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Japan - Tin Drum  CD (album) cover




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3.23 | 83 ratings

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Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Japan are a rather peculiar entry on this site. They were a band that are more at home placed in the pantheon of 80's 'New Wave' or 'alternative' genre, rather than a prog-related entry, but their diverse ideas and unusual influences (as their name suggests, Oriental, and sometimes Middle-Eastern) gives them a lot of personality and one could view this as quite an interesting amalgam of ideas. Now, I first heard this album when my sister regularly spun her record of it during the 80's and the main thing that struck me was the fluid Fretless bass playing of Mick Karn and unique synth textures from PORCUPINE TREE's Richard Barbieri (I was quite surprised when I learnt that he joined PT). A lot of the drumming/percussive rhythms on this album remind me of Jaki Liebezeit (from CAN). I listen and appreciate this record for its individual parts, as opposed to the overall 'glammy, hairspray, sophisticated' fad of the time (if you follow my rambling,) in other words, the very 'fashionable' 80's styling.

Rather than explaining the songs themselves, I will try to describe some of the points that may interest the prog listener - opening track, 'The Art of Parties' is pretty average fare for the time, but an Eno-esque, or maybe Adrian Belew flavoured guitar solo (from lead vocalist David Sylvian) is quite an unexpected twist. Title track 'Talking Drum' contains a Middle-Eastern flavoured violin solo from guest Simon House (ex-HAWKWIND). As its name suggests, 'Ghosts' is a haunting, mysterious synth based track with the Bryan Ferry-like crooning of New-Wave vocals taken to extreme - originally on their early releases, Sylvian sang in a more Punkish way, although the music lacked something then. 'Canton' is an Oriental sounding instrumental.

'Still Life in Mobile Homes' and 'Visions of China' are typical examples of New Wave/New Romantic sounding music, but the bass playing is a cut above average. The highlight here, 'Sons Of Pioneers' is a rhythmic tour-de-force driven along nicely by Karn's Fretless bass riffs (including chords) and the CAN-like drumming of Steve Jansen. Barbieri's synth work really generates an other- worldly atmosphere. Back to that New Wave territory again for 'Cantonese Boy' but still demonstrating a very musicianly approach.

I am probably being generous by awarding 3 stars to this album, but 'Tin Drum' is not without its charms, they certainly incorporate some disparate ideas to work perfectly within their 80's framework and may appeal to many.

Tom Ozric | 3/5 |


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