Friday Song: Japan

One of the most influential New Wave groups of the 80’s didn’t even get a chance to ride the surf as they were too ahead of their time and not always of it. Influenced by Bowie, Roxy Music and the New York Dolls, Japan was founded by David Sylvian in 1974. They achieved British chart success in their run and increased recognition just when they disbanded in 1982 after their final eclectic LP, “Oil On Canvas.” Their previous 1980 pop masterpiece and summation, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids,” would be a big inspiration to Duran Duran (you can see where Nick Rhodes got his initial fashion sense from this video) and others that were about to musically redefine the decade.

Japan never had an archetypal New Romantic sound, it was jangly, exotic and filled with discordant soundscapes. But on “Gentlemen,” they refined their unique sound into what I think of as perfect Friday night Euro-trash driving music (or in my case, cruising downtown Sacramento at the time). There are staggeringly beautiful melancholy moments here, particularly in the piano-based, “Nightporter.” Along with that, master Japanese synthesist and collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto played on tracks, including the epic final song, “Taking Islands In Africa.” After Japan broke up, David Sylvian went on to forge a brilliant new career as a solo artist; I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him and Sakamoto perform in Berkeley. So if you’re not hip to Japan, it’s time to revisit the band of the rising sun.

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3 Responses to “Friday Song: Japan”

  1. I only recently learned of Japan by following thread King Crimson -> Robert Fripp -> David Sylvian -> Japan. Learning that wicked fretless bass player Mike Karn participated was bonus.

    David and Robert Fripp have some collaborations that i someday need to chase down …

  2. frankbooth Says:

    Utter coolness. And now I know who to blame for Duran Duran!

  3. christian Says:

    Duran Duran took from the best. But seriously, you could play the last track of this album then the first track of DD’s first LP and it’s instant transferal of pop energy.

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