Album review: Perfume - The Best "P³ (P Cubed)"

Album review: Perfume - The best "P³ (P cubed)" | Random J Pop

Why am I reviewing a Best release? What is even the point when it's made up of songs and albums that I have already reviewed? I don't know. But let's do this.

P³ (P cubed) is Perfume's first, second or third Best album, depending on which fan you ask. But if you ask me, I'd consider it their first - if we're taking a Best release as a retrospective look over a long period of an artists' career which spans multiple albums, which Complete Best and Love the world did not.

I'm always sceptical of Best albums, because so many artists release them with far more regularity than they should, and often-times their releases are premature. I mean, shit. Even Perfume put out a Best album before they'd even put out an album. But P³ feels wholly justified and the timing feels right. Since their Love the world compilation album, Perfume have released 3 albums, 2 music video collection DVD's and embarked on 10 tours over a period of 7 years. I'd say they're due.

Album review: Perfume - The best "P³ (P cubed)" | Random J Pop

The tracklisting for P³ is what you would expect. But that doesn't make it any less impressive. P³ includes all of Perfume's singles, songs which were used as promotional tie-in's and popular albums cuts that they have performed live. Everything that should be here is here, with one exception. "Glitter". I don't know why this song wasn't included, but its omission is very strange. "Glitter" is THE song that turned me from a casual Perfume listener to a fan. But my bias in favour of "Glitter" aside; the song checks every box for eligibility for inclusion on a Best release. It was used in a TV commercial as part of a promotional tie in, it was a single, it had a music video, Perfume performed the song numerous times on their tours and it also featured on their Love the world compilation - so I don't get why it was left off. "Hurly Burly", a B-side which was infamously left off of LEVEL3, received no music video and is rarely performed live got a spot on the tracklist. It's a glaring omission, and for it to have been bumped over "Hurly Burly" and "Display" is a shame, as its inclusion would have made P³'s tracklist perfect.

P³ also features two new songs, "Challenger" and "Nananananairo". Both songs are kinda strange in the sense that on their own, they're not that great. But within the context of this Best release, they work really well.

When I first heard "Challenger", I rolled my eyes at Perfume getting yet another Kyary sounding-ass song. But then the history behind "Challenger" had surfaced since and I put my dislike aside somewhat. The song still makes my eyes roll, but in more of a 'Fine' kinda way instead of a 'Fuck this shit' type o' way.

"Challenger" is a song that Nakata had made before he'd even met Perfume. Once he was brought on to produce their music, there was a plan for the girls to record it, but they never did. Fast forward 16 years and Perfume's manager reminded them of this song and floated the idea of them possibly recording it for their Best album. Yasutaka Nakata was informed, who then reworked the song and re-wrote the lyrics. So if "Challenger" sounds like old skool Perfume, then this'd be why and that was the intent. Which is why it opens the album to then be followed by "Linear Motor Girl". Hearing this sequencing is when I knew there had to be more to the song prior to knowing the story behind it, because "Challenger" flowed so well into "Linear Motor Girl" and shared its sound to such a point that it have been a deliberate choice. But, then it also still sounds like the kind of song that Nakata would have given Perfume anyway, given where their sound is at the moment - so it manages to be a full circle type o' song. With this said, "Challenger" is a far more interesting song sonically than most of Future Pop. It being an old Nakata composition means that it comes with all of the whimsy and chord progressions that Nakata was known for before his productions for Perfume became linear and generic. It also features a really nice intro, which for any other Perfume album would have been a separate track. But I still concur that "Challenger" sounds like a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu song, regardless of it being created whilst a bitch was in Pampers. This is the sound she has now and has had since 2012. And if Kyary were to record a song for a Mario Kart commercial, "Challenger" is basically what it'd sound like.

