Like label-mates CNBlue, FTIsland has done a nice job balancing their Korean and Japanese success. Given their status as an idol rock group, their sound has an easily-slotted place within the vast world of j-rock, though the direction of their Japanese material hasn’t always been to my taste. However, I was incredibly impressed with frontman Hongki’s solo album last year, particularly its willingness to experiment with genre.
For the first forty seconds of When You Don’t Know Who I Am, I thought we were in for another electronics-laced dance rock hybrid like Hongki’s Be Your Doll. Then, of course, the guitars came crashing in full force and the song reverted back to a style the group is more well known for. But that’s not to say that the track is completely cut-and-paste. Its more distinctive production flourishes — that icy synth in the verses, or those dramatic strings in the middle eight — give it enough identity to stick out amongst similar entries in their discography.
Still, that opening verse, with its stomping stadium beat and electronic refrain, is by far my favorite part of the song. The chorus comes a close second. It’s got a cool fist-in-the-air, chant-along vibe, followed immediately by a galvanizing crescendo. The whole track has a light, polished radio sheen to it, even when the guitars veer heavier. This is a welcome direction for the band. Personally, I’m a bit more inclined towards Puppy than Pray, but I hope to see a nice mix of both in the new album.