Friday, January 28, 2005

From Korea To Japan With Love (M.G.R. 2)

Linus' Blanket's Minsung Posted by Hello

One of the greatest trips I ever took in my life happened last March, when I traveled to Seoul to see a musical event called Melody Go Round. Four bands from Japan went to play at this event – advantage Lucy, Plectrum, Miniskirt and Lost in Found – and they were joined by Linus’ Blanket of Korea.

Before the trip, I had pitched a story about this tour to the editors of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), saying the article would deal with the timely topic of improving Japan-Korea relations as seen in their increased pop culture exchange. And it was true: at the start of last year, Korea had lifted a decades-long ban on the sale of Japanese language pop music. There were Koreans who had been following Japanese music on the Internet for years before the ban was lifted, but how do those Korean fans square their love for Japan’s music with their feelings about Japan’s dark WWII and pre-war past? That's what my story would ask, I told the editors. They went for it. Make it an atmospheric rock journalism yarn, sort of like Almost Famous, one of them said.

If you find a stack of FEER’s in your dentist’s office or local library and see an issue with a cover illustration of Kim Jongil counting dollar bills, that’s the one, my article is inside.

But despite the serious theme I was meant to write about, what I was really interested in was seeing up close and in action the Japanese bands going to Seoul. I’d already been listening to advantage Lucy for years by the time this trip was announced, and I had also recently discovered the other bands. I wanted to know what these musicians were like in person.

It turned out that they were nice, ordinary people. But at the same time they were the creators of great music that was constantly in the background in my life. It was a huge thrill to get to know them for the first time, especially members of advantage Lucy.

Equally touching was the rock star-like enthusiasm the Korean fans showed to the Japanese bands. The bands, who had no idea how the Korean audience would respond to them, were greeted with packed club halls filled with the most passionate fans a musician could ask for. It was moving to see Korean fans go crazy about foreign musicians who they couldn’t even have conversations with and were mostly seeing for the first time, loving them for their music alone.


Anyway, to get to the point of this post, Seoul’s Linus’ Blanket flew to Tokyo to participate in a second Melody Go Round with the four Japanese groups. I didn’t expect this latest event, on Saturday night, to be quite as fantastic as the Seoul show last March, and it wasn’t. Still, if it wasn’t a transforming experience like the last Melody Go Round, it was still a hugely delightful show.

Lost in Found Posted by Hello

Up first was Lost in Found. They’ve always played nice melodies, but they’d gotten much better live in the year since the Seoul show. This was the second to last time that lead guitarist Taisuke Saito played for them.

Plectrum Posted by Hello

Next up was Plectrum. I’ve seen the rock quartet play in Seoul at four shows and each time they knocked out the audience. After their first Seoul trip, a group of Koreans who saw them play was so struck by the performance that they decided to form a fan club soon afterwards. I’ve never seen a Plectrum show that as anything but outstanding, and tonight was no exception. Next month they are due to release a live album, which should be excellent.

Lost in Found's Yukiko with Plectrum's Kicchon. Posted by Hello

Band #3 was Miniskirt, whose singer, a German named Edgar Franz, organized the show. They were good, and had gone multi-media. A projector on one side of the stage beamed pictures onto the back wall, and in the middle of the show a tall foreigner in an African-looking robe climbed on stage and did interpretive dances of Miniskirt tunes.

Miniskirt, with dancer. Posted by Hello

The fourth band was advantage Lucy. Their guitarist, Yoshiharu Ishizaka, had found an unusual guitar in the home of Takayuki Fukumura – a Fender Musicmaster. An old student-model electric guitar that you don’t often see on sale, the Musicmaster had a simple tone that Ishizaka liked, so he borrowed it from Fukumura-kun’s house to play tonight. But it being an old guitar, Ishizaka said he struggled to keep it in tune during the performance. Whether that was the case, advantage Lucy’s show was spectacular as always.

Between songs, singer Aiko said to Ishizaka, "You know that floating feeling you get after you perform a good song, or listen to good music?"

