Something Different: Japan

Sticking with the musical theme this week I am going to suggest you check out one of the best English bands ever in my opinion, and certainly one of my favourites, but I admit I have to be in the mood to listen to them but when I am, they are just an amazing band. That band is Japan.

Formed in the mid-70’s by David Syvian, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, and including Rob Dean until 1981, they became I think one of the most influential bands of the 70s and 80s. The group released 7 albums in total plus there have been a few compilations over the years so here is my take on their work.

Tin Drum (1981)

This album included Ghosts which is one of my favourite songs of all time and one that I have mentioned before, it is a fantastic song but this is a fantastic album overall. Songs like Visions of China, Sons of Pioneers, Canton, The Art of Parties, are excellent but the whole album is a stand out and David Sylvian, while not always being complimentary of the work of the band, always noted that this album was a step in the right direction.

Gentlemen Take Polaroid’s (1980)


Again not a bad song on this album at all really. Gentlemen Take Polaroid’s, Nightporter, My New Career, Methods of Dance, Taking Islands in Africa being the stand outs and this album was probably the start of the really defined Japan sound. The band really starting to generate a kind of euro-ambient sound with strong vocals, lyrically excellent and musically brilliant.

Quiet Life (1979)


This album was a huge departure from the first two albums in many ways. The band really were growing up musically and moving away from the late 70s kind of glam rock type influences. I really like this album a lot and most of the songs on it to be honest. Quiet Life, Fall in Love with You, All Tomorrow’s Parties and the Other Side of Life are the real stand outs and another really great album.

Oil on Canvas (1983)


A double live album and one of the best live albums and videos I have seen to be honest. Watching Mick Karn play bass guitar is really something to behold, check it out I am not joking. He sadly passed away from cancer a few years back but Mick Karn for me is the best bassist I have ever heard that’s for sure. All the hits are there and sound amazing live, I had the good pleasure of seeing David Sylvian in Glasgow in the 90’s and I wish I had been able to see Japan live also but I got into them years after they had broken up.

Rain Tree Crow (1991)


The band reformed for one album under the name Rain Tree Crow in 91 releasing an album of the same name and it was exciting to be able to listen to a new Japan album. All the members, apart from David Sylvian, wanted to use the Japan name and eventually tensions regarding Sylvians control of the process would mean the band didn’t really record as a four piece again after this album which was really sad. There are a lot of good songs on the album and the stand outs for me are Blackwater, Every Colour You Are, Pocket Full of Change, New Moon at Red Deer Wallow, Cries and Whispers and Boat’s for Burning.

Obscure Alternatives (1978)

This is the bands second album and they are trying to find their style in so many ways. I’ll admit not an album I listen to a lot, maybe once a year or so. Rob Dean was still involved on guitar with the band at this point and there are a couple of songs I like Rhodesia, Sometime I Feel So Low, Obscure Alternatives and The Tenant. Sometimes I Feel So Low was one of the first hit singles the band had.

Adolescent Sex (1978)


Japans first album which didn’t do much in the UK but very successful in Japan. It’s a bit of a mix to be honest with Don’t Rain on my Parade, Performance, Suburban Love, Communist China being the main ones I like on the album. It’s not a bad album and you can definitely hear the rock, disco and punk influences with a bit of electric keyboards, Sylvians vocals are very different on this album with a faster sound that really doesn’t give much indication of what was to come.

Well that was Japan, well worth a listen and a band that if you persist you will love.


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