Friday, February 27, 2015

Quiet Life by Japan

Japan was an interesting band, that had been wandering around doing art-rock funk and glam-punk and other stuff for a number of years already when the 80s rolled around.  They got binned with the New Romantics due to a similar sound and look.  They've denied it, which many other outlets (including Wikipedia) seem hell-bent on pointing out, but honestly; I don't think that's a call that the band gets to make.  Japan has also said, and this is probably more honest and interesting, frankly, that they had been doing what they were doing (in terms of look, at least) for a long time, and kept doing it after the New Romantic movement came along.  The fact that they intersected briefly with a faddish movement was more coincidence than anything by design.  What lead singer David Sylvian said, to be exact, in 1982 was, "There's a period going past at the moment that may make us look as though we're in fashion."  Clever self-deprecation humor.  How very British. Which is the main reason they deny association with the New Romantic movement, and in that respect, that's fair.  To the degree that it's accurate, of course.

See, they sounded dramatically different with a totally different vocal delivery style on the part of the vocalist David Sylvian, and a major increase in Giorgio Moroder-style synthesizers.  This really was a major change in direction for the band in the same direction as New Romanticism that was happening at the same time.  I'm not 100% sure that I buy Japan's avowal of dissociation with the label.  And like I said, I'm not sure that they get to decide that too.  If they look like a New Romantic and sound [quack] like a New Romantic, and they do so at the same time as the New Romantic movement... you don't get to claim that you're not a New Romantic just because the label in the intervening years acquired a rather silly connotation.

The album Quiet Life was released either in December 1979 or January 1980 depending on the region.  It wasn't initially successful, but after their subsequent releases (which continued the New Romantic sound) were more successful, there were some subsequent and belated single releases, including the song "Quiet Life" itself in August of '81.  It had actually been released 18 months earlier only in Japan (which is oddly coincidental, since the band name was a place-holder that stuck, and the band themselves never professed any particular affinity for the country particularly (although they did record a track called "Life in Tokyo" which actually was produced by Giorgio Moroder.

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