Ishizaka said yeah.

Aiko says, "That’s how I was feeling, until I looked over at the keyboard and saw a pile of bills on top of it. That brought me back down right away to the real world."

The bills, totaling 6,000 yen, was Ishizaka’s, and he said he had the money in his pocket because he no longer uses a wallet but when he searched in his pocket for a guitar pick the bills got in the way, so he left it on the keyboard. "It’s sad it’s only 6,000 yen I have," he said (that’s about $60).

Very advantage Lucy. Gorgeous and intense music followed by hapless talk.

advantage Lucy's Ishizaka playing Fender Musicmaster. Posted by Hello

Another thing that was very advantage Lucy – before the show Linus’ Blanket bassist Wonyul and I ran into Aiko and Ishizaka, riding bicycles to the Club Que, greeting acquaintances on the way and smiling brightly.

advantage Lucy Posted by Hello

The final act of the night was Linus’ Blanket from Seoul. The crowd loved their classy pop sound, and erupted in cheers after each song, something you don’t hear that often at these types of shows (scattered clapping is more the norm). Everything about the band is cute and delicate, as when singer Gene plays her tiny finger cymbals.

Yet at the end of the show, Gene did something that was gutsy rather than delicate.

When the band finished their last song, the audience clapped for an encore and the Linus guys returned to the stage, but it was around 10 at night and the club had to to clear the hall to get ready for a midnight show next and so the show had to end. Linus’ guitar player Kang Minsung, who speaks Japanese, explained sadly to the audience that their time was up, so he didn’t think they could play another song. He then stammered. The audience was silent, understanding that Minsung was in a bind, wanting to play more and knowing the audience wanted to hear more, but also feeling the club’s schedule should be respected.

That’s when Gene decided to take matters into her own hands. She begged the club to let them play just a short tune, and then said, "Tasukete!", or ‘help me’ in Japanese. The crowd came back to life and clapped, and the hall became filled with applause. Now, when a cute singer from abroad is begging help to be allowed to play an encore and the crowd is clapping loudly in response, would any good club refuse to let a band play? I don’t think so. That wouldn’t be Show Business at all. So, by getting the crowd on her side Gene was able to get the OK to play one final song, and it was a nice one.

Linus' Blanket at the Que. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

Farmstay Vs. Elephant Kashimashi

Farmstay at the Que. Posted by Hello

Friday night’s Farmstay show at Tokyo’s Club Que featured what the club’s signboard outside called a "Very Special Guest". I didn’t recognize the, so to speak, V.S.G.’s when they walked on stage, but the gasps and excited chatter around me in the crowd informed me they were a big deal. They were Elephant Kashimashi.

I didn’t know much about Elephant Kashimashi except that they are a popular major-label rock band that wouldn’t usually play in a small club like the Que in Shimokitazawa. They weren’t bad. The singer had a nice, full-throated voice, and he marched across the stage radiating charisma. The three instrumentalists played blues-flavored rock skillfully. But I couldn’t get very excited about the band.

One problem was the group didn’t seem to try hard to connect to the audience. Their attitude appeared to be that they’re big shots now so they didn’t need to reach out to the crowd. It was quite a contrast to the typical band that plays at the Que who repeat their band name over and over, say lame jokes, and generally do anything to get the audience to remember them and buy their CDs.

Then there was the manager. He stood grim-faced at the side of the stage all through the show. Several times he walked over to one of the players, waved to the sound mixer at the back of the club, and gestured to the mixer to adjust sounds on the stage speakers the player was using– in the middle of songs. It was distracting. And tacky.

I don’t dislike all major-label bands. And I don’t consider myself a indies-music partisan like the Seattle fans who forsook Nirvana after Nevermind. If any of the indies bands I like make it big and end up playing the Budokan, I can’t imagine not going to their show. But, still, the Elephant Kashimashi gig reminded me why, generally I don’t go to many major-label band’s shows. Too many are prima donnas who don’t seem to care about their fans (though maybe that’s inevitable when the fans seem almost countless, the lucky result of modern mass-media marketing). Not to mention that their full-album CDs cost a ridiculous Y3,000, or a little less than $30, compared with about Y2,000 for indie releases.


