Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Just a few of the items glommed from my latest supermarket sweeps win.

JAPROCKSAMPLER by Julian Cope (Bloomsbury, 2007)

I can see it now, some typical mid-aged potbelly 'mercun strawman of the hip-de-la-creme obsessive-elitists gettin' an eyefulla the cover onna left..."Hey Gladys, didja see that??? A whole buncha Japs on motorcycles and they's cruisin' around like that buck nekkid 'n right out in daylight where everyone can sees 'em!!! Not a stitch onna whole bunch...a nekkid Jap motorcycle gang, can ya believe that Gladys???? Well, I hope they remember to SCRUB THEM SEATS when they're through...after all, who wants to ride a motorcycle with a seat fulla skidmarks!"

Yeah, the cover of JAPROCKSAMPLER showin' the Flower Travellin' Band as they popped up on their primo album (not countin' the one they did as just plain "The Flowers" which even showed cheek as well as their femme Grace Slick imitator inna buff as well!) is a proverbial doozy, and it only goes to show ya just how whacked out the entire Japanese rock scene was back in those wild and wooly early-seventies days. And, as far as a history of the Japanese rock scene goes JAPROCKSAMPLER delivers part of the goods but not all, but then again since this was yet another Julian "KRAUTROCKSAMPLER" Cope outing were you exactly expecting an objective look at the rock/roll scene over in old Nippon, hmmmmm?

I guess that this newie purports to be some sorta skewered history of the Japanese under-the-ground more or less scene, and if you've known and loved Cope's previous entry into the realm of import bin rockism you'll probably love this one as well. And yeah, I really dug KRAUTROCKSAMPLER to the core especially in the way Cope explained how the style (at its peak) was the perfect mooshing together of late-sixties Amerigan garage band forms and English snoot rock experimentation, but sheesh, I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't have whatcha might call SERIOUS RESERVATIONS about not only this book but the well-known and perhaps well-loved author of the thing!

Not that it ain't kinda fun reading Cope weave in and out as he sorta ties together the entire history of post-Perry Japan and its gobbling up of just about everything Western and churning out its own interesting variation of the form. And yeah, that's stuff you can find in just about any book on Japan, but having it told to you in pure hippypunkspeak by some guy who, like most post-Marxist "New Men" tends to make you wanna do a little upchucking yourself, ain't exactly my idea of high energy rock & roll scribing on any sorta esoteric level. It just ain't as good as if this all-important saga was being relayed to you by a rock & roll fan sans any of the pretension and righteousness that Cope just oozes with his flower-punk oration, so mind the whole Politically Correct-speak if you so wish because between the Neo-Pagan spew maybe there is something here to dig into and perhaps even enjoy.

Now I gotta admit that Cope sure had his work cut out for him in concentrating on the meat and eliminating the gristle from the body of work. But there seems to be way too many pieces missing from the puzzle and a whole lotta blank spaces making one wanna know more about certain groups who only seem to be mentioned in passing. Not forgetting the ones that weren't even mentional at all. Even Cope would admit to the huge hunks of missing histoire in this book, but where the heck were the Sadistic Mika Band? I mean, if there was any Japanese group to attempt making commerical inroads into western record collections it was these pagoda-proggers! And yeah, Cope had the good sense to dispense with mentioning some of the eighties also-rans like Yellow Magic Orchestra, but if you ask me (and why else are you tuning into this blog anyway?) JAPROCKSAMPLER reads like a big hop skip and jump through various sixties/seventies garage band and underground rock concerns trying to connect them all without any really strong cohesiveness, and its all wrapped up in this boring European leftspeak that I would've hoped was washed away by the fall of the Soviet Union way back inna early-nineties but seems to linger on with an even stronger stench to the nostrils especially these days!

But got it I did, and the main reason I snatched this sucker up was for the chapter on Les Rallizes Denudes. If ever there was a Japanese group to make me wanna blow entire paychecks on the myriad asst. of legit and "grey area" reissues now swarming the market it's this bunch, and Cope thankfully does a pretty snat job telling us all about the whys and wherefores of group leader Takeshi Mizutani and his various "refuseniks", including original bassist Moriyasu Wakabayashi who took part in the "infamous" (as they say) Yodo-Go hijacking of a Boeing 727 to North Korea where not surprisingly Wakabayashi has spent the past 38 years as a guest of the state. The group's fixation with the Gallic language and chic set is explained enough for you to get a handle on how it affected their music, and I can't see how anyone who gets excited over their various offerings wouldn't buy JAPROCKSAMPLER if only for the chapter on this fantastic grouping that pretty much aped the Velvet Underground's entire dark-rock style in the late-sixties the same way groups like the Deviants did in London, or the Seventh Seal in Detroit not forgetting Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show in Dayton!

