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Monday, May 8, 2017

Japan - "Tin Drum" CD Album, Reissue, 1994 original release 1981 (Virgin)


This was my first introduction to the band Japan, and the voice of David Sylvian.  My first hearing experience was "a Roxy Music rip-off."  And on top of that, what a horrible name for a band.  It's common knowledge that any band that names itself after a city, a state, a country or continent, sucks.  But I do have to admit, it's a great album cover.   The second listening experience brought me pleasures that are still with me.   Japan was a very original band.  

Sylvian's voice is very mannered in the Bryan Ferry mode, but he uses it in a different method with respect to his music.  As for the band, the strongest presence on "Tin Drum is Mick Karn's fretless bass playing.  A remarkable musician.  To me, he's the Brian Jones of the band.  The rest of the instrumentation the drums or percussion is sparse (by Sylvian's brother Steve Jansen) but in a very jazzy complexed manner.  The keyboards (Richard Barbieri) add electronic effects that are mood more than melody.  Sylvian carries the melody in his vocals.  The band and recording (by the great Steve Nye) are tight.  Almost if the air has been sucked out of the room.  

On the surface, it's Asian sounding, but why?  It's almost like a Wittgenstein response in that you know what's in front of you, but one can't define the experience.  There are song titles that bring the image for instance "Cantonese Boy," "Visions of China," and "Canton."  But it's a very romantic, yet at the same time, dry look at a culture or country.  This is not negative criticism.  I think Japan is exploring worlds that are known, but to them at the time, perhaps not that well known.  

The band is eye-candy as well.  You can't go wrong with a group of young guys in make-up.  But their style at this time was sort of like Asian minimal chic, with a touch of Brooks Brothers button collar shirts, but of course, with make-up.   Fans take them seriously, but I think if there was no Japan there would be no Radiohead.