Tokyo rock foursome Farmstay are good enough, and popular enough in local clubs, that they could eventually go major label, though they’re still at a stage where you can go up to them after shows and say hi. Listening to them again tonight, I felt I better understood what appealed to me about them. In a word, it’s their girl bassist, Yosiko. I wrote before that she is like a Japanese Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, brimming with attitude, her bass hung so low it nearly touches the ground. Her aggressive, repetitive, punk-rock bass lines form a foundation that lets the rest of the band head for the stratosphere with their guitars and drums. It’s a caveman sound that is sexual and violent. And the good thing is that it’s a girl playing these bass parts, one that never says anything on stage and ranges from being expressionless to the slightest of smiles. If she was a guy, she would be just another boring punk rock bassist. But she’s a girl, and that works for Farmstay.


Another band playing at the show was Bazra, from the northern island of Hokkaido, I think. Their singer was a round faced guy like a daruma doll with a beard, and he called the audience omaera, a way of addressing a group of people that is somewhere between overly familiar and outright rude. They’re pretty popular because of that sort of outrageousness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Second Coming Of The Burger Nuds (...Sort Of)

The Blondie Plastic Wagon's Bassist. Posted by Hello

When Japanese rock trio Burger Nuds announced last year they would split up, their fans reacted to the news as if the world was about to end. Well, that didn't happen. Our planet is still circling the sun. And Burger Nuds’ singer has formed a new band, called Good Dog Happy Men.

Tonight, I got to see GDHM for the first time, at a small venue, Club Que in Shimokitazawa. The Burger Nuds were popular enough by the time they quit last year that you could only see them at a big hall like the Liquid Room, but GDHM hadn't gotten to that level yet, and so much the better, I could see them up close.

Compared with the Burger Nuds, GDHM seemed to be trying out new sounds, having two drummers, for example (one of whom was half drums and half percussion), and playing music that wasn't too noisy and sounded folksy or bluesy at time. Not that the Burger Nuds, the defunct group, were a run-of-the-mill rock band. No, the Burger Nuds played challenging, luxuriantly extended rock music. But with Good Dog Happy Men, it seemed that singer Masaaki Monden (who I assume, though I don’t know for a fact, is mainly in charge of the band’s creative direction) was experimenting musically in a way he couldn’t do as a Burger Nud.

All power to Good Dog if they succeed in making a new, unique sound. However, I wasn’t sure whether, if they did come up with a new sound, old fans of the Burger Nuds would necessarily welcome it. Tonight, the audience seemed a bit mystified with the music. And to be honest, so was I. Good Dog Happy Men’s music hadn’t really congealed yet to become their own unique sound, I thought.

Still, it was clear the four people that made up GDHM were all good musicians, and singer Monden, a skinny sex symbol with a voice that is powerful, if nasal, still attracted female fans. One surprising thing was that, while it’s to be expected that high school kids go to rock shows in Tokyo (clubs basically let all ages in), there were three girls wearing their high school uniforms to the club, apparently there to see GDHM. I don’t profess to know what goes on inside the heads of Japanese high school girls, but wouldn’t you at least want to get out of your school clothes at a rock show? In any case, it appeared that GDHM was popular with girls (very few men were in the audience).

Masaaki Monden of Good Dog Happy Men. Posted by Hello

If I can add, Monden seems to have a talent at coming up with rock band names that are, how else to put it, ridiculous. Because I’ve written in these pages about his former band, the Burger Nuds, Japan Live gets a steady stream of search engine visitors looking for information about, or more likely imagery of, ‘nuds’. Now, he’s come up with a band name that is hard to remember.

Are they called:

Happy Dog Good Men?

Happy Men Good Dog?

Good Dog Happy Men? (Correct.)

