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13+ songs to listen to while you wait for X Japan’s new album

matsumoto · 1635

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Offline matsumoto

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You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can barely breathe. You squirm, fidget, curse and punch your fist into the bathroom wall as you stare at your own disheartened reflection in the mirror. You cling white-knuckled onto every enamel surface within your reach and groan in agony, yet nothing will come out. Do and say what you might, it won’t come out. It just won’t come out… worry not, fellow fan, it’s not constipation we’re talking about, it’s the new X Japan album. And while you can always put your good old CDs to good use and replay Blue Blood as many times as your eardrums will allow it before you begin to feel lightheaded and reasonably nauseous, we decided to help you out with this list of (drum roll) underrated Jrock songs you might fancy. Post your own!


1. The Birthday, Shunrai, 2006


Listening to The Birthday is like walking into a room that smells like hairspray, second-hand leather, smoke, booze breath and the mistakable lingering odor of that old pair of Doc Martens of yours that have seen better days. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing. The Birthday, formed in 2006, is a garage rock band that sounds just like that: a bunch of rockers recording in a garage, with raspy vocals and a good deal of hoarse screaming of the type that your vocal chords can only produce after a long night of drinking import bourbon from 7-Eleven and an impromptu band rehearsal at dawn in someone’s cramped garage. By the way, Yusuke Chiba, who looks just like an Asian version of Jim Morrison, is one of the best voices you’ll hear in the Jap rock scene, no joke. Because literally no one knows about this band in the West, I had a lot of trouble finding this masterpiece, Shunrai, clean-cut on Youtube. But don’t you fret, skip to 16:57 on the video if you want to go straight to the good stuff - and by good stuff I mean the kind of rock ballad that makes Axl Rose sound like a joke in November Rain. Oh yes, Yusuka Chiba’s vocals are that good.


2. The Stalin, Insect, 1983


You don’t walk into The Stalin’s room. The Stalin kick down your door and storm into your room. And if you don’t stop them, they’ll drink all your booze, hook up with your wife and convince your kids to put their hair up, sell all their possessions, get a dog and go live under a bridge like “them punks”. Because who even calls their band The Stalin? Dudes who like to provoke snowflake, post-war Japan who would certainly rather eat a cockroach than shake hands with a Soviet. And since Michiro Endo, the epic Endo, met his ultimate end last month, let me tell you a couple of stories he’d sure like me to tell you. Endo once brought a severed real pig’s head on stage. Endo once took all of his clothes off during a gig and beat his proverbial meat in front of hundreds of stunned onlookers. Endo destroyed literally every stage he ever played on and regularly punched people in the audience for no reason. Endo once threw human feces into the crowd. Endo once deliberately puked on the fans in the front row. Endo once died, but Endo once lived and god for shame, we’d rather eat a cockroach than NOT share a picture of him naked and doing what he did best on stage:


Picture courtesy of Imai Hisahi's instagram.


3. Dir en Grey, Vanitas, 2011


So I told you what it is like to walk into a Birthday room. What would it be to walk into a Dir en Grey room, then? Forgive me for the explicit mental image, but it’s sort of like walking into your housemate’s room without knocking and finding him… sacrificing baby white rabbits while simultaneously being whipped by a 7 feet tall dominatrix that bears a striking resemblance to a cross-dressing Lou Reed. Oh yeah, that’s weird. Lots and blood, vomit and rage fits are used as ingredients too. Dir en Grey is virtually impossible to define given the extent of their experimenting over the past two decades. All critics seem to agree on is that they’re “some sort of metal”, which I would possibly define as an improbable subform of progressive rock, but still I’d be grasping at straws. With Dum Spiro Spero, Dir en Grey entered a different era marked not only by a discernible change in sound, but also by a giant leap that came in the form of a political stance. And let me tell you, it takes some balls to be more than a song-singing form of light entertainment for dandelion-headed fangirls when you’re a musician in Japan. Dir en Grey, I salute you! Dum Spiro Spero is a gem of an avant-garde metal album and my pick goes for track 13, Vanitas.It takes a tremendous amount of talent to sing this masterpiece of a song that is basically five minutes of caressing your eardrums with a very sharp knife… wrapped in velvet. Isn’t it just a joy to find out that even the most extreme metal overlords have inconspicuous depths of empathy and hidden underground lakes so full of melancholy and poignancy you can drown in them again and again as you wonder, dumbfounded, what is it that makes them want to put on that monster front in the first place?


