Picking up Scandal’s new album Yellow brings up a lot of questions. Are they corporate Muppets? Is the new album’s title a play on the racist view of many Westerners toward Japanese people? Where did the schoolgirl uniforms go?

The Muppets hypothesis goes by the wayside upon reading the album credits, and discovering that they write their own songs—good. No answer can be found about the album’s title—bad. Google says they gave up their schoolgirl uniforms five years ago—OK.

Pressing play, the revelations begin. Twelve songs, a figure very familiar to Western audiences. Then the production hits you in the face like a freshly-baked pie. Where is the typical Japanese overproduction? Their new sound is oddly fresh and raw: a mixture of ’90s indie rock, and Mötley Crüe’s first album; which was originally intended to be a demo. The credits reveal that all of the mix engineers on this album are Western. Could this be a play toward overseas markets? The songwriting follows suit: very-indie rock meets early-’80s metal, and it’s actually as enjoyable as an American summertime backyard party. There’s nothing too substantial, but it’s amusing and relaxing enough to be a welcome distraction. The second track, “Stamp!” would sit nicely in the track listing of an early Weezer album, with its hammered power chords and dissonant two-note bends.

By the fifth song, “Sunday Drive,” however, everything goes wishy-washy. Like a modern pop version of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” passed through a ’60s filter, it just crumbles like leftover oatmeal; having made a play so thoroughly that it’s completely sapped of its purpose and flair.

The young ladies try to pick things up musically on the next track (“Konya wa Pizza Party”) but the insipid lyrics remind the listener of why so many Westerners see Japanese music as a joke. Singing about “fantastic” pizza and “amazing taste” while mimicking the voice of an elementary school girl won’t bestow to you artistic credibility. “Hebun na Kibun” conveys the vibe of Cracker’s “I Hate My Generation,” but the lyrics leave only vague emotional impressions, prompting the listener to grasp at the point. Throughout the rest of this album, Scandal go back and forth from possibly pointless to vaguely motivational lyrics. It doesn’t get better musically either, as they waffle between cheerleader-pop, and old-school Radiohead-style jams, unable to commit either way.

They close the album with an English version of “Your Song” from their previous album, whose hook is almost directly stolen from Green Day’s “American Idiot” and whose lyrics consist of vaguely motivational clichés. As the last words “Just believe and keep moving on” hit your ears, one is left feeling grateful that it ended on a good note, but knowing that it’s not worth revisiting this recording.

Yellow out now.