the album. A narcotized remix of the song “Kokorone” by electronic producer Qrion sits right in the middle of the album, adding a wonderful change-of-pace while matching Crying End Roll’s bummer mood. The last track is a remix of “Natsu No Magic” by Gesu member chanMARI, further adding different perspectives to this set.
But ultimately, this is Kawatani’s chance to let loose and he does it well on the observation-rich strum of “Misekake No Love Song” and the galloping “Kane Naku Inochi.” The lyrics are often downcast, usually obsessed with the end of relationships, a topic long-central to Indigo La End’s music. But Crying End Roll finds Kawatani especially emotional, to the point where he seems to say “forget it” before unloading on tracks such as “End Roll II,” a claustrophobic number where he just starts yelling.
It’s the most focused thing Kawatani has done yet, and features some of the best hooks any of his group's have ever laid down alongside some of his most pained words. It’s tough rooting for someone as irresponsible as him, yet Crying End Roll is a highlight from one of J-Pop’s most infamous.
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