Minds tend to jump straight to the Western world when discussing rock music. Of course that can’t usually be helped, but bands like Japan’s One Ok Rock are a welcome reminder to broaden our horizons when it comes to searching for our new favourite artists. Already stadium fillers in their homeland, it took 2015’s 35xxxv to make media across the world sit up and listen, and new album Ambitions is only going to push them further.
Ambitions certainly has an apt title. In terms of One Ok Rock’s discography, this is their most pop-oriented record to date, and guest spots from All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, 5 Seconds Of Summer (yes, all of them on one song) and Avril Lavigne just show the four-piece’s lofty, mainstream-infiltrating goals. It’s something that suits them too. Ambitions sees multiple forays into bonafide pop-rock which definitely pay off – they’re sure to add a bit more fun and variety to future live sets. American Girls, as Disney Channel as its lyrics are, is the best example, due to its inability to put anything but a grin on your face. But that’s not to say One Ok Rock are completely reinvented; in fact, they’re reinvigorated, with their trademark epic, emotive rock showcased on previous records sounding much bulkier on Ambitions. Opener (if you don’t count the intro track) Bombs Away is the perfect combination of storming and catchy, while beautifully lush closer Take What You Want (the track featuring 5 Seconds Of Summer) benefits hugely from double the personnel.
Though One Ok Rock are certainly of a higher standard than many pop-rock bands circulating right now, it’s hard to shake the thought of how overworked the genre is. It seems difficult to get through a full listen of Ambitions without temporarily losing interest for a song or two. Whether it’s for the obvious snooze fest ballads Hard To Love and Listen (the former a sappy acoustic ditty complete with whistling, the latter having an annoying repetitive chorus and inaudible contribution from Avril Lavigne) or just generally being tired of the lack of invention in the genre, there’ll be something of annoyance here. It does seem rather unfair to take out issues with a genre getting staler on one particular act, especially a band like One Ok Rock who have a sound that accentuates its plus points. But it can be hard to differentiate some tracks on Ambitions, almost impossible after the record has finished. It feels safe, like the album could benefit from a little bit more than the subtle experimentation already present here. That’s not to say that Ambitions isn’t the album to prick up ears in the West, because it more than is, but a little more experimentation in future could make them household names.
For fans of: All Time Low, Against The Current, Sleeping With Sirens
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Ambitions’ by One Ok Rock is out now on Fueled By Ramen.