Album review: Perfume - The best "P³ (P cubed)" | Random J Pop

"Nananananairo" closes out the album, which seemed odd to me when I saw it sat at the end of the tracklist. But when you listen to the third disc from start to finish, it turns out to be the perfect closer, following "Let Me Know". Sound wise, "Nananananairo" feels like a summary of Perfume's last 4 albums. And the dance routine for it, similarly feels like a summary of some of Perfume's past routines, making it essentially a Best routine. As with "Challenger", the context of the song and what it represents is what makes it better than what it is on its own. Which is basically a Future Pop leftover.

I would never pluck "Challenger" or "Nananananairo" out of P³ and play them on their own. But if playing P³ from top to bottom, I wouldn't skip either track, because both songs open and bookend P³ so well. It's nice to know that consideration and thought went into these tracks, which is more than what can be said for 80% of the material Nakata has given Perfume over the past 3 years. When he's given some form of brief or a context, as seems to be the case with what he gives Pussy Pamyu, he can still deliver some good shit. But I ain't touching that subject of Nakata making Perfume's post 2013 discography his trash pile. Not today.

Interestingly, all of the older material (even that of LEVEL3 and Cosmic explorer) has been remastered. Those who are somewhat into mixing and sound fidelity will know that Nakata isn't the best when it comes to mixing his songs. Some of his mixes are plain muddy, or there just isn't much of a consideration for balancing out different types of sounds and how Perfume's vocals sit within it all. The productions of his which have good mixing is usually off the back of how he's produced the song, the sounds he's used and the type of song it is. Remastering Perfume's material was an exciting prospect, and a chance for fans to get definitive mixes of Perfume's singles, but that's not what we get here. The remasters on P³ are a lucky dip. Some songs sound better. Some sound worse off. Some sound exactly the same. In many cases it really seems like all Nakata did was either turn up the treble or just high shelf the songs. There doesn't seem to have been any real remastering at all, in order to improve the fidelity of each song. It's a shame. Because some songs really did need this. "Dream Fighter" is my shit. But that post chorus is just loud, messy and everything just melds into the bass. "1mm" the bop. But chile, that kazoo overpowers so much of the second half of the song and fights with the melody because it's louder than it needs to be. Already great songs, could have been made greater with better mixing and good remastering.

The sequencing of P³ is also really good. The running order of the songs is basically from old to new in the order that they were released and performed. But even so, P³ flows really nicely from start to finish in a way that not everybody's singles and odd album cuts would be able to. Shout outs to whoever made the decision to have "Party Maker" open disc 3 (i.e the Cosmic Pop disc). For fans who weren't keen on anything Cosmic Explorer or Future Pop had to offer, "Party Maker" will be the only reason they bother with the third disc. But in terms of flow, "Party maker" not only provides a killer opening, but it sets up many of the songs that follow really well, as Perfume's sound heads into full blown EDM and Future bass territory.

The sequencing may be a sore spot for some, as running through Perfume's singles (and then some) chronologically and then concluding with the Cosmic Pop disc may be a reminder of how far Perfume's music has fallen off.

Album review: Perfume - The best "P³ (P cubed)" | Random J Pop

Initially I wondered how much value there would be in P³, as I questioned the value that Best albums have in an age of streaming and playlisting. We all could have made a playlist featuring all of the songs on P³ with the exception of the new song ourselves. Many of us already had, and if we hadn't. then Spotify and Apple did so for us with their This is Perfume and Essentials playlists. But what makes P³ special is what it represents for Perfume specifically. P³ is like a time capsule of Perfume's music to date, with new songs that don't even sound new, produced with the purpose of introducing their musical legacy and then book-ending it. Marking what would be a pretty complete best album for Perfume to end on, or a clear line for them to start a new phase in their music career.

Some fans may find P³ disappointing and I wouldn't disagree. Some may think P³ is a great Best release and I also wouldn't disagree.

As far as Best albums go, P³ is good enough and does everything that a Best package from Perfume at this point in their careers should do and is what I expected. Dodgy third disc 'n' all. If only this featured "Glitter" and proper remastering.