4. Atsushi Sakurai, Cities in Dust, 2015


How do you walk into this guy’s room, then? Once certainly doesn’t walk in uninvited. You receive a fancypants invitation in a silver gothic font on quality black paper and he doesn’t fail to mention that this is a black-tie event. Okay, not just black tie, black everything, sweetheart. Sakurai’s little goth side project is a masterpiece of stellar original songwriting and performance, but I couldn’t help but gravitate towards this prodigious Cities in Dust “cover” - and yes, let’s stress the inverted commas because there are original Japanese lyrics and an arrangement that happens to be a thousand shades darker than Siouxsie's. How does one even begin to explain Sakurai? This unassuming visual kei grandpa who grew out of big hair and flamboyance almost as quickly as he got into them, this bat who never leaves the cave, this misanthropic little man who abhors interviews and possibly even his own fans, doubles as a ferocious goth beast capable of leaving you lying on your kleenex-littered bathroom floor holding a razor on one hand and a tube of eyeliner in the other. This is not just new wave, love, this is a full blown Shakespearean tempest.


5. Soft Ballet, White Shaman, 1993


One doesn’t simply walk into a Soft Ballet room. You wear your best black and white sequined jumpsuit best fit for a gay pride afterparty at the Berliner Berghain and you slide in doing your best impersonation of a moonwalking Michael Jackson. The thing with Soft Ballet is that it really isn’t for everyone and they might have hit their peak way ahead of their time. Japan was too busy reveling in the newfound freedom brought on by the punk rock movement and there weren’t many goths with a thing for stylish electronic music played in smoky basements by intriguing but impeccably dressed DJs to fully embrace the synth-pop movement. Sadly Soft Ballet was a short-lived project. The three members didn’t really get along and went separate ways shortly after they hit their peak. As far as we know, Ryoichi Endo quit the music sometime in the early 2000s and Ken Morioka died a few years back. Fuji Maki (yep, that’s his name) worked sporadically on his side-projects until he too went off the radar. We suspect that he now owns a sushi restaurant.


6. Der Zibet, A Song to Wait, 1985


You don’t need to knock on Der Zibet’s door. They open it for you, quite slowly at first, deliberately, and then they ask you if you fancy Victorian stage plays featuring real vampires. But before you can say a word, your neck is punctured by a surprisingly minimalistic set of sharp fangs. That’s it, you’re one of them now. Der Zibet is one of the most New Wave things you’ll ever see, but believe it or not, they once were, along with X, Dead End, D’erlanger and Buck-Tick, the grandpas of visual kei. A Song to Wait is an incredibly simple, minimalist song that will give you chills and make you travel back to post-war Japan. Hiroshima, mon amour. Also, kudos for Issay, for being one of the very few openly gay musicians in the Jrock scene. I can’t stress this enough.


7. Vow Wow, I’ve Thrown It All Away, 1990


Way before you can walk into a Vow Wow backstage room, you have to queue outside and… holy cow! Is that an 18 year-old Hide from Saver Tiger holding a Warning From Stardust vinyl waiting for an autograph? Confirmed. Cool hair, Hide. And trust me, Hide was a fan for a reason. His favourite record was the aforementioned Warning From Stardust, but I beg to disagree - Mountaintop was clearly superior. Genki Hitomi, the best of the vocalists they ever hired, is a softer, fresher version of Klaus Meine with his raspy vocals, passionate performances and high notes held for such a deliciously long time you can often see him bending in two. You know your vocalist is doing a great job when he’s red in the face from hypoxia, man. Genki, who is probably in his mid-60s now, retired from the music industry at a fairly young age and became a school teacher, if the internet is to be trusted. As for Kyoji Yamamoto, he’s still alive and kicking. A friend of mine met him in Paris last year and he invited him for lunch. I would sell my pinky finger for Kyoji Yamamoto to invite me for lunch too but I guess I’m not cool enough. Yet.


8. Concerto Moon, Break it Down, 1999


I’m going to make a really bold statement here: if you walk into a Concerto Moon room, you walk straight into what X Japan could have been if things hadn’t taken an odd turn after Art of Life. It’s powerful, it’s poignant, it’s melodic, it’s melancholic, there’s lots of beautiful guitar solos (thanks Norifumi Shima) and the singer, while not outstanding, does a great job at hitting the same notes Toshi pulled off with a tad bit more elegance and passion in Rose of Pain. This is such an overlooked power metal band with such immense potential I have trouble believing few people know about them in the West. Why is that? Could it be that they don’t really do hair spray, fancy makeup or avant garde outfits? Could it be that they’re just a bunch of nondescript middle-aged guys with long hair in pretty ordinary black shirts? Can J-music fans really be that shallow? Yes, they can. Maybe that’s why in recent years they hired Wataru Haga to sing their songs. The guitar riffs are still on fleek, Haga’s only talent is looking good, though.


