Some Japanese Pop Music I Like
Note: I'm not updating or linking to this anymore. It's here for historical reference only. -- DG 6/01
What's good about Japanese pop music? The Japanese acts I like specialize in taking Western sounds and styles and throwing them back across the ocean in configurations you've never thought of before. They're also appealingly wacky. I've been told that although many of the bands below have cult followings in the U.S., they are not exceptionally popular in their own country. The Japanese don't know what they're missing.
The links below take you to Amazon.com, which has sound clips and such. Full disclosure: if you click and buy something from them, they give me a bit of store credit so I can waste more money on CDs.
Happy End of the World
Goofy nightclub music, stylish with a sense of humor. Lyrics in Japanese. Excellent CD booklet. See also the remix album.
Playboy & Playgirl
A bit more soulful and less techno-poppy than the previous one.
A new album, as of yet unheard: The Fifth Release From Matador
If the Ramones were a trio of Japanese women and they sang about spaceships...
Heavier on the guitars and the production. Thurston Moore guest-stars.
I don't have their latest one which is Happy Hour .
A guy with too many Beach Boys and Beatles records, locked in his bedroom and coming up with odd and extremely detailed pop songs. Lots of electronics and some big noisy guitar too. Great on headphones. See also FM, which is remixes of these songs by other people, and CM, which is Cornelius remixing songs by... those other people.
FANTASTIC PLASTIC MACHINE
Fantastic Plastic Machine
Retro and silly. Fluffy cocktail-party music. The drum-and-bass cover of "Steppin' Out" is good but would be much better if the singer could sing.
The latest album is Luxury. I don't have it -- I'm tired of silly.
Very playful rock music with some kinda slick spacey production touches and long jams. Some annoying pseudo-English.
UNITED FUTURE ORGANIZATION
United Future Organization
I guess this stuff was once known as "acid jazz." I have no idea what "acid jazz" means. I do know that this album mixes up lots of jazz, hip-hop, funk and so forth in a quite excellent way. Some French rapping, some Kerouac, some bossa nova, you know.
No Sound Is Too Taboo
This is their second album and its as good as the first. Did I mention that the group is two Japanese DJs and a French DJ? The last track has a big soaring chorus that makes you feel like going to church.
This one didn't grab me as much as the first two. They ditched some of the funkier stuff and went for a spy-movie soundtrack feel. I'm not big on spy movies.
Due out Jan. 2001: Bon Voyage
This is some highbrow electronica stuff. Will someone tell me if it's any good? And what about Tetsu Inoue? And... Puffy? (Holy import prices!)
Comments and suggestions are welcome. -- David
Things I Saw in Japan