Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AKB48, Teddybears, Tiamat, Pizzicatto Five and Arashi

There are many things I like about Japan, however Japanese pop music is not one of them. My ignorant impression of Japanese pop music is that it comes into one of the following categories:

  • Girl groups like Morning Musume and AKB48 catering to the Lolico crowd of single men in their late 30's early '40s with a creepy obsession of the girls. These groups are also pretty good at being horrible singers with voices slightly below "that girl at work that is decent at karaoke"

  • Boy Bands straight out of Johnny's like SMAP, Arashi or even worse; Hey Say Jump. I'm not sure who actually likes these bands, but my guess is that the non-threatening appearance makes them particularly appealing to insecure young girls and gay men, I can't imagine who else would listen to it considering that singing usually is not their strong side

  • Visual Kei bands like Glay, Gilgamesh and whatever they are called. I find this category in particular quite offensive since they take the attributes of a sub-culture but play really bland stale regular rock music which is alternative only to appearances, to an old EBM Electrohead like me it's only about posing

  • Shonan Rappers who seem way too happy with life, rapping about how great it is with beach life, girls and generally partying; pretty far off from N.W.A. and Public Enemy

  • The rest, basically normal R&B inspired mainstream music like Ayumi Hamasaki and whatnot, nothing that interests me particularly although it doesn't really offend me

So, I mostly stick with Western music and yesterday I realized that the Swedish band Teddybears had released a new album "Devil's Music" (hey, since they're pretty big now they don't really need much promotion, but check out their song Punkrocker ft. Iggy Pop here) which triggered a frantic search in trying to get hold of the album. After quite some time of searching the options available I could not find any torrent site having the album and iTunes refused to let me buy it since it's not offered on the Japanese site and not officially released in Japan yet either and meeting the similar situation at klicktrack.com teasing me with the text "This release is unfortunately not available from this shop in your country".

After being very close to giving up and ordering a physical copy of the CD from the old country I finally managed to find a Swedish record store having it for download, and since the site only was available in Swedish I guess they figured that they could contain sales to Sweden only without locking it for other countries I finally managed to get hold of a copy.

It's good stuff, the groove that Teddybears can create in their best moments is up there with the best moments of Fatboy Slim and My life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Although it didn't reach the heights of their previous album "Soft Machine" I still highly recommend it! After the recent quite disappointing release by Dark Tranquility and the lack of lifesigns from Tiamat it felt good to not be let down by the teddies.


aimlesswanderer said...

Don't really like any Japanese popular music. Terrible cloned groups, high pitched teenagers, no thanks. My 2 favourite composers mostly do anime soundtracks:

Yoko Kanno
Tank, a jazz inspired piece
Free Bird, a lovely vocal

Yuki Kajiura
Canta Per Me
The World

I really envy you ya know. If I lived there nothing short of the country getting attacked by Godzilla, Gamera and Mothra would have stopped me from going to one of Yuki's big concerts.

Climate Morio said...

I feel that i should stand up for the gay demographic and say that we don't like them either.

...then again, me and my demographic have often not seen eye to eye.

Anyway, i feel your pain.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Aimless - Well, my lack of love for Japanese anime probably makes that difficult... At the core of it, I'm more of an EBM and goth kinda guy...

Climate - No? THis can't be? Are you... ... even suggesting that... ... gay men can have different tastes in music?! Just like "ordinary" people?! This will take some time to digest...

aimlesswanderer said...

I only like the more mature series, and my tolerance for stupidity has decreased as I age.

But they have some great music.

F-A de Montille said...

If the population that was asking for Hey! Say! Jump? tickets when I exited Harajuku station the other week is any indicator, your guess is right on who's listening to Johnny's prefabricated idols : prepubescent girls.

Teen-related feeling of uncertainty and insecurity plus sensitivity to mass marketing lobotomy might be a good reason for the appeal those asexual performers have on this strata.

Anonymous said...

The tv shows are the secret to the popularity. SMAP wasn't popular until they appeared on tv.

I googled "Inagaki Goro scandal" and found this.

Mr. Akimoto's formula for girl groups

Basically, despite having less than average talent, looks, and ability, cookie cutter j-pop idols (Utada Hikaru is not included in this category because she is a DAM* good singer!) become popular through their characters. Veteran Johnny's groups almost always have their own shows where they can cultivate personality images. Whether the personality is real or not, I admire their ability to keep up the act in front of the camera. They're funny, good at talking, polite, nice, have good stylists, and generally act like genuinely good guys--the kind that many girls/women would like to meet in real life. It's like what a host does for his clients (escapism, comfort, makes them feel better about their lives, perhaps teaching them to be better people in the process) except idols don't force their clients into prostitution to keep up the habit. After getting hooked on the shows, wanting to support their favorite group is natural, and that means buying cds and concert tickets (Arashi's are going for more than 180,000 yen in some places). The music is well-produced if nothing else and catchy (since they're usually used as theme songs for shows... resulting in earwurms).

I'm in between cynicism and being a fan right now since the ticket is so expensive... I'm reevaluating my liking of Johnny's.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you didn't mention Pizzicato 5 at all in this. Though Shibuya-kei is an effectively out-of-style trend... :(

Anonymous said...

japanese indie rock is pretty good though.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing creepy about being a man in his 30s or early 40s being sexually turned on by the AKB48 girls. That's your Judaeo-Christian guilt complex talking. Any normal heterosexual man would get turned on by their short skirts and knickers on display. I guess only choir boys or homosexuals would find it creepy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I like a lot of japanese things but I am phsically unable to listen to the music. I prefer korean music even then, I'm regretably reminded of how annoying some of the music actually is. However, not all their music is bad, some is actually not only tolerable but, tasteful.

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