Morning Music: Japanese Punk Rock

Bin Bin JiroThis week, we are in Japan. Since I first discovered The Blue Hearts a few years back, I’ve been vaguely aware that Japan had a strong punk scene. But I’m just going to warn you right now: I’m not going to have that much to say about these bands. I often (as is the case today) won’t even be sure what the names of the songs are. And in general (as is also the case today), I won’t have much of an idea what the songs are about. But the songs are all great.

We start the week with Garlic Boys — a band that started in 1985 and are still performing today. According to Wikipedia, they are considered by some the “godfathers of [the] new school Japanese hardcore.” In this country, hardcore has become something of a farce. The bands have little character. I doubt that either Black Flag or Dead Kennedys — Much less Minutemen! — would be accepted in the movement. I don’t know if that’s true there as well. But it certainly isn’t true of today’s song. We are going to listen to the very chant-y song that is named, “あんた飛ばしすぎ” — which Google translates as, “You’re Skipping Too.” It is off their 1996 EP ビンビンジロ, which means (if that is the right word) Bin Bin Jiro.

This song seems to be about a guy drinking to forget a woman who left him. But it’s really hard to say. There is definitely a lot of drinking in the song. And I get the impression that the singer looks down on people who drink to excess — thus the powerful denouement when he admits to doing it himself. But reading Japanese translations are very much like the stereotype, “Drink resounds in left to good though it is usually timid person a rant in it off that involved drunk people of guy rules useless change drunk too skip.” The fact that English speakers learn Japanese, and Japanese speakers learn English is very impressive.

I hope you appreciate all that information, because even finding out that much was a lot of work!

6 thoughts on “Morning Music: Japanese Punk Rock

  1. Since merely saying “Babymetal” is too short a comment, I’ll have to add a few more words. No, I don’t understand what they’re saying (except for a little of “Gimme Chocolate”); yes, I do dig the concept of quasi-innocent young girls fronting a skeleton-constumed metal punk-pop band.

    • I’m trying to stay away from the Japanese metal bands — even though many of the punk bands do jump around a lot in terms of style. Tomorrow we will have an all-woman punk band. I haven’t decided the rest of the week, but there’s a lot of material.

  2. I did like the information. I enjoyed the song, but punk is more fun when you know what they’re raging about. I’m not sure the Sex Pistols were really raging against anything besides Not Being Famous, Yet, which is what makes the Clash tower over them, for me.

    This is like a demonstration of Dr. Noam’s theories of universal language. You pretty much couldn’t find two cultures with less in common and a more confusing spoken/written language barrier than English/Japanese. Yet there you go, a punk song which makes perfect sense.

    One thing I wanted to write about but couldn’t is that everyone can debate which rock band is their favorite, but nobody can debate America’s best rock talent. It’s Motown. There’s no challengers. Motown songs are possibly our greatest contribution to the world. Everyone knows them by heart, even 50 years later. There’s no cultural/language boundary they don’t cross. I was at a wedding reception with Germans and Americans; everyone was uncomfortable for an hour or two. Then the Mexican host had the good sense to start playing Motown, and immediately everyone was dancing and having fun trying to translate what others were saying instead of being frustrated by it.

    Here’s a Boston band that channels Irish punk which doesn’t remotely sound like punk, but it feels like punk:

    Being angry, being tuneful, crosses every boundary, it seems.

    • I tend to think that punk is more an approach to music than an actual style. That’s why I’ve long been suspect of Sex Pistols, even though I rather like what they did. PIL is more authentic punk. The Pogues don’t so much sound punk, but they definitely are. Minutemen was a totally bizarre funk band — also totally punk.

      I’m afraid that you will get an argument about Motown. But you are right: I think it is collection of music that everyone can enjoy. Of course, it was a singles factory. The albums, with notable exceptions, sucked.

      Good band: Dropkick Murphys. I’m vaguely aware of them. And I’m especially fond of that song. Any song with “bastards” in the chorus is okay by me.

      • OK (rolls up sleeves, prepares for duking):

        Yes, the Motown albums stunk. Yes, one can name a hundred American rock acts with better albums easily. But in terms of music America’s made that resonates with everyone, everywhere, is there anything else?

        I had this debate with a friend a while back, and we were wondering why Motown singles are so great. Neither of us could put our finger on it. There was just some random magic.

        Then I saw the documentary “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” and that nailed it. It was the band. The same guys, all jazz musicians who Berry Gordy underpaid, made the music for almost every Motown record. And they were simply amazing.

        My favorite is James Jamerson, the bassist. Spend half a day sometime listening to your favorite Motown songs, and you’ll realize most of them are distinctive because of the beautiful bass lines. Think of the intro to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Or the bass line in “Reach Out I’ll Be There” before the chorus. The intro to “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

        Sorry, I’m Detroit-fixated right now. But name me an American act whose music has been more loved worldwide, and I’ll take off the gloves.

        Hope you take this argument in a fun way, not that I’m being angry!

        • Actually, I didn’t mean you were going to get an argument from me — just that you would get arguments. Not that I necessarily agree. But when you asked why the songs are so great, I immediately thought of Jamerson — so I’m glad you brought him up. But it is also that the songs and the production were great. I think that Motown didn’t think in terms of albums. When they got a hit, they quickly threw together an album — generally of covers that weren’t produced with much creativity. But this might have to do with the way British comedy series tend to be so much better than the American ones. That Mitchell and Web Look produced six half hour episodes in a year. SNL produces over an hour of dreck over 20 times a year. Motown focused on putting out really great songs.

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