Single review: Perfume - Polygon Wave

Single review: Perfume - Polygon Wave (ポリゴンウェイヴ) | Random J Pop

I’m gonna start off by saying that I like “Polygon Wave”. Because by the end of this, you’re probably gonna wonder if I like the damn thing at all. Yep. It’s gonna be one of THOSE reviews y’all.

Many fans have been wanting Perfume to return to the sound and vibe of their debut album Game since its follow up Triangle - which was a damn good album. And depending on which day you ask me, I may even say Triangle is one of Perfume’s best. But after 4 albums, it seemed that the Game throwback was never gonna happen, until it did with “Polygon Wave”. This song is basically “Polyrhythm”, but without a polyrhythm. It’s a welcomed turn that I don’t think any of us saw coming, but many of us hoped for after hearing what Nakata turned in for Capsule’s “Hikari no Disco” - which was also a return to a far more familiar sound for Capsule, after years of albums which deviated from it to such a point that it seemed Nakata had reached the point of no return.

But as much as I like “Polygon Wave”, I have to separate how much I like it because of how lacklustre Perfume’s past few singles have been, with how it stands as a song. And these are 2 different things for me.

Single review: Perfume - Polygon Wave (ポリゴンウェイヴ) | Random J Pop

“Polygon Wave” is a relief because Nakata has really played Russian roulette with some of Perfume’s singles from as early as 2013. But whilst “Polygon Wave” is a good song, it’s also not where I feel Perfume’s sound should be after all of this time. One thing I’ve always wanted from Perfume is growth in the right direction. “Polygon Wave” is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t exhibit any form of growth for Perfume nor Nakata. The vocals aren’t as high and annoying as they have been on some of Perfume’s songs over the past couple of years, but Perfume still aren’t giving us anything more vocally, despite having more to give. The sound of the song is good, but let’s be real; Nakata opened up that Ableton file for “Polyrhythm” and copied and pasted. And structurally, “Polygon Wave” files itself under ‘Perfume songs kinda fucked over by Nakata not giving a damn about song structures’. “Polygon Wave” has a hook and a middle 8. There are no verses. I don’t always need a song to follow the standard Verse > Chorus > Verse > Chorus > Middle 8 > Chorus template. There are several Perfume songs which don’t and are still great songs. “Take Me, Take Me” is just a whole song with one line. “Spending all my time”, much like “Polygon Wave”, is just a hook which doubles as a verse (albeit sung to a different melody) and a middle 8. “Miracle Worker” has one verse and that’s it. But these songs still felt structurally complete and whole. But lately, Nakata’s songs for Perfume have felt structurally incomplete and glaringly so. Most of the songs on Future Pop all felt cut short. “If U Wanna” just ends. “Future Pop” just ends. “Let Me Know” just ends. “Polygon Wave” sounds like it’s missing a chunk of itself. Placing a middle 8 after the first run of the chorus doesn’t feel avant garde in this instance, it just feels strange. Even if you’re not knowledgeable of song structures, your ear is used to hearing songs laid out a certain way. So when the middle 8 hits, it just feels like it’s too early in the song because you’re used to hearing songs introducing parts like this far later on. And for those who are up on Nakata’s old production style, y’all know the very Game-esque middle 8 always came later in songs, where middle 8’s traditionally do. And Nakata couldn't even be bothered to write a whole set of lyrics for "Polygon Wave"'s middle 8, and just had Perfume sing a bunch of flat ♫ La La La ♫'s.

“Polygon Wave” is also the theme song for the Japanese version of The Masked Singer, and I imagine that Nakata produced “Polygon Wave” as a theme song first. Because the more I listen to “Polygon Wave” the more I think, that like “Display”, it sounds like a song which was approached as a jingle first, then stretched into a full song - but the end result is not a complete song. The hook makes a good theme for a TV show. And the intro makes for a cool segment of music that a show would play to introduce judges or play montages introducing contestants. But as a full song, it doesn’t really hold. It'll probabaly come off better when there’s a music video and Perfume perform it. But the more I listen to the song, the more incomplete it sounds and the more it sounds like background music or an extended version of a jingle.

I may be looking a gift horse in the mouth a little. Because “Polygon Wave” is a decent enough song. It’s great for the Summer. It has a really fun bounce. It’s catchy. Fans will love it, and they have every reason to. It’s the best single Perfume have released in a good ass while. But it stands out as being their best single in a while, because the calibre of their singles has been so weak for such a long time. “Polygon Wave” presents the same issues which have been present in Nakata’s material for Perfume for a while now, but it’s wrapped up in the nostalgia of a widely beloved album, which distracts from the fact that Perfume’s sound still isn’t 100% where it needs to be. It’s a step in a better direction than Perfume and Nakata had been headed for the past few years, but there’s still no substantial growth. And as a Perfume fan, I’m at a point where I really want growth. Perfume have been around for too long and covered too much ground to just be putting out an alternate version of “Polyrhythm” 14 years after they initially released it.

“Time Warp” was a forgettable song that everybody (including Perfume) seemed to move on from VERY quickly. But at the very least it felt new and there was some growth in it. The sound and vibe were great. But the song was let down by (surprise, surprise) the vocals and the structure, in addition to that cleanness and punch Nakata’s production’s usually have. “Time Warp” was a very muddy sounding song. A good album mix could make it what it should’ve been. The execution wasn’t great, but the ideas which were laid down, were really good.

Single review: Perfume - Polygon Wave (ポリゴンウェイヴ) | Random J Pop

“Polygon Wave” on its own isn’t a great song. However, in the context of “Time Warp” and “Saisei”, it is kinda ingenious. “Saisei” being a song about cycles and restarting something over again. “Time Warp” being about looking back. And then “Polygon Wave” literally being a reimagining of Perfume’s first breakthrough song. Thematically it’s actually great. And if you’re new to Perfume, you’ll like the song, and then be directed to “Polyrhythm”, which will then throw you head first into the Perfume rabbit hole. An unfortunate journey that starts off magical and then has you arrive at Cosmic Explorer and Future Pop.

What “Polygon Wave” is tied to contextually and thematically is great. After a run of bog standard, forgettable singles, “Polygon Wave” is great. But as a standalone song, I wanted more than this. I want growth from Perfume, not just re-hashes. ”Polygon Wave” could be a Game B-side or an old song they’ve just decided to release now, and this is part of the problem. It doesn’t feel like the representation of Perfume as they are now that I feel it should have. Nakata did this song before and did it in a far more ingenious manner back in 2007. And I can't foresee longevity in this song, which may lead many to move on as quickly from this as we did "Time Warp", and then just run back “Polyrhythm”.

VERDICT: Porygon Wave