Strange Boutique (July 2015) – Rockin’ On and the eternal afternoon

My July column for The Japan Times talks about the Rock in Japan festival, but more generally what it’s about is the effect of Rock in Japan and its founder magazine Rockin’ On Japan on the music scene.

The idea of “a mid-afternoon slot at Rock in Japan” is a running joke among some of my friends, referring to the mediocre creative ambitions of a certain type of indie-ish band that stands for nothing, is happy to sell out in any way required of them, but hasn’t the balls to make real pop music either. This sort of polished, musically slick, blandly positive, utterly insubstantial faux rock music is basically what counts as Rockin’ On-kei right now.

And it’s popular, kind of. At Fuji Rock this year, it was notable how the organisers had brought in more of these Rockin’ On-type bands, and the attendance went up from last year as a result. It’s also notable how many of the very worst bands at Fuji Rock were bands who are also appearing at Rock in Japan – the risible [Alexandros] and the vile Gen Hoshino being the worst offenders, but Gesu no Kiwami Otome and Ringo Shiina frustrating in their own particular way, if only because of how much visible talent they seem to be wasting on such unambitious, MOR music.

So the “mid-afternoon at Rock in Japan” represents the middle of the middle of the road. The core, rich essence of mediocrity. The highest artistic ambition for the cronically artistically unambitious. And then I noticed that everyone at Rock in Japan is playing in the mid-afternoon. The whole festival is an eternal afternoon. There are no lows, no highs, no challenges, no discomfort. Rock in Japan is the slack, etherised smile of music euthanising itself.

In the article itself I’m more scrupulously fair than that, and I look into a bit more of the hows and whys, but what it all comes down to is the same thing: fuck Rockin’ On Japan.

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