No matter where in the world you go, the influence of American music will follow. Whether it be rock ‘n’ roll corrupting the minds of Soviet teenagers, American accents leeching into the songs of British singers, or Americanized rap claiming the tiny amount of integrity that Iggy Azalea would presumably have begun her career with, the Yanks have influence everywhere – and Japan is no different.
Originally a post-hardcore band by nature, ONE OK ROCK have evolved their style over time – as any band have. The competing influences of popular culture vying for their attention have clearly split the band, because Ambitions is an album that never quite picks a cohesive style. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, and whilst Ambitions is not so much a cohesive package, it nevertheless hits well above the mark for nearly everything it tries.
After the very fashionable inclusion of a pointless intro track, the album kicks off with Bombs Away – a storming hardcore anthem that is reminiscent of some of Bring Me The Horizon’s recent work. This is the only song on this album in this specific style, but over the course of the next 12 tracks, ONE OK ROCK combine their alternative influences with pop-punk to create a fairly distinctive style that is evident in tracks such as Taking Off and Jaded.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, there are stylistic inconsistencies: We Are is the closest the band come to a proper anthem, but have to sacrifice their preferred guitar tones to do it; American Girls sounds like it came straight off a 5 Seconds of Summer album with its happy-go-lucky tone and party theme, and One Way Ticket barely sounds like it belongs on the same album with its soft indie-pop-rock choruses.
The subject matter is potentially divisive as well. A lot of the lyrical content is standard fare, with the usual themes of disintegrating relationships, unrequited love and vague regret present on most pop-punk or emo albums. However, the use of metaphor in songs such as Bombs Away and We Are can at least attempt to alleviate this boredom, and the heartfelt expression of gratitude to a role model in Hard to Love more than makes up for the lyrical snooze-fest that is I Was King.
Overall, Ambitions is an enjoyable fusion of genres that sounds like the band really tried to emphasise both main components of ‘pop-punk’. With the band recently signed to Fueled by Ramen, there are guest appearances from Alex Gaskarth and the entire of 5 Seconds of Summer – the first much more notable than the last, although neither were really utilised to their full potential. ONE OK ROCK haven’t achieved anything special with this album, but if they can address their tonal and stylistic inconsistencies in the future, then they clearly have the potential to. In the meantime, this album remains what it was surely intended to be – a series of catchy songs with an alternative kick to make them stand out from their competitors, which is an ambition they surely achieve.
Best Songs: Bombs Away, Taking Off, We Are, Jaded