Idol band CNBlue have made it through military enlistment and the departure of a member, emerging on the other side with their first new album in three years. Having debuted in 2009, it feels as if this group has been a K-pop staple for as long as I can remember. The hype around their music has dimmed in recent years, as happens with most acts of their age. But, it’s always nice to see a member of the old guard back at it. Now a trio, the guys have earned the right to a title as expansive and sentimental as Now, Then and Forever (과거 현재 미래).
Unfortunately, this feels more like a continuation of their pre-military sound than a big, dynamic comeback. It’s probably my fault for setting such specific expectations, but I wish that the track opted for more than the wistful emotion it delivers. Now, Then and Forever is solid and well-performed, and will likely have great appeal for the band’s ardent fans. I’ve been through enough military-based hiatuses to know how great it feels when your group finally makes a return. So, I’m not going to begrudge anyone for enjoying this on an emotional level (or any other level, for that matter!).
But as a casual fan, there’s just not a lot to grab onto. The track opens softly before building to a more expansive sound. There’s some satisfying, dramatic guitar used throughout – especially during Forever’s second half. The melody has an anthemic quality, but doesn’t quite ignite in the way I would have hoped. When it comes down to it, this is the kind of mature offering I’d expect from a group of CNBlue’s standing. But now that they’ve gotten this out of their system, I hope they’ll push on with more daring sounds in the future.