For day three, I feel like nerding out a little, and sharing some of the Japanese music I'm into. My yellow fever's definitely receeded over the years, and I can't remember the last time I actively bothered to read any manga or follow an anime, but most of the music I ran into in my more Japanophilic days has stayed around.
And no, it's not going to be a bunch of anime and game theme songs. For the most part. So much for sticking to less than ten songs a post.
TWO-MIX - White Reflection
TWO-MIX has to be the first J-group I really got into, after some internet cohorts introduced me to them in high school. They're fairly poppy, but not quite as sugar-coated and annoying as a lot of other j-pop out there. That, and they just do not stop
; I think the last album of theirs I got was BPM Cube, at least five years ago, and there's a lot of unfamiliar material I noticed when finding this vid.
The vid itself was produced in direct conjunction with the duo, and included as a bonus on one of their early "best of" albums, of which they have a gajillion. If they sound familiar to you, they've done themes for Gundam Wing and Detective Conan/Case Closed, among other things, and the vocalist, Minami Takayama, does Conan's voice in the original show.
Thee Michelle Gun Elephant - GT400
If you ever forget how to rock, put on some TMGE. Immune to the corrosive influences of visual kei, ballady power-pop, or any other sort of crap that turns into more spectacle than songwriting, these guys are a much more comfortable alternative to sticking a guitar straight into your ear.
Shaka Labbits - Flapper
I'll admit this band was introduced to me via a video game opening, but the guy who brought the game back with him from Japan to show us made the effort of finding their first album (and is, oddly enough, the person who posted this video in the first place). Rolling with a mid-heavy, ska-punkish sound, with things getting more straight-rock in flavor as they aged, with the occasional hilarious Engrish thrown in to most of their tracks, I can't help but be in a better mood whenever they come on. Also, their version of That Thing You Do
is easily one of my favorite covers of anything, ever. Yeah, the song from the movie.
Peelander-Z - MAD TIGER
Technically, these guys are Japanese-American, but that means it's much easier to see them live, especially on the east coast. Of the three times I've seen them, I've been pulled onstage twice as a percussionist for this song (you'll see, around 2:20), and had a pair of glasses demolished in the mosh pit that formed at the most recent instance (yeah, bad idea, but I needed new ones anyway). Noisy garage punk and nonsensical, sometimes satirical lyrics make for a great time, every time. I'm pretty sure I'm somewhere in the crowd from the footage they start off with and return to a couple times.
Guitar Wolf - Gakulan Rider
My favorite story about Guitar Wolf was from a friend of mine I never knew was into them, until I mentioned them in passing, and he elaborated about this time he saw them live. Guitar Wolf (the lead guy) spent a good twenty minutes just combing his hair at the front of the stage. The crowd kept getting louder and demanding something happen, but he was unfazed. Suddenly, he just wails into the opening chords of the set, and refuses stop for the rest of the night, save for replacing several guitar strings between every two or three songs.
If you like your rock noisy, not to mention LOUD, these guys are for you. If you enjoy goofy sci-fi or zombie flicks, they are also right up your alley; they were the driving force behind and starred in such a film that goes by the name of Wild Zero. Watch it, and you shall not be disappointed.
Love Psychedelico - Lady Madonna
Another band introduced to me by the same guy as Shaka Labbits, falling in love with Love Psychedelico was almost instantaneous. Their interesting folk-rock sound, combined with the vocalist's effortless shifts from Japanese to (pretty good) English, and back again, make for a listening experience relatively uncommon amongst Japanese rockers.
Round Table f/ Nino - Groovin' Magic
Okay, I confess, it's another anime theme; this song was the opener to the (amazing) show Diebuster/Gunbuster 2. Which you should watch right now, or as soon as you're done with this article, because it is over-the-top Gainax at its best. Anyway, between this and recalling the OP they did for the show Chobits (which blows, don't waste your time watching that one), I decided to investigate them a bit further. Round Table consistently inspires dancing, pairing poppy, upbeat tunes with funky basslines and sensibility.
Guitar Vader - She's So Heavy
A fixture from the Jet Set/Grind Radio games, Guitar Vader has come a long way, and polished its sound quite a bit since then. Fortunately, they did so without diminishing their garage sound roots, even with the occasional experimentation with synthesizers alongside more traditional instrumentation. The best way to get a handle on them is to try and track down their first full album, entitled Die Happy!
Geinoh Yamashirogumi - Kaneda
Okay, this is the last direct-from-anime one, I promise. Geinoh Yamashirogumi did the entire soundtrack for Akira, but that's nothing
compared to the rest of their repertoire. This crew experiments with instruments and musical traditions from all across the globe, with albums that have explored Africa, regions of Europe, and so many other places. I picked this video in particular so you could see it wasn't just one or two dudes messing around in a studio; Geinoh Yamashirogumi is serious business.
Here's a fun challenge for you to try: next time makeouts are imminent, put on the Akira soundtrack, and see how far you and your partner can go before it gets too awkward or ridiculous. Escalation of activities is permitted, but you have to keep the album on. No one I know has finished the entire LP. No one
Cibo Matto - Know Your Chicken
Another Japanese-American group, Yuka and Miho of Cibo Matto managed to get some brief publicity back in the 90s, with videos for Sugar Water and Know Your Chicken (which embedding was disabled on) seeing at least a bit of airtime on MTV, before sliding quietly back into obscurity. An odd blend of
styles that jumps all over the place, these girls had a little bit of something for everyone, with laughable lyrics to go along with. I'm not sure if Yuka went on to much else afterward, but Miho Hattori landed a gig as Noodle's voice in Gorillaz.
Tommy February6 - Everyday At The Bus Stop
Sometimes, you just need some cheesy, 80s-inspired synthpop. This isn't just throwaway bubblegum, though; Tomoko Kawase, formerly (and once again) of The Brilliant Green is a damn genius, and knew exactly what she was doing with this persona. As a contrast to all this sugar, she later went on to release material as a flipside persona of sorts, Tommy Heavenly6, which was darker and more punk-inspired. Both personae have recently dropped new material, too, which was not entirely expected after her rejoining her old band and putting out a new album with them.
FUN FACT: Despite the fact that most of her songs are primarily in English, Tomoko barely knows any English herself.
Boom Boom Satellites - Push Eject
Harder listening and more experimental than a lot of the other stuff in this article, Boom Boom Satellites was a lucky find during a channel-flip back in high school, where they were featured on some international music snippet on CNN. Unlike a lot of the other groups mentioned, they've actually seen some albums released in the US. Their style, to me, seems like what would happen if distortiony rock and trip hop had a slightly malformed but savant child. If nothing else, they get points for song titles such as Scatterin' Monkey and Shut Up And Explode.
Towa Tei - Technova
While he is of Korean descent, Towa Tei's spent most of his life in Japan. You should definitely recognize him; under the name Towa Towa, he was on the tables for Deee-lite, and is pretty easy to spot in the video for Groove Is In The Heart (hints: he's not Bootsy Collins and he's not the guy on slide whistle). Even before his stint with them, Towa was an established DJ, and went right back to the scene once Deee-lite's day in the sun ended. He's played around with all sorts of genres and languages, so chances are, he's done something, somewhere, that you would enjoy.
Now that I've sufficiently inundated you with music from the land of the rising sun, feel free to indulge in an orgy of bagpipe music, black metal, or what-have-you to purge yourself. Hopefully, I've shown you that music doesn't have to be in a language you understand to be enjoyable. read