Strange Boutique (April 2012)

My April column goes back a bit to the early 2000s and takes another look at some of the classic alternative music that came out in Japan at that time. I remember not being particularly impressed by Supercar’s Highvision at the time, and falling between the mighty Futurama and the emotionally burned-out hymn to alienation that was Answer, it’s in a bit of an awkward position, but actually listening back, it stands up with the best of their oeuvre.

Supercar: Strobolights

The World is Mine, on the other hand, was always a striking piece of work, and Quruli’s subsequent career has only emphasised further how groundbreaking a piece of work it is. Similarly, Num Heavymetallic is an album whose significance was pretty clear even at the time.

Quruli: World’s End Supernova (live) (see the original here)

The most amazing thing listening to these albums ten years later is the sheer breadth of what these three bands thought they could get away with, and the extent to which their labels indulged them. Of course there are bands making similar things now, but that’s the point: they’re just following a trail already blazed by Supercar, Quruli and Number Girl. There’s a problem here too, which I didn’t have space to go into in the article, which is that the long shadow these bands cast could be catching Japanese alternative rock in a state of arrested development, crowding out new ideas from the mainstream.

Number Girl: Num Ami Dabutz

Another thought I didn’t have space to go into concerns the influence of Supercar. While there are plenty of bands in the alternative scene who sound like they’re following Number Girl and Quruli (although few who are following the mad, eclectic spazz-out of The World is Mine), Supercar don’t seem to have so many direct followers. Partly, this might be because this kind of indie/electronic crossover material is more difficult to copy, which would also explain why Quruli imitators tend to take after their folk-rock and emo influenced stuff than their electronic  material. Another thought I had was that Supercar’s popularity and influence seems to be more apparent in the “mature” noitaminA-type anime world and related music scene, where emotionally washed-out music that harks back to childhood continues to teeter on the brink of dreams that Supercar themselves may have woken up from long ago. Certainly the anime world was the first place Miki Furukawa and Koji Nakamura’s new band Lama stopped off at when they formed last year.

Lama: Spell (No.6 anime opening): 

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Filed under Classic Pop, Features, Strange Boutique

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