Tag Archives: Joshua Comeback

V/A: Life is Music

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Cassette, Touch Records, 2018

Kicking off with Fukuoka alt-rock band tepPohseen’s sprawling, ten-minute Joukei (which accounts for a third of the whole cassette’s running time), this seven-song cassette compilation of ‘90s-influenced lo-fi alternative bands from around Japan is a piece out of time with a music scene increasingly characterised by hyperactive bedroom beatmakers, slick-sounding, commercially-ambitious “city pop” and quirky so-called alt-idols. Getting past the rather generic title, Life is Music features all new recordings, but is still a collection proudly of its time. And that time is about ten years ago, with bands like Nagoya’s Sonic Youth-esque Free City Noise, Tokyo-based instrumental noise-rock band Fukuro, and the more sweetly melodic Joshua Comeback. It’s not strictly a genre collection, with Kobe/Osaka’s Merry Ghosts (the band formerly known as Trespass) calling back to the late-‘70s/early-80s postpunk era and Osaka’s Shoki no And Young (presumably an early lineup of stalwart local crazy horses …And Young) winding a coil of ’90s guitar distortion around a core of ’70s rock. At the same time, though, it’s a compilation that, despite being released in 2018 was, forged in the Japanese music scene of the early 2000s, when the band scene was defined in large part by the mainstream success of acts like Number Girl and Shiina Ringo back when she was still interesting. This compilation doesn’t offer much in the way of a path forward for Japanese underground rock, but it’s nonetheless a welcome reminder that those days were a period that produced a lot of the most interesting underground rock bands still playing today (and a lot more now sadly vanished).

 

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Profile: Tacobonds

I’m helping to organise an event in Tokyo on Sunday January 22nd that features a lot of my favourite local bands so over the next week, I’ll be profiling a different one every day. Obviously part of the hope is for anyone in the Tokyo area to find something that catches their interest and come along, although this is just as much an opportunity to wax lyrical about bands that I think are wonderful and/or lovely for anyone to enjoy.

The first band I’m going to talk about are Tacobonds:

BPM4

Tacobonds have been around in one form or another since 1998 and are part of a generation of bands emerging from Rikkyo University in the late 90s who were at least in their own minor way influential in the Tokyo indie/alternative scene. Joshua Comeback and The Hangovers are a couple of other examples of bands who came out of the same Rikkyo band circle; Tokyo Pinsalocks were members of a different club at the same university.

Originally Tacobonds were formed by vocalist Toshikazu Sasaki, with guitarist Naoki Ogawa joining a week or two later. They ditched their original bassist and drummer in 2003 and broughit in Arito Yano on drums and Yukiyo on bass, with their sound slowly evolving from the old-school emo-ish alternative rock/punk sound that was common to many Japanese bands of the post-Number Girl generation towards the more progressive, rhythmically tricky and riff-heavy sound displayed on their 2005 full-length debut album Sick of Listening (produced by AxSxE from Natsumen).

By 2009 Ogawa had stopped using effects pedals and the group were moving towards a more stripped down, postpunk-influenced sound based on quirky but confident grooves and a less heavy, more scratchy, furious and dynamic sound. The same year, Sasaki left, leaving  Ogawa as the group’s de facto leader and forcing them to reconsider their sound again. What followed was six months with a rotating cast of guest vocals from local luminaries such as Panicsmile, Bossston Cruizing Mania, Groundcover., Mahiruno and others before they emerged at the other end with a new, more confident, slimmed down lineup, that took more of a tag-team approach to vocals, often emphasising the contrast between Ogawa’s punk boy yelling and Yukiyo’s demure, cooing melodies, but with subtle changes in time signature still forming the key to the songs’ dynamics and Ogawa showing a revived interest in effects pedals.

This Count

It was this lineup and these songs that formed the basis of the group’s 2011 album No Fiction, released on Disk Union affiliate label Take A Shower Records (who also released The Mornings and Bossston Cruizing Mania the same year). The great thing about Tacobonds is the way they are able to make quite complicated, technical, even fiddly things seem so natural, intuitive and accessible. Throughout the music they keep dropping hooks for the audience to catch onto, each member seems instinctively aware of what the others are doing even when they let things fall out of synchronisation or descend into a tightly controlled spiral of chaos.

For me the best thing about them is hearing audience members break out in screams when they drop from one time signature into another. I mean, isn’t that brilliant: audiences going nuts, punching the air and getting all stagedivey at a change in goddamn time signature? Well you might not think so, but trust me, it is. And it’s the passion and sheer rocking-outness of it that makes it so kinetic, so immediate. I remember once seeing them at a gig where Ogawa broke the guitar amp during a particularly frenzied wig-out, but the other two kept up the same dance groove for what may have been only five or six minutes, but from the sweat pouring off Yano’s face looked like far longer, while problems were diagnosed and a replacement was found, before Ogawa plugged back in and casually as you like all three members swung straight back into the song at the exact moment they’d left off, drawing their energy out of the air and spitting it back in the audience’s faces. And in Tokyo there are few bands around who can touch them.

Fiction

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