Strange Boutique (July 2013)

Eiichi Ohtaki: Kimi Wa Ten-Nen-Shoku

A bit late posting this due to one thing and another, but here’s my most recent column for The Japan Times. The theme was Japanese summer albums, and it was primarily an excuse to rave about Eiichi Ohtaki’s 1981 masterpiece A Long Vacation, which remains probably my favourite Japanese mainstream pop album. Ohtaki was a member of Happy End in the 60s and 70s, and his old bandmates helped out in various fashions on this album, but there’s a purity of craftsmanship and vision on this record that even his old band’s most celebrated work doesn’t quite have. In a way, comparing A Long Vacation to something like Kazemachi Roman is a bit like comparing stuff by The Beatles to Brian Wilson’s work with The Beach Boys, in that the former is at heart a band’s album while the latter is fundamentally a producer’s album. Either way, there are obvious similarities and I’m not really interested in ranking stuff this good.Eiichi Ohtaki: Koi Suru Karen

By all means investigate the other stuff I mention in the article, but really A Long Vacation is all I want to talk about here. I love the way Koi Suru Karen just leaps into the chorus with so much power and gusto but does so by dropping in a bunch of new layers of sound, not by rocking out in the typical band style. I love the way the squelchy synth bass in Pap-Pi-Doo-Bi-Doo-Ba Monogatari sounds completely at odds with the light, fluffy, 60s-style melody and yet totally at one with the piece, and I love how FUNx4 just even exists, as one of the most ludicrously, unashamedly pop! pop! pop! tunes ever written. I even love the fake clapping at the end.Eiichi Ohtaki: FUNx4

In the end, it’s just one of the most marvellous summer albums ever and one of my favourite pop albums ever, regardless of where it was made. It was one of the first Japanese pop albums I ever heard, when as a first year university student, my Japanese dorm-mate lent me his copy, so perhaps I’m sentimentally biased — I still harbour warm feelings for Mr. Children’s 1997 megahit album Bolero and Globe’s Faces Places, although neither commands such power over my affections. Fundamentally though, it’s a magnificent collection of songs by a songwriter and producer at the peak of his powers, and that just rules so I make no apologies for this cascade of thoroughly un-journalistic, fanboyish pop-love.Eiichi Ohtaki: Saraba Siberia Tetsudou

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4 Comments

Filed under Classic Pop, Features, Strange Boutique

4 responses to “Strange Boutique (July 2013)

  1. miffy

    Damn, this album went double platinum back in the day and even won best record!
    In the midst of idols and an album market that hasn’t even peaked yet, how did it manage to do this?
    And why today, there is no artist who can achieve this ?

    • If there were any justice in the world, Shugo Tokumaru would be every bit as big as this.

      • miffy

        Well, back in 1980 that was possible. How come not in 2013?

      • No idea. Greater volume of material competing for people’s attention? Greater volume of media competing for people’s attention? Decline of music taste as a status defining social indicator and its rise as a commercial product, with the associated changes in consumption patterns? I’m talking out my ass here though, because I really don’t know. Music audiences are just crapper than they used to be.

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