When men moan, I like it.

When women growl, I love it.

Brits should have some sort of patent on the moan. In fact, everyone should get Lebon or Plant to sign off before they attempt similar vocal trends.

The majority of Japanese music I am exposed to doesn’t have a whole lot of growlers/moaners of either gender. When you listen to J-POP grasshoppers, you must first and foremost become one with the high-pitched nasal screech before attaining nirvana.

Maybe because most of what I listen to is so upbeat? So sugary? So goddam genki? When the Japanese are happy they aren’t half-assed about it. What’s there to moan about? What is there to growl, yell or scream about when you can just SQUEEEAAAAAK?

Okay, so what about when they’re depressed or pissed off?

Well, when they’re depressed as an aesthetic? I find that they tend to be unbearable.

While high-pitched shrieking and whining is simply par for the course to many Japanese bands, it just ain’t sexy. Sorry Glay, whining isn’t the same as gut-curdling, throat-scraping rage. Same goes for you Luna Sea, Siam Shade, and especially YOU Dir en Grey.

Maybe if the Japanese Goth scene (Vis Kei. Hisss!) stopped whispering and blubbering for .2 fucking seconds, they could devote a little pathos towards their music and less towards their eyeliner.

Until I learn to appreciate that, I will stick with the derivatives.

The following artists were all produced by Americans.

The most alluring masculine roar I can find belongs to Ken Lloyd, half Briton/half Nihonjin frontman for Oblivion Dust. When he gasps, I think predictably unclean thoughts. When he screams, I want to break something. Close your eyes and OD is just another late 90's Lollapalooza band. But hey, I don’t give a damn. I just want a little aggression...in Japanese please. Lloyd is equally effective in Japlish (as in Forever) but if all he did was sing the ABC’s, I’d still be in rapt attention.

Really a shame they weren’t more popular in Japan. They’d have made it big had they only been around a decade or two earlier.

Most admirable femme growl belongs to Youjeen, a Korean singer raised in Japan. Her rage is not Cocco’s caterwauling, Aya’s petulant meowing or Shiina’s ear-splitting modem scream. It is guttaral, unrestrained and at times borders on the androgynous. Youjeen is only a vocal piece, yeah, but she’s a ballsy little wench. Founded by J of Luna Sea (vis k band ICK!!!!) and Franz Stahl of the Foo Fighters, she is more than just talented by association. She rants hysterically in garbled English on the first track of her debut Apple for Your Thoughts, howls like she’s being tortured in Imitation You (J’s icky vis k influence most evident on this track as well as the 4th track Witch). She emotes like dark clouds unraveling in the 7-minute ballad Someday which I adore for the orchestra in the background. All the drammy November Rain vibes can kiss my ass.

I have one thing to say about her career, though.

Her debut album, The Doll, was all I ever wanted. A kick in the teeth. It’s still my favorite album of 2001 and that's when Shiina put out her live CD.

I am still trying to forget Youjeen's second album, Bewitched, ever existed.

Without her fancy collaborators, Youjeen's sound fell to packaged, plastic, Avril-ized pop.

I do not foresee Youjeen taking on another Japanese endeavor anytime soon. Last I heard she went back to her Korean band, Cherry Filter. Eh, they seem to need all the help they can get. Any band that has Youjeen begin a song with the words “Sweet little kitty” deserves my ire.

I guess sometimes it’s just a matter of who’s calling the shots.

So who else we got?

AYA has been known to rage becomingly though she’s nowhere near as bitchy as Youjeen. In fact, the fairest comparison I can draw for her is Macy Gray throwing a tantrum to some guitars. Or perhaps Liz Phair.

She ain’t half bad.

Once upon a time there was a girl from Hokkaido whose life changed forever after hearing Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Her 2002 debut, Senjou to Hana (produced by Adam Kasper) was backed by a myriad of American musicians whom I am shamelessly unfamiliar with. Yes, I suck with names but that doesn’t mean I can’t drop ‘em. ^^ Matt Cameron (ex Soundgarden, currently with Pearl Jam), Kim Thayil (ex Soundgarden), John McBain (ex Monster Magnet), and Glenn Slater (ex Walkabouts).

Most important to Aya however, was Krist Novoselic.

Good on ya girlie, not many get to collaborate with their idols.

But Senjou to Hana sent conflicting signals. It was like she wasn’t quite sure what to do with her sound. Should she begin a song fetching and kittenish and then erupt? Should she head bang it on the first track and then croon broken heartedly on the second? Although the album had one or two memorable tracks, overall I thought it pretty forgettable. And the lyrics? Even her hardest track sounded like petulance though the guitars were awesome. What happened, Aya? Someone spit in your peachwater?

Her second album, Kinjirareta Uta (Forbidden Song) in 2004 discarded her high-power Seattle backup and got a better grip on her niche. After all, who the hell was Aya without the Seattlites? I think she learned better what she could accomplish with her voice and flaunted it. She actually did better without them. Even her lyrics made more sense.

I once brought Kinjirareta Uta to an improv show at the UCB and the memory of watching the cast of Mother rocking out to SADISM still makes me smile.

Aya's the only one of the three still making music in Japan.

Labels: ,


Anonymous NaeNae said...

I listen to Dir en grey, and many Jrock bands. Diru usually gives a bad first impression to some listeners, but those who hang in there grow to adore Kyo's vocals. He can moan, growl, scream, be high, low, orgasim.. his range is impressive for someone who's never had any training.
And they do pay more attention to their music than looks, they have stopped being quite so visual. Nor have they ever been goth. Just because you wear dark cloths and make-up, that doesn't make you goth.
Don't let make-up and flashy costumes decive you into thinking that means an artist doesn't care as much for their music.
L'Arc~en~Ciel is a Jrock band that is not visual, their singer, hyde has beautiful deep vocals.
X-Japan was a great band with good ballads, their guitarist, hide, had a good solo career with some unique, but fun music.
I've just recently discovered Aya, I liked her bitchyness.. we all need to bitch, throw fits, and scream every now and then, but Jrock can be fun too. That's why I like it.

3:30 PM, June 17, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home