But, really, I’m happy Monden is at it again, and I’m curious to see what sort of music they end up creating.

mothercoat at the Que. Posted by Hello

Also playing at the Que was a quartet named mothercoat. A tight band playing funky punk tunes, mothercoat had a singer you couldn’t help but fix your eyes on as he shook and hopped around on stage filled with nervous energy, a guy who was somewhere between an electric-shocked Butoh dancer and a swinging Iggy Pop mannequin. He might have been drunk, but whether that was the case, he had an uncanny ability to stumble backwards without actually knocking over any stage equipment. And, in an impressive show of dexterity, toward the end of the set he hopped onto the top of the bass drum and hit the cymbals with his hands.

Good Dog Happy Men at the Que. Posted by Hello

The final act of the night was the Blondie Plastic Wagon, a trio whose name I’d heard of before but who I’d never actually seen. They were a spirited live band, with the singer/guitarist acting a Mick Jagger show-off role to the bassist’s Keith Richards reserved-but-super-cool role.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What Happened To Teeny Frahoop?

Wee Wee Pop Posted by Hello

I’ve been wondering what happened to Teeny Frahoop.

Teeny Frahoop was a Japanese pop-punk girl trio that recorded two albums with the independent label K.O.G.A. Records in the late-90's, then disappeared around 2000. I found out about them listening to a K.O.G.A. compilation album called Good Girls Don’t, a great album featuring the many girl bands for which K.O.G.A. is famous. I liked the entire album, but I thought a song in it called "Eat Candy" by a band named Teeny Frahoop stood out.

The song was good enough that I immediately headed to Tower Records in Shibuya to get my hands on any albums the band had recorded. I found and bought their first album, called Wee Wee Pop.

Listening to it for the first time I experienced one of those transcendent indie pop fan moments - the feeling that here was a great band that the public, for whatever reason, had overlooked, and I was one of the few that knew how good they were. Teeny Frahoop played super-catchy two-minute pop-punk songs with unusual titles, a bit like Shonen Knife (the two best songs on Wee Wee Pop are called "Soy Bean Sprouts" and "Heavy Smoked Salmon Sand(wich)").

All their songs are in English, and while, unlike many other Japanese bands who sing gibberish English, Teeny Frahoop’s English lyrics are grammatically mostly correct, the words are nevertheless eccentric. With a knowledge of Japanese, I can guess what they were trying to say, but still, their lyrics can be mysterious and haiku-like.

Take their song "Soy Bean Sprouts" (which my iTunes library records show I’ve already listened to 35 times...), which starts:

Play with me?
I’m tired of soybean sprout boys.
If they’re still there, I will put
them in Chinese noodle and eat.

And ends:

I felt as if. I was floating in the air.
Will someone, please, break me?

Tiny cat. I want it.
Why do you need milk?

One can giggle at the strangeness of the English lyrics, but the music is catchy enough the lyrics don’t really matter, and you can fill in the blanks on the question of what emotions the band was trying to communicate with the song (I think weariness and directionless... the Japanese word moyashi, or soy bean sprouts, is slang for very skinny people, by the way).

A year after Wee Wee Pop in 1999, Teeny Frahoop released their second album, 2nd Hospital. It was to Wee Wee Pop what Nirvana’s In Utero was to Nevermind: darker, more emotionally direct, less pop.

2nd Hospital Posted by Hello

It begins with a song called "Stone", which refers to the singer, who wants to "be a stone" that is noticed by "you". Giving a feel for what the rest of the album will be like, "Stone" opens with the words: "I get up early morning, and/ I regret I was born, so that/ I go to bed late night/ I fear a nightmare everynight".

The second song, called "Where is cancer?", closes "Hello, the darkness of night/ Hello, you know my rainy day/ However hard I try,/ I can’t reach it/ I can’t shine."

A gloomy album? Not really. A casual listener can take in the album without ever noticing the darker emotions the band sings about in 2nd Hospital, and indeed most of its Japanese listeners probably don’t bother translating the English words.

