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Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids CD (album) cover




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3.13 | 106 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
2 stars Japan is a band that I actually managed to hate, and I have to say that I've been successful in the task. Now, after about 40 years, I think I can forgive them for having existed and listen to their music without preconceptions. After all, it was David Sylvian's band and I like his solo stuff and there's some Richard Barbieri at the keyboards. I may have missed something, let's hear...

The title track is also the opener. One thing that I hated in the early 80s is that it seems that every singer wanted to sound like David Bowie. Sylvian is not an exception, but the whole band sounds very dated in the 80s. The song is based mainly on a two chord progression which become four in the chorus. Not bad for an elevator, it doesn't disturb. Ok, if there's nothing else available I can listen to it instead of switching a radio off. Just the instrumental coda is uselessly long as it's more repetitive than a Magma suite without being equally interesting.

"Swing" has a very strange tempo. Here Sylvian's voice has a lower pitch and for this reason it's like Spandau Ballet meets Joy Division. The worst thing is the bass line: a "Karn evil" I'd say (forgive me for the joke).

Electronics open "Burning Bridges"it starts promising. Also the keyboard's sound is interesting. The chord progression is unusual and the absence of the electronic drums is a good thing. Sylvian has a low pitched voice, like Richard Wright's Broken China. I have to say that this track has reminded it to me a bit. The instrumental base is probably Bowie influenced. Another album that comes to my mind is "Low". At least one track that I like.

Also "My New Career" has an unusual chord progression with some dissonances, coming mainly from the bass. I can imagine the manager saying: "Ok guys, the track title is appropriate, do something else". I'm still joking, I can't understand this track but it's my problem. I don't know if Japan were just trying to be original in some ways or if there's really an idea behind this song. No comment.

Back to electropop with "Methods Of Dance". Again, it's a sort of dark version of Spandau Ballet to my ears. Some sounds remind to "ZEE: Identity", but without Rick Wright's chord progressions. It's likely because everybody was using the same instruments in 1980. The instrumental interlude, before the sax, has something of early Depeche Mode.

Percussion start "Ain't That Peculiar". It came before Rick Wright's "Strange Rhythm" so it may have influenced him in some way. The two songs are quite similar. Again I can't stand the bass. Slapping is not enough to be funk.

Quite a surprise: the piano intro of "Nightporter". Less electronics: just an electric piano, some background keys and Sylvian's baritonal voice. I like it. It spreads sadness and decadence. It looks like it's about the omonimous movie, but I haven't seen the movie so I can't say. I just remember a trailer with a couple with an umbrella under a heavy rain, so it's possible.

The closer seems to be just sequencer's work. Not totally a stinker, as the vocal melody is not too bad.

It's not completely wasted time as I was supposing, but today we can buy and listen to music in very cheap ways and have instant access to almost everything is released. In 1980 I had few bucks and buying the back catalogue of the big 6 (5 for me, I don't love Genesis) was more rewarding than spending money on this stuff. So, if you want to give it a listen on Spotify, why not?

octopus-4 | 2/5 |


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