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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

Second album from a relatively passable band, which concerns progheads for mostly two reasons: guitarist/singer (and only songwriter) David Sylvain and his future Fripp collabs, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri, who will find a way into Procupine Tree in the late 90's. As a typical late 70's glam rock band (although in terms of look they were more trendy than shocking ala Sparks or Tubes, but took an effeminate poseur stance ala NY Dolls) and bordering on post-punk, the photos on the sleeve gives you an idea of the musical direction taken: none at all, really!! Clearly with this band shot, Sylvain distances itself from his band mates, but there is indeed a real group behind him.

Musically their first three albums are more anything-goes as we get some semi-Bowie tracks (the opening track and Deviation), some reggae songs (Rhodesia is actually quite interesting for a first few listens with its addictive keyboard layer, but doesn't escape its boring fate, while the title track is also reggae-ish), some very riffy tracks (Love Is Infectious is a strong guitar-lead rocker), and some have interesting interplay: Suburban Berlin's keys (Barbieri) and bass (Karn's fretless) works are indeed interesting. Easily the album's highlight is the closing The Tenant (where bassist Karn gets on the sax horn) a nearly instrumental ambient-like with its slow intro and semi-Frippian guitar line.

The remastered version comes with a series of track from this album recorded in Tokyo (over which I won't bother) and a CD-Rom video clip. While hardly a prog album, it turns out that OA might just be the group's better effort and roughly half the tracks on it are susceptible to interest the progheads.

Report this review (#146833)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars If ever you believe that you had missed something with their first album, let me just tell you that this one is as poor as their debut one.

Of course, this album is almost thirty years old.

Still, I am found of the seventies and there are hundreds of records of great interest which were released in that period. True prog ones (but they were very few during the late seventies) or not.

Passion is totally absent of this record. It is rather difficult to swallow such an inclusion here. Lots of bands available on PA are not prog (the list would be long if I had to mention them all.) but "Japan" is one of the most questionable.

There were lots of creative bands in these days, but very few were prog. They were creative and brought a new angle in ROCK music. "Japan" is absolutely NOT one of these. A band such as "Doctors Of Madness" released far much better albums than this poor one (two actually). Of course, they are totally forgotten by now).

Trying to mention one great song from album is a difficult task. Even if the type of music "Japan" was playing in 1978 was more appealing while I discovered it than now.

Jewel songs are like a ghost in here. They just don't exist. Another weak album from "Japan".

I am just reviewing this band because I got to listen to them some thirty years from now. But not because I believe they were great. By no means.

One star for this poor release.

Report this review (#155977)
Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Japan has really improved on this second album. I enjoyed very few parts on their debut album which I found a bit trivial and not very exciting. On Obscure Alternatives there are more promising initiatives.

Automatic Gun has some really nice bass playing and is generally a pretty good song. Rhodesia which has a repetitive groove and some nice keyboard underlaying by Richard Barbieri ( now in Porcupine Tree) is even better. The album has started in a very good fashion. Love is Infectious continues the high level and has a great memorable guitar riff. Sometimes I Feel So Low isn´t my cup of tea and is below par IMO. It´s not a complete failure though.

The title track starts out very promising with some rythmic guitar and bass and it has an overall feel that is pretty dark. It might be my favorite here. The next track called Deviation is my least favoured song here and it´s a great contrast to the brilliant title track. Suburban Berlin is another favorite of mine. Note that there is even a somewhat symphonic chorus in this song. It´s a very good song. The album ends with The Tenant which is a beatiful instrumental song with lots of beatiful yet subtle instrumental interplay. It reminds me of a lighter Talk Talk.

The musicians have really stepped up since the debut. Richard Barbieri´s keyboards are much more hearable in the soundscape than on the debut and then I have to praise Mick Karn for his fabulous bass playing. That man touches genious at times IMO.

The production is very good, caught somewhere between the seventies and the eighties.

Japan has really surprised me with Obscure Alternatives, and even though this might not go down in history as the best album in the world or the most progressive one for that matter it´s a good album in my world that even touches excellent at times. 3 stars from me to Obscure Alternatives. I think I´m slowly becoming a fan of Japan.

Report this review (#167609)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink

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