But maybe because I know that this is Teeny Frahoop’s last album and that soon after its release the group called it quits, I sense a weariness in the way that the group sings (though they did sing in a flat tone to start with).


I don’t know why this band, which recorded two very good albums, left the scene so soon. Actually, I don’t know much about the group at all. From the photos on the two albums I can see they were three ordinary-looking girls and I’d heard they were shy on stage, but beyond that Teeny Frahoop is a big mystery. Why did they form a band? Who influenced them? How did they end up recording with K.O.G.A. Records? What in the world does "Teeny Frahoop" mean?

I also wonder what the three are up to now. Are any of the three still playing music? Or did they become office ladies (OL’s, as they are called in Japan)? Or housewives? Or are they spending their days in a slacker state?

If I put my mind to it, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to find people who know about late-90's K.O.G.A. Records musicians and get answers to these questions. But I think finding more about the band would only satisfy me for a moment - I know there are many other bands like Teeny Frahoop, bands that shined for a brief moment, but then disappeared from view with only small reminders they existed.

Friday, January 14, 2005


A guitar shop in Shibuya. Posted by Hello

Pizza delivery guy. Convenience store clerk. Waiter at a hostess bar. Shopkeeper at an adult toy store.

These are some of the go-nowhere jobs Japanese rock musicians I know do to make a living. They’re all fine musicians, ones who in an ideal world should be able to live off their music alone. But here in the real world the number of talented rockers is many, while the number the public is willing to pay to listen to is limited. Hungry artists, of course, are nothing new – look at Puccini’s La Boheme. Jazz great Charles Mingus too worked in a post office for a while.

Doing a slacker job as a Japanese person to support the musical life is, however, a more serious decision than in other countries. In the U.S. or elsewhere, if the music thing doesn’t work out, one can always shove the guitar into the closet and start a new career. In Japan, on the other hand, if one doesn’t get hired by a company in the early 20's, one has stumbled a bit off of the proper career path. Not to worry, there are many jobs a young musician can take now in Japan. But when that person reaches the mid-30's the situation becomes more difficult, because many employers here only hire those under 35 (age is an obsession for Japanese people, and dictates how a person acts to a greater degree than in other places I know – at a certain point in their lives, for example, many women feel they can no longer wear bright colored clothes). Good jobs increasingly become slim pickings.

I know musicians in their late-30's and 40's, and they are cheerful people who appear content they have a way to continue with music. I wonder, though, whether doubts visit them often when they are alone. Do they think about what they've accomplished as others of their generation have kids and move up in their jobs? Do they wonder what they will be doing in decades to come?


For my part, I’m happy there are Japanese people who stick with music through the years, even if it means doing dead-end jobs. I want to listen to their music as they grow older and make great songs like Plectrum’s "30 Boy" (which I think is about a guy in his 30's returning to rock music). Maybe guys like these will help change Japan’s rigid systems too. Well... maybe better not wish too much from rock music.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tokyo Copy Band Festival

Peppermint Patty's Ms. Kawai. Posted by Hello

Dr. I, a friend who is a psychiatrist by day and rock ‘n’ roll nut by night, invited me to a "copy band festival" that was held over the weekend. Six bands were to play at a rehearsal studio in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, well known for its concentration of electric gadget stores of all sizes, but recently also growing in fame (notoriety?) as a Mecca for otakus, those young Japanese introverts obsessed with animation, idol singers, plastic models, etc.

Having been away from the U.S. for so long, I’m not sure anymore if a "copy band" is an actual term to describe amateur musicians who get together and play music of their favorite rock groups, though I know people do this outside of Japan. But here in Japan, it seems that forming a copy band is normal group hobby activity, like playing in a softball team over the weekend or joining the neighborhood choir. And, Japanese being Japanese, the copy bands take their hobby very seriously. They are such perfectionists about copying their favorite musicians exactly that it wouldn’t be surprising if some copy bands are actually better than the originals.

