Beneath the media frenzy over the “election” of this year’s front line members, behind the coy faced but otherwise absurdly blatant evocation of teen sex imagery, and far from the bizarre stories of the otaku (obsessive) fan who bought thousands of copies of the same CD — as if trying in some perversely patriotic way to become a sort of one-man bubble era — one could be forgiven for forgetting that there is in fact some tediously formulaic and crushingly banal music at what we might, with perhaps a wry smile and an ironically raised eyebrow, call the heart of AKB48.
It would be unfair and inaccurate to say that all 16 tracks on “Koko ni Ita Koto” (rendered loosely as “We Were Here”) cleave to the exact same mid-1990s Eurobeat rhythm and identical two-bar chord sequence with what I would love to call religious fervor if it didn’t instead reek of an utter lack of imagination and musical curiosity. In fact only about 90 percent of the album does that, leaving room for a couple of ballads and the dreadful “Beginner,” where the group’s handlers first recognize how pathetically outstripped AKB48 have been by recent Korean sensation Girls’ Generation, and then decide that the best way to respond is via a feeble imitation with the cheap synths cranked up to 11.
“Koko ni Ita Koto” may not be the worst album of 2011 (a year that has already given us a new Exile album, and who would bet against the pop industry plumbing even greater depths over the coming months?) but even so, this is the kind of music that in more civilized times people would have burned in the streets.