9. Buck-Tick, Victims of Love, 1988


Buck-Tick should be no strangers to you at this point since you literally just walked into Sakurai’s room a few paragraphs above. But that was you walking into into a pretty formal and uptight, slightly snotty upscale party for middle-aged goths who like to talk about fine wine and (real) vintage decorative skulls. Now walk into his band’s room and it’s considerably less snotty. You could even have fun here, but unfortunately everyone’s looking kind of constipated. Except Sakurai himself, of course, who looks constipated and sad. Why so sad? No one knows. Why so constipated? Probably not eating enough fiber. But trust me, if Victims of Love won’t make you any happier, at least it will transport you somewhere else. Where? A room with big windows at dawn and that filtered blue glow that is so omnipresent in the goth scene. You’re sitting there smoking sat on a pile of Depeche Mode LPs (because it’s the late 80s), and you’ve got this feeling you can’t shake off and you don’t know if it’s boredom, hornyness, sadness, or all of it at once. Everything happening so fast you reach out but can’t seize anything… I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling, dixit Joy Division.


10. Dead End, Song of a Lunatic, 1987


You want to walk into a Dead End room, but chances you are not cool enough. You’ll never have that hair-sprayed, leather-clad, heavily made-up nonchalant je ne sais quoi. You’ll never have that voice with those rough undertones that inspired thousands of young aspiring visual-keiers in the 80s, you’ll never move on stage with that suave elegance and you’ll never quite seduce the lassies on the front row like Morrie used to. Accept it. Dead End’s cooler than you’ll ever be. Sakura from L’arc-en-ciel used to be their roadie and it shows.


11. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paradise UFO, Soleil de Crystal et Lune d’Argent, 2002


You can’t walk into an Acid Mothers Temple room because there is no room. There is no you. There is no walk. There is an ‘into’, though, but as you go there you realise that you are one with the universe and that ego is the biggest lie perception has ever fed us. I would love to use very witty and caustic words to describe this band (project? act?), but I’m too busy floating in a very deep, very dark ocean, and oh, is that the sound of my perception’s doors opening? Acid Mothers is what happens when the Japanese get their hands on some of those funny mushrooms and go make love (not war) on a Persian rug in some basement where a turntable plays Tubular Bells over and over.


12. MUCC, The Back Alley From Me To You, 2004


If you walk into a MUCC room, remember to walk barefoot. Their frontman always performs barefoot. No one really knows why, and apparently not even himself, but it works. Get over the smell of unwashed feet and focus on the music for once, pal. Actually, on your way up from undoing your shoes, close your eyes and keep them like that. This band is a bit of an eyesore, you were warned. But trust me, they’re still worth the detour. I didn’t find MUCC’s music particularly groundbreaking judging from their albums, but I’m glad I gave them a chance and looked up their lives and lyrics. And let me tell you they had some stellar songwriting in the early 2000s. And it usually helps when your singer has quite a spectacular vocal range and lungs of steel. And it also helps that he writes haunting T.S.Eliot-like lines such as “may all things be overcome with froth and may everything turn to ash”. Revel in that vocal talent and in the finesse of those lyrics at will, but remember, fella, walk barefoot.


13. Boøwy, B Blue, 1986


Yours truly here never walked into a Boowy room, because Boowy is a band from the 80s, but yours truly can say she once walked into a Hotei room. It was a boat-turn livehouse docked in a bourgeois Parisian river bank and the whole gig room was actually happening underwater. The drinks were overpriced and the staff insufferable, but the steaming hot fumes (it was September) that hit me right in the face when I made it downstairs betrayed an enthusiasm and a nostalgia that only a great, long-gone cult band can leave in the air forevermore. Hotei brought his iconic Boøwy guitar on stage. A Japanese dude in the back of the room promptly took his shoes and shirt off and began to scream and dance like he probably used to in Gunma’s cramped little live houses 35 years back. Couples began kissing with tongue. High-heeled shoes came off. Beer sold out. Want a little fun fact? Hotei was kicked out high school because he said Jesus had long hair, so he wasn’t cutting his. I'm not cutting mine either.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2019, 04:40:22 PM by matsumoto »

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Offline kayabee

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ohhh im gonna listen to these when i get home! but we should probably rotate every 6 months because that album is gonna be the death of us lmao



Offline WeekEnder

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Buck tick is surprisingly happy sounding lol

Ya'll can call me weeĸυ