My friend Dr. I was to perform in two bands: one that copied advantage Lucy and another that played songs by a band I wasn’t familiar with called LR. The event sounded like fun, and there was also the post-event uchiage drinking party to look forward to.

Peppermint Patty live at Akihabara Laox Gakkikan Studio G. Posted by Hello

The rehearsal studio was a big one set aside especially for amateur bands who want to play to an audience, and the about fifty people who came to see the event were all able to fit into the room. There was even a sound mixer guy at the back.

The six bands were:

1. The Gi’z. This trio named themselves this because all three musicians have surnames that end with the phrase Gi, as in Takagi.

2. Peppermint Patty. This was the advantage Lucy copy band in which Dr. I played the guitar. Why Peppermint Patty? Their heroes, advantage Lucy, was originally called Lucy van Pelt, as in Linus’ sister in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Peppermint Patty’s leader (I think), Mr. Ito, initially proposed that their band be called "adventure Lucy", but this was voted down by the other members, and they settled on Peppermint Patty (who I have very little recollection of... was she the one who had a crush on Charlie Brown?).

Their performance – very good. The singer, Kawai-san, who brought a Lucy van Pelt doll to the stage, sounded a little like Lucy’s actual singer, Aiko, and, eerily, even had some of the same stage mannerism as Aiko, swinging her arm slightly as she sang, for example. She said she’d been copying Lucy’s music since she was seventeen.

I found myself strangely moved as Peppermint Patty played their second song, "Kaze ni Azukete", one of Lucy’s classics. Like me, at some point Peppermint Patty’s five were knocked out by how good the song is, and now here they were playing it in front of an audience, and well too. (During the show Dr. I invited all to go on January 22 to the show of the real advantage Lucy, which he said was "30 billion times better" than Peppermint Patty.)

3. Golden Colas. A hard rocking quartet, these guys were good. Technical proficiency-wise, I thought they were just as good as many of the bands who played at real rock clubs, though of course the GC's played others’ songs. One Golden Cola looked a lot like Bill Gates.

4. markte. This was a four-eye quartet that played songs by the Japanese band Super Car. The singer could have benefitted from more practice in wild stage action. He nearly tripped trying to jump on to a speaker. He lost his glasses spinning around later in the set. And within the first few seconds of the performance, as the singer jumped wildly, his brand new shining blue Fender went dead, never to return to the world of live copy bands. The audience held an impromptu auction for the dead Fender, with the closing price of 38,000 yen.

5. Sugorokku. This band, whose name is a pun meaning both a table game and "really great rock music", played songs by Spitz. By this time, after about three hours of listening to amateur bands, my back was starting to hurt from sitting on a plastic stool. My back pain would get worse at the uchiage party, held in an izakaya bistro, where we sat on floor mats.

6. Neko no Kubiwa II. Dr. I’s other copy band, their name means "cat collar 2", which I guess is a reference to some song or phrase in a song by the band they copied, LR. I was starting to feel Copy Band Fatigue at this stage, but even so I enjoyed this band and Sugorokku.

And with the Nekos ended the four-hour copy band festival. It was a good way to spend a cold Tokyo winter afternoon. It made me think, maybe I could form a very incompetent advantage Lucy copy band, and call it Pig Pen or something.

Golden Colas Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Orange Plankton Plays Okinawa (Restaurant)

Orange Plankton live at Naniyatteru Bar. Posted by Hello

Japanese pop band Orange Plankton played the first show of the year in an unusual venue: an Okinawan food bar in Shimbashi, the area in central Tokyo where Japanese businessmen get drunk after work in one of hundreds of bistros and bars and gripe about their bosses, co-workers and clients.

By coincidence, Orange Plankton had just done a few year-end gigs in the island of Okinawa itself, and now tonight they played at an Okinawan bar that served awamori, the island’s distilled liquor, and Okinawa foods such as goya champul, stir-fried bitter melon.

