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Lovelorn Dolls - Japanese Robot Invasion

Lovelorn Dolls - CD Review
Japanese Robot Invasion

Japanese Robot Invasion



CD Info
Alpha Matrix
10 Tracks
English Lyrics

The Belgian quartet known as Lovelorn Dolls came onto my radar last year, with the release of their first full-length CD, entitled House of Wonders.  So much so that the album made my top 10 list for 2013, and inspired me to listen to more electronic-oriented, dark, and alternative rock.  It really helped open my mind to a whole new genre of music that, despite it's kind of dance-y nature, really appealed to me.  The follow-up release, an EP called The Thrill, came out earlier this year and featured five tracks, four of which were different remixes of a song called "The Thrill" and the other song was called "Miss Friday Night."  Both of these songs appear on the new Lovelorn Dolls' CD, just released in October, called Japanese Robot Invasion.  I jumped at the opportunity to review it, so here we go!

While comparisons to The Birthday Massacre are apt, it's important to start things off by emphasizing that Lovelorn Dolls definitely have their own thing going on.  Starting off the album, we have "Happy Valentine", where things are anything but happy, it would seem.  Lady Hell's vocals during the verses are purposely grating and hoarse-sounding, and the lyrics indicate that "happy" is meant in the most ironic of ways.  It's a slower song with a catchy keyboard melody that has a hint of horror film ambiance about it.  It's my favourite song on the album, actually.  You can hear the influences of The Birthday Massacre but this song sets us on the path of separating the two bands distinctly.  It's not sweet and saccharine and it's meant to be deeply ironic, with a harsh vocal kick to boot.

Track two, "The Thrill" has a heavier guitar presence complimenting another catchy synth melody.  I like the lyrics to this song a lot, the image of the doll on the album cover running through the dark woods with only the moon lighting her path is quite vivid and entrancing.  In fact, let me just say a couple of words about the iconic Lovelorn Dolls doll, which is dark-haired on this album as opposed to blonde on the previous one.  I love it!  It's one of the most charming characters on the female fronted scene if you ask me, and I have to say that the album cover for Japanese Robot Invasion is very cool as well.  That tentacled monster on the front cover is kind of cute despite the fact that it's supposed to be menacing.  It's playful and engaging, but don't think that it doesn't belie a larger darkness that comes across in the music!

The first half of this album is stronger than the second half, in my opinion, but that's a personal taste thing.  I really enjoyed "Long Awaited Kiss" and the aforementioned "Miss Friday Night", and "Curse of the Crab" is also a great song.  They certainly seemed to front-load this album with the catchiest, darkest songs.  It's not that the last four songs are bad, they just didn't stay with me as strongly as the first ones did.  "Blood Moon" and "Jasmina" are good songs in keeping with the dark themes, but I definitely perceived, to my ear at least, that the latter half of the album was a little more sluggish and less hooky.

Which leads me to the big elephant in the room: the title track, "Japanese Robot Invasion."  I have to say it's my least favourite song on the CD and it just sticks out like a sore thumb to me.  It's the most dance-friendly, or club-friendly song on the album, which, amongst the more mid-tempo and slower remainder of the tracks makes it stand out a lot.  But also, the theme of it and the lyrics of it are just bizarre when taken in the context of the rest of the album.  It's got a video-gamish vibe to it that makes it seem like a cartoon caricature amongst a collection of porcelain dolls.  I also don't know why it's the title track; the imagery on the album cover is neat, but the fact that the whole album is represented by this title is very odd given that this song is so strongly does not seem to have anything in common with what's going on on the rest of the release (except perhaps "Blood Moon", come to think of it, which is about running from vampires, so I guess there is a similarity theme-wise there). It leaves me feeling confused.

The theatrical abounds in Japanese Robot Invasion, and that is another element I really liked about it.  The imagery is the main piece of the theatrical angle - Lovelorn Dolls are excellent with their evocative lyrics.  In fact, I think this is a more image-rich album than the previous one, and The House of Wonders was very image-rich indeed.  Every song has a central image that they structure the song around, and I appreciated the technique in that.

While a relatively short album at just about 41 minutes in running time, Japanese Robot Invasion packs a lot of punch in its 10 offerings.  Yes, I did have my personal preferences about the songs as detailed above, but by no means do I mean that those songs are weak.  I think this is a great follow-up to The House of Wonders and shows good evolution and growth in the band's sound and overall writing.  And as a front woman, Lady Hell is charismatic and charming, while imbuing the songs with a sense of the dark and mysterious, which of course goes back to the theatrical angle.

This is definitely an album worth your while, and I certainly think Lovelorn Dolls should turn that tentacled creature on their album cover into a fuzzy stuffy and sell it on their web shop; I'm sure they'd make a killing!