Day: October 1, 2015

ROCK HISTORY: JAPAN – QUIET LIFE (1979)ROCK HISTORY: JAPAN – QUIET LIFE (1979)

Japan1979

English band Japan never hid their influences, with The New York Dolls, Roxy Music, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground, readily apparent from their image and music. Consisting of David Sylvian (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Barbieri (synths, keyboards), Mick Karn (bass, sax, flute, backing vocals), Steve Jansen (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Rob Dean (guitar), the band would in turn inspire many of the 80s New Romantics (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet etc) though the band themselves swore off that label.

Quiet Life, their 3rd LP, is significant as it signalled a shift in style as Japan eschewed the glam-rock of their first two LPs in favour of a more experimental synth-based approach, which bordered on art rock. This allowed the creativity of Karn and Barbieri to shine through in their instrumental work and Sylvian began to step of the shadow of his #1 vocal inspiration, Bryan Ferry. Guitars were no longer used to provide chordal accompaniment and where utilised would be more atmospheric in nature. This change in direction probably led to guitarist Dean leaving, subsequent to the album’s release.

Songs like the dance-rocking title track, the mutant groovy “In Vogue” and the Roxy-channeling “Halloween” provided the album highlights, whilst the sublime cover of the Velvets’ “All Tomorrow’s Parties” would make for a particularly memorable single.

As a quartet, Japan would go on to release the successful Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum albums before splitting up in 1982 to explore even more progressive rock territories individually.

… still there’s more… 

ALBUM REVIEW: POP4 – SUMMERALBUM REVIEW: POP4 – SUMMER

Pop4

I am so sick and tired of defending ‘classic’ pop songwriting – why should the age of a genre ever come into the assessment of good music.

Anyways, thankfully I have a musical representation of this argument in the form of Pop4’s brilliant album Summer. Comprising of Scott McPherson, KC Bowman, Kirk Adams and Andrea Perry – a power pop brain trust, for those in the know – Pop4 exploits the diverse strengths of its members to provide one of the finer pop albums of 2015.

Highlights include the droll putdown “You’re No Aimee Mann” (which Mann herself approves of, it seems!), the delightfully ELO-channelling “Einstein and Sunshine” and the warm pastoral “Beautiful”.

There’s no doubt that we need more sophisticated melodic albums like Summer – no irony, no pretension, no pastiche – I am glad to declare that this is the real deal.

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