I’m not sure how they booked a show there, but it was a good choice. Okinawa, far south of the main islands of Japan, is a laid-back tropical land (as the excellent travel guide Gateway To Japan says the island has a different ethnic personality, "Slower, warmer, less compulsively punctual and punctilious") that produces musicians with the best sense of rhythm in Japan. It also has its own distinct culture, a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and southeast Asian influences with its own quirks mixed in. Similarly, Orange Plankton are four relaxed, friendly musicians with a great sense of groove, and their style is like no other Japanese band: to a swinging piano-bass-drums accompaniment, singer Yumi sings on topics such as the beginnings of the planet Earth, how the brain works, the fields of Mongolia, as well as more conventional pop music themes such as love problems and longing.

Tonight they played two sets to a bar crowd of about twenty people, and in both they performed a new song called "Yoru no Sukima (An Opening in the Night)", a nice lounge jazz-like number.

Orange Plankton, in front of bottles of awamori. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

New Advantage Lucy Songs!

It’s been so long since Japanese pop band advantage Lucy’s last album came out (2001) that when they release new songs, we true believer fans leap at them like hungry carp from a pond at pieces of bread.

So, when I heard that a soundtrack for a play called Skip included THREE new Lucy songs, I dropped what I was doing to place an order on-line. Happy with myself, I e-mailed my friend Dr. I to ask if he’d heard about the soundtrack, noting I’d already ordered it. But Dr. I, being possibly one of the few people in the world more fanatical than me about advantage Lucy, replied that yes, he knew about it, and furthermore, since it will take two weeks or more for a CD ordered on-line to be shipped, he decided he will instead go directly to the theater shop to buy the CD. And he got the CD before I did. As the Japanese saying goes – ‘ue ni wa ue ga iru’, or, ‘you think you’re a big advantage Lucy fan, but somewhere, there’s always a bigger fan.’

Anyway, the CD – joy! It has three great songs Lucy has been performing live recently: ‘Everything’, ‘Glider’, and ‘Is This Love?’. My favorite, which I’ve listened to about seven times straight tonight, is ‘Glider’, a song in Japanese. It starts with a rocking guitar intro, but singer Aiko sings in a mellow way at moderate tempo.

Aiko of advantage Lucy. Posted by Hello

The lyrics are touching. They are about remembering the past (one of Lucy’s main themes in recent songs) while flying a glider. But though the lyrics don’t specifically say this, I think this is a song about Fukumura-kun, Lucy’s former guitarist who passed away last year.

The song begins (my translation):

I remember, that wind, that ray of sunlight
Even if I forget, they are near me

And has two lines I love:

The glider can fly on without end
Taking with it a heart on verge of

Aiko, who wrote the lyrics, has said that Fukumura-kun is like the wind to her now, ever-present. This must be a song about living with his memory.


‘Skip’, by the way, is the latest play by the Tokyo theater group Caramel Box. This soundtrack is going to be playing on my iPod a lot as I wait patiently for the bright day rumored to be visiting us early this year, when Lucy’s next album comes out...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

An American Back In Tokyo

New Year Bonfire at a Shinto shrine in Gifu prefecture, Japan. Posted by Hello

Only a fortnight away, but I missed Tokyo. It’s good to be back in one of the world capitals of culture. Maybe THE World Culture Capital. The music, the arts, the FOOD, the book stores (like the glorious Kanda used book store district in Tokyo, streets and streets of book sellers), etc. etc. I’ll be reporting again soon on cool music being heard in this city.

Temecula Sky

Temecula sky (click to enlarge). Posted by Hello

Temecula is a old cowboy town in Southern California between L.A. and San Diego. There, we checked out the wineries -- I'm almost as crazy about wine as I am about Japanese rock music. From what I hear the wine-growing area is relatively new, and probably as a result the wines I tasted weren't as good as their older cousins from Napa or Santa Barbara. But I did manage to visit ten or so wineries, so they couldn't have been too bad. While we swam in a river of grape alcohol, a storm approached, creating dramatic clouds in the sky.

Temecula sky #2. Posted by Hello

Temecula sky #3. Posted by Hello

Temecula sky #4. Posted by Hello