I mentioned Blankey Jet City to my hairdresser yesterday and the first words out of his mouth were: "Burankee Jetto Shitty? Natsukashii..."

Natsukashii means nostalgic. Anything that reminds one of the old skool.

Obsessions lead to obsessions. I know I said I would shut the fuck up about Shiina Ringo but for one thing, I can’t and for another she’s an ideal segue to many of my other music passions. A sage DJ I knew once claimed that the road to Shiina Ringo inevitably lead to Chara and Yaida Hitomi. Now I don’t think much of Yaida (Japan's answer to Avril) and all I know about Chara is that she has 2 or 3 decent songs and an indecently hot husband.

My first Shiina Ringo spinoff obsession was Blankey Jet City.

Ringo is a big fan of Kenichi Asai, lead singer of BJC, and it shows in her music. A long time ago in a Japanese class far far away I was at the grind trying to decipher lyrics to a song off Ringo’s first album, Muzai Moratorium when I stumbled across this passage:

Give me a Ricken 620 (Rickenbacker)
But I don't have the 190,000 yen
I’m going mad getting off on the smell of the Marshall
Every night just going to the top
Making one Rat the tool of my trade
But then I trip when Benji reflects in my lungs

Aside from all the wacky musician lingo (WhatinhellisaRickenbacker???), picking apart the Japanese was harsh on my brain. When I finally realized what was what, only the name "Benji"stood out.

I asked, poked, prodded and discovered that Benji was an alias for Kenichi Asai.
The story of Blankey Jet City originates in boso zuku culture. Boso zuku are Japanese gangs who do little more than disturb the peace. They pout hard, grease their hair, hoot, holler and then go home to their mommies who give them soft serve ice cream cones which they lap up lickety lickety lick. Once upon a time in Tokyo, Kenichi Asai was the leader of such a gang.

Sometime in 1990, he realized that shit was lame.

So he decided to screw that noise and start a rock band.

The first BJC song I ever heard was Salinger followed by Pepin which would later be covered by Asai’s side project AJICO. I fell in love with AJICO faster than I did BJC. There are reasons for this. For one, it was easier for me to catch the lyrics. AJICO is a lot slower than BJC and I have an affinity for chicks on vocal. Even UA's deep lethargic voice is more lucid than Asai's though they each have their charms. AJICO is haunting, psychedelic and heavy on the reverb. Think, if you will, Mazzy Star.

I was never crazy about UA as a solo artist but her collaboration with Asai was fucking brilliant. The intro to their first single, Fukamidori, had me hooked faster than a spiked girl drink. Fukamidori means "deep green" but I always think aurora borealis when I hear it. It shimmers. Can't explain better.

And as much as I don’t like the sound of Japanese men singing, even I get weak in the knees when Asai lazily takes over UA’s velvety delivery in PEPIN with his trademark rough tenor:

Kudaranai jinsei dato dareka ga iu omae no koto.
You’re the one who says don’t give up on life.

I keep meaning to get my hands on some of Asai’s other projects. What little I heard of the Sherberts made me purr and I have yet to hear what his latest creation, Jude, sounds like. I still maintain this lofty fantasy that one day Asai will lure Ringo away from the well-intentioned but lackluster clutches of her new band, Tokyo Jihen, and together they will scour Japan and sing in rough voices of sex, sashimi and rokku and rorru.

A girl can dream, right?

Songs to seek: Salinger/Blankey Jet City Hadou/AJICO Fukamidori/AJICO

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Blogger d said...

rickenbacker. maker of fine guitars. 'specially of the nice 12 string variety. that of the chiming, if a babbling brook could sing sound. played by george harrison, roger mcguinn, peter buck, johnny marr & now, a certain roommate o' mine.

10:42 AM, April 19, 2005  
Blogger Tavie said...

Think about the sun, PEPIN...
Think about her golden glance...


10:48 AM, April 20, 2005  
Blogger Kirsten said...


No Tavie. No.

2:12 PM, April 20, 2005  
Anonymous James said...

Tokyo Jihen is great, but a Kenichi Asai & Shiina Ringo collaboration would be completely incredible.

1:12 AM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger Kirsten said...

I like what I've heard of Tokyo Jihen. Really! Genjitsu Warau dominates most of my listening time, though.

For some reason, it's just not as gritty, ya know? She's stopped rolling her r's a la Benji as she used to in her Muzai/Shou Shou Strip days.

A Kenichi Asai/Ringo project would make me explode, dude. I'd be in Japan with noisemakers and sparklers if it ever went down.

I found this radio interview with her and Asai once. She was totally fangirling out. She even begged him to say "Abazure"!

And he did.




1:41 AM, May 08, 2005  

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