Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Dream of the Cherry Blossoms

Before spring turns to summer, I have to post a retrospective of the brief yet spectacular cherry blossom season. These photos start in late March and continue on through early April, the 27th through the 6th to be exact.

The flowers are so incredibly beautiful and at once ephemeral. Gazing at them invokes sadness, for one always knows that the scene will be all but gone the following week.

Monday, April 26, 2010

BAD NOISE!: Prague

This past Saturday night marked the third installment of Bad Noise! the Ruby Room's new monthly live series organized by the man behind British Underground, Daniel Robson.

Playing the second slot was a personal favorite of mine, Prague, an awesome Sony band that has been kicking up a lot of dirt this past year with their major debut. Indeed, you've probably heard quite a bit about them from me. Favorite Band + Favorite Space = Recipe for Success. I'm already in heavy anticipation for their next single release scheduled for May 12th.

Bad Noise! is held on the 4th Saturday of every month, always a week after Beer Pong :P

Bassist Tsugu doing his dance. He's in his early 20's but doesn't look a day over 16.

Yuta on vocals and guitar. Shy in person but quite intense with a guitar in hand.

Vinyl from the Vault: Mazarati

I returned to Beat Collectors in Shinjuku the other day and picked up yet another unique find, the 12" single, "Stroke" by 80's Minneapolis band Mazarati. Of the dozens of record shops I've scoured all over Tokyo, I have never, I repeat, NEVER have seen a single one of this band's records. A truly rare find.

While it's clear to me that this record isn't quite on par with Morris Day's "Color of Success," "Stroke" is certainly a groovy tune that has its place in history along with the rest of Prince's cohorts. Check out the song here, but don't be surprised if it's a little too oldskool for your ears.

Once again, I have to give my unofficial endorsement for Beat Collectors, one of the coolest boutique vinyl shops I've stumbled across in Tokyo.  Exit Shinjuku station on the west side and walk north to the area across the tracks from the Prince Hotel. Across the street from Mos Burger is a building with a jazz record shop called Hal's Records. Find Beat Collectors on the third floor of the same building down the hall from Hal's.

If you perhaps know of another awesome Tokyo record shop tucked away in some alleyway or high-rise apartment complex, please leave a comment!! 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Legends of Japanese Rock 'n' Roll Cinema: Rockers

Rockers (2003), directed by Takanori Jinnai, is something of a comedy rock 'n' roll drama. The film follows the not-so-fictional band Rockers from the depths of looserhood through their quick rise to fame, and then back again. Like many Asian comedies, this is film is full of hilarious slapstick gags and cinematic tongue in cheek. This time though, we are overloaded with rock 'n' roll cliches: band rivalries, burning guitars, greasy hairstyles, motorcycles, leather jackets, and even a little male eye-liner. The film is fast-paced, exciting, and full of great music.

Rockers takes its inspiration from the real life 80's Japanese punk band, The Rockers, one of the groups featured in the underground classic, Burst City. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate and time, director Jinnai was actually the lead singer of the original Rockers. After the completion of Burst City and the breakup of his band, Jinnai moved on to a celebrated acting career. Rockers (the film) was his directorial debut.

The movie version of the band however, is more fiction than reality. Jinnai dropped the definite article ("the"), juiced up the story quite a bit, and created an over the top, insanely energetic film. This film may be the the only case on record of an ex-rock star directing his own biopic.

While the plot of Rockers only reflects some elements of the real band, the original spirit of the music and lifestyle are there for us in full force.

[apologies for the poor quality of this youtube video]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vinyl Pornography: The Color of Success

A year ago last March, I wrote about salivating in the record stores of Shibuya. Countless shops throughout Tokyo are simply oozing with classic vinyl. The only way I can wrap my mind around the pure volume of material is to keep a definite goal in sight. I have a handful of artists and albums that I am looking for. Today though, I found a real gem.

Here it is, the color of my success:

"The Color of Success" from 1985, Morris Day's first solo album after breaking with The Time.

I've been on a rampage looking for this record for the past few weeks. I've combed through every Disk Union, Recofan, and independent record store that I know of from Ochanomizu to Kichijoji.

This afternoon, while poking around the bootleg CD district in West Shinjuku, I stumbled across a little boutique store called "Beat Collectors." They had not just one, but two copies of this record, among other countless rare grooves that would make any vinyl junkie shiver.

"Beat Collectors" selection may have been more limited than the larger chains, but it was certainly more concentrated. I'll be sure to check out their Shibuya branch. For satisfying my quest, I definitely owe them an unofficial Werewolf endorsement.

As for now, I'll be content spinning the record in my room. It's rare, it's funky, it's "The Color of Success."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Absolutely No Double Dipping!!

Here is an ad for a restaurant near my town. When I was a kid, my big brother always hated it when I double dipped...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Legends of Japanese Rock 'n' Roll Cinema: Iden & Tity

It's been a while since I updated this series. My apologies! I have yet to even touch on some of the best films!

Last December, I wrote a review of Tomorowo Taguchi's recent coming of age film, Shikisoku Zeneration, based on the epinymous novel by subculture icon Jun Miura. What I failed to mention in my review was that Shikisoku Zeneration is actually the duo's sophomore effort. Back in 2003, Taguchi directed the film adaptation of Iden & Tity, a four volume manga series drawn by Miura in the mid 90's.

The movie follows the guitarist in a rock band who is making a major debut. Even with their growing popularity, the guys in the group are still poor, living in small apartments and working menial jobs. The main character realizes that his dream was a disappointing let-down. He has no money, no creative freedom, and feels empty. Eventually, through inspiration from Bob Dylan, he is able to find his creative voice and reconcile his emotions.

A second theme in the story is the main character's turbulent and insecure relationship with his girlfriend. He really loves her, but due to his infidelity and insecurity, he can never make things work out.

These personal struggles make up the honest side of the film. There is no glitz and glam in this movie. On the other side is the idealistic tone which is ever present throughout the story. The main character is haunted by visions of the ghost of the classic 1960's Bob Dylan, who follows him around and communicates with him via harmonica music. Through the language of music (expressed in subtitles), Dylan gives him aphorisms about life, music, and truth, ideals that end up inspiring the main character to be true to himself.

Iden & Tity effectively tells a story that weaves together rock music with life experiences. The film proves to me how something mundane like music has a more profound side. In this sense, this movie left a very strong impression on me. The very next week, I went to the book store and bought the entire manga series. Check back for a review in the future.

Here is the Japanese trailer for the film. Can you spot the phantom Bob Dylan?