Korean rock group CNBLUE are ready to bring their original rock color back to Japan again with their 1st major LP release under their label Warner Japan. Their Japan release "Where You Are" with its heavy rock influence, garnered the band widespread attention which facilitated in paving the way for CNBLUE to show their ever evolving musical color. Featuring thirteen tracks, eleven of which are self-composed and written by lead guitarist Lee Jong Hyun and lead vocalist Jung Yong Hwa respectively, Code Name Blue promises to fascinate listeners with a strong rock sounds and captivating melodies full of ear catching guitar riffs, bass licks, and drum beats that help to solidify CNBLUE as a self-contained band.
Code Name Blue, the first full length major Japanese album features four previously released tracks: “Where you are’, "In My Head," "Mr.KIA" (Know It All), and "Get Away" as well as nine brand new ones, two of which "Wake up" and "Come On" were recently included on the band’s 3rd major mini album, Come On which was just released on August 1.
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An instrumental ‘Intro’ featuring a very theatrical electronically synthesized feel and strong drum line, kicks off the album and sets the tone for what’s to come. Composed by leader Jung Yong Hwa, this intro was first heard during the introduction of the band’s ‘Winter Tour’ concert performance. Upon listening to this intro, one gets the feeling as if you are being prepared to step into this new world of CNBLUE.
Previously released tracks "In My Head" and "Where You Are" both boasting very heavy grunge rock guitar rhythms and strong percussion lead the way for this eclectic round of tracks.
The album’s title track "Time is Over" quietly begins with the line “I am broken…” leading right into the musical chords without the usual intro, taking the listener down a path that is emotive both lyrically and musically. Yong Hwa has been known for his emotionally powerful vocals and writing skills so this song fits in well with his usual style. The lyrics depict a man who is damaged by his surroundings but chooses to pick himself up despite the chaotic world he lives in and becomes stronger because of it. Reminiscent of the classic Linkin Park formula, the track includes a mix of strong vocals and rap along with the background sounds of overlapping vocals from Jong Hyun married with guitar and heavy drum sounds make this track one you will want on instant replay.
"Have a Good Night" is the party song of the album sporting a bit of a disco beat and heavy bassline coincidentally sounding a bit like Madonna’s "Hung Up" in the rhythm of the hook. Yong Hwa urges the listener to leave their cares behind at the door, dance and take a shot or three! This track has a very unexpected sound coming from a primarily ROCK band in this reviewer's opinion, however, it is exciting to hear a song like this from CNBLUE and to discover that they can pull it off well. Aside from the repetitive lyrics, this song is super fun to listen to with its carefree lyrics and vocals.
Rightfully following the lightness of "Have a Good Time," "Wake Up’"speaks to the imitative person trying to live in someone else’s shoes, negatively having something to say about others instead of focusing on their own issues. The straightforward lyrics, upbeat rhythms, and smooth vocals make it a song to rock out to.
"No More" carries the dance vibe into another classic sounding track however, this time the listener is taken into the retro 80’s with this fun yet interestingly written song. Dealing with being fed up with his relationship, the lyrics describe a desire to leave behind constant let downs and move on to better things. Once again, the listener can expect for the unexpected. CNBLUE is definitely trying to prove they can do ‘dancey’ tracks just as well as they bang out ballads and hard rock riffs!
Composed by Lee Jong Hyun in his trainee days, the lead guitarist drowns the listener straightaway with his sultry and soulful bravado in "These Days." You are instantly transported back to the 70’s with the throwback bassline and matching orchestral strings as Yong Hwa assists on the bridge with a sweet falsetto. Lee Jung Shin does a masterful job on the bass with his killer licks that melt along the background instrumentals so blissfully making this easily one of the most likely favorited songs on this album so far.
"Blue Sky" is an inspirational ballad sweetly sung solo by Yong Hwa. He delivers a beautifully soft and emotional vocal simply accompanied by an acoustic guitar for the first part of the song and slowly incorporated are the strings and percussion. The all English lyrics do come across a bit awkward however, in that they don’t flow smoothly which is the only flaw that could be found on this track. Coincidentally, it is one of two tracks on the album that was not written by the band.
Flanked by previously released tracks "Mr.KIA" and more recently "Get away," "With me" is upbeat with that distinctive CNBLUE sound. With perfectly tandem vocals from Yong Hwa and Jong Hyun, the composition combines fast pace drumming, strong guitar, and a poppy arrangement contributing to the very early 2000’s garage rock sound.
Last but certainly not least "Come On’" starts out with an inviting guitar groove that intensifies and calms down just as quickly, giving way to vulnerable yet seductive vocals provided by Yong Hwa who also lends emotional lyrics to the track composed by Jong Hyun. The subtle complexities of the instrumentals along with smooth vocals provide a current-like feeling to the ears as the heavy guitar sound envelopes the rhythm. Definitely one of the best works by this genius musical duo thus far.
Overall, CNBLUE’s Code Name Blue is an eclectic mix of several music genres that blend well to create a cohesive sound for this album. With ranges of softer melodic ballads assorted with harder toned rock tracks, Code Name Blue proves itself to be the sound CNBLUE were striving to call their own. Also strongly exhibited is the musical growth this band has gone through in such a short time with the intricate compositions and execution by all members. They prove they are truly musicians who can write and play their music. This album definitely has their name written all over it and a sound that resonates the band’s truest musical color to date.