Departures: Land of the Rising Sun: Part F

Japanese Ska Randomized Survey 2000

Fri Apr 21 2000 (ctd)

I didn't make it to any Japanese punk rock shows this time around, but I did poke around a little at Japanese music.

I spent some time at the Okayama Tower Records. I went looking for ska. According to Tower's filing scheme, all ska is hardcore. Even the Ska Flames, who had a pretty laid-back Jamaican early-ska sound. I got some CDs from the hardcore section. Should I make recommendations? Do you think you can stop me? I mean, it's not like I'm some super-knowledgable j-pop fan, but I can't help but gush over some of these bands.

Pez Stomp
This was a peppy, poppy punk ska band that did some interesting things. I got their "Pez Addiction" (1999) album, plus they showed up on a couple of compilations. They did a couple of songs in minor keys that made them sound a bit melancholy--more importantly, it made them sound not like every other skapunk band on the planet. One of their songs made me think of the analogy Pez Stomp:SkaPunk::"Don't Put Another Dime in the Jukebox":Rock and Roll. On a hidden track of their album "Pez Addiction", they showed that they could play old Jamaican style. I really liked this album.
Ska Flames
Old Jamaican-style ska, with a strong flavor of swing jazz. A couple of their songs sounded very secret agent-ish. The tunes were very catchy; I keep humming them unconciously. I got their "Wail'n'Skalm" album (1993), which I liked plenty. Yeah, I know, you thought you'd heard way too much swing-ska in 1999. But I really like this band nonetheless. They play their songs slower than I'd normally like, but for them it works.
Mongol 800
A couple of collections I got had Mongol 800 songs on them. Both of those songs were pretty good. Apparently Mongol 800 was pretty popular on Tower Japan's Indie charts when I was there, if that means anything. Now I wish I'd got an album of theirs. Oh well.
Good Day's Slowly
They had a couple of tracks on the Melodic Skank Market compilation CD. They were tight and bouncy, very crisp. Maybe I'll try to seek out an album of theirs later. Though that seems like it might be really difficult.
Ska Rockets
I got their "Ska Challenger" CD. They've got a good horn section, good arrangements. They write songs a bit slow for my taste. I recommend them to people who like reggae, I guess. Bonus points for covering Mancini's "Shot in the Dark."
Rude Bones
Should I say anything Rude Bones? You can get their music in America. They were on the "Saturday Night" Skank For Brains compilation (which was great). They were on that "Land of the Rising Ska" compilation from Moon. I got an album of theirs in Japan, and found out I'd already heard most of the music.
One Track Mind
I only heard one of their songs, an instrumental called "D-Skas". It was pretty good.

There were a bunch of other bands on the compilations, but nothing that really leapt up and grabbed me. That doesn't mean that they weren't good. I liked the No End Why song on the "Japanese Homegrown Vol. 4" compilation, but it sounded a lot like the Gadjits. Mega Stink Men reminded me a lot of Rancid, except that I couldn't understand what they were saying. The same goes for Duck Missile. The one Stack Inside song I heard, it sounded like the dot product of the collective output of Jump Up records. They were fine bands, doing good things, but I don't know that I'd seek out more of their stuff. It would be like going to the non-Japanese pop section of the Okayama Tower Records. It might be familiar and there might be good things there, but you'd wonder why you came all that way just for the same stuff.

Appreciating Civilization

The hotel room had a shower. I showered. I shampooed. I did all this while standing up in a shower, not while sitting on a low plastic stool by a low faucet while worrying about someone walking in. It was very nice indeed.


Sat Apr 22 2000

The Shinkansen back to Tokyo was full. I was glad I'd reserved my ticket. I read further in Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, where I learned that Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) contained a scene in the Hampton Court hedge maze--the British hedge maze I'd ripped off when making a Doom WAD. I had a heck of a time navigating the Tokyo train station with my suitcases, and made some mistakes, but no-one was injured and no lawsuits ensued. I didn't have trouble getting a ticket on the next NRT express, though it was crowded. In line for plane tickets, I watched some other gaijin being obnoxious. They were up at the counter, trying to wheedle ticket upgrades by means of sheer chutzpah making me embarrassed for gaijin everywhere.

On the plane, the seat beside mine was empty, and I extended long legs and read all the way, except when I was watching "Anna and the King," idly wondering how Yul Brenner would have fared as an actor in Hong Kong gangster movies. Unlike the last time I went through customs, this time my list of imports was done by category, not by individual item. Last time, the inspector had looked at my huge list and just charged me a percentage of the total. Later on, I'd learned that books were free. This time, I paid no customs, all thanks to better-organized accounting. A quick jitney ride to the CalTrain station. On the CalTrain, many high-school children were riding into relatively exciting San Francisco. More of them were making out than I would have expected, but then I was never young. I rode the Metro streetcar. I carried my bags up the hill from the streetcar stop to my apartment.

It only took a few days to get caught up on Mexican food and Zachary's pizza.


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