But still, Cope slips up in his Denudes piece, perhaps letting the hagiography get the best of him which I can't fault him for considering I've fallen into the same trap plenty of times myself. Saying that Mizutani spent a vast portion of the seventies "in suspended animation" a la Von Lmo sure belies the vast array of Denudes disques spanning that decade which reside in my abode, plus I don't know what evidence Cope has that Mizutani has ever been to France, other than via this dubiously-titled bootleg of what supposedly is a session recorded in Paris with Maureen Tucker if you can "dig" that! OK, you can expect the usual slip-ups and mistakes here/there (I counted a few which I will probably remember about one minute after posting this), but something along the lines of an error of these magnitudes should have been edited out upon first draft dontcha think? Oh well, considering some of the Helen Kellers they have as proofreaders these days...

And yeah, it can be hard to stomach a good portion of the uppercrust-snoot hipster attitude (and all of the destructive leftist pose that goes with that!) this book was marinated in! And double yeah, I really can't stand Cope's oh-so-smart broadsides against the same establishment that allows for his patented revolutionary raveups. But I didn't buy this to read Cope's conjuring up the long-gone spirit of '68 but for the rock & roll! And twixt the chapters on the Flower Travellin' Band (see last post for my writeup on their second disque), the Taj Mahal Travellers and of course our dear sainted Denudes maybe you to can find some nice li'l gems amidst the counterkultural goop. I particularly liked the little bits on the old "group sound" acts like the Spiders, Mops and other NUGGETS aficionados as well as the primo undergrounder group the Jacks (not forgetting the page on the Japanese electric guitar industry) so you could say JAPROCKSAMPLER wasn't a total, or even a half-washout. But still, the brief mentions of some of the groups more attuned to the BLOG TO COMM sense of suburban punkitude like the aforementioned Jacks, redski rabblerousers/teen heart throbs Zuno Keisatsu and especially the pre-Teenage Jesus/Contortions 3/3 only makes one hunger for more garage and less speculation, which come to think of it is always what the best rock reads do!

ONE MORE grave error on Cope's part...why no mention of any of the great post-Rallizes garage bands like Up Tight, LSD March or Doodles even if they are way outside some imaginary "timeline"? The purposeful omission of these and many other new Japanese groups of varying qualities only adds to a certain lack of cohesiveness that doesn't help this book out any.

And hey, why (once again) the hefty price tag on this hardcover? Cope, if you're so big on the whole prole/anti-capitalism game you have no right selling your writings (which, in effect, belong to da people!) at such exorbitant costs! Why should I buy something from a person out to make a (shudder!!!) profit, especially one who claims to have solidarity with us braceros??? Oh, for shame!


Having the cheapazoid Italian Base reissue of this groundbreaking '66 sesh on iffy-pressed vinyl already, I passed on the early-'90's ZYX Cee-Dee reissue of Murray's legendary debut as a leader back in the day fearing too many overlaps in my LP/digital collection. Well, I gotta admit that maybe this 'un was worth the additional space in my already-overcrowded pile o' platters so here I am, a good quarter-century after getting the album version and a good fifteen years after ignoring the reissued CD finally getting the thang via the latest incarnation of the classy ESP label. Of course they hadda replace the boffo original sleeve with one of a horn-rimmed and suited up Murray, but who cares since the music is still there with Murray's frenetic free drumspew accompanied by such greats as Byard Lancaster, Alan Silva, BYG reg. Jacques Coursil and the mysterious Jack Graham.

One li'l beef...the inclusion of a recorded interview with Murray that opens up and closes out this disque which seems obtrusive especially since it woulda been better printed up as a booklet or somethin'! Not that it ain't hot listening to Murray talk smart about his own history and his involvement with the free music via the likes of Cecil Taylor et. al., but for some reason a brief snippet of someone discussing this album pops up right after track #1 ("Phase 1,2,3,4") ruining the entire ambience of this disc! I mean, if you wanna you can always program the original monologue beginning and ending this disque out (it's only good for a single spin anyways), but intersplicing it with the sounds extant is a gaffe that makes me wanna lead a peasant's revolt to have all interview material excised from future pressings, and to have ESP give everyone who got stuck with this one a freebie sans any aural historical ramalama! Awww, but rilly why should I do any complainin' with music as free-form inpressionisticly spazz as this?
Coloured Balls-BALL POWER CD (Aztec, Australia)

Still tryin' to get more metal in my mainline and hoped that this debut Coloured Balls Cee-Dee would fill the proverbial bill. (Click here for a review of followup offering HEAVY METAL KID...and only I could get things bassackwards by buying and reviewing the second disque before the first!) And it does, with Lobby and Co. doing their wang-dang-doodlest to please us not only with their powerful take on early heavy metal but by tossing in a tad bitta English-styled proggisms (that synth on "That's What Momma Said" sounds straight outta the 1971 ELP playbook!) and some hot glam pop t' boot. But don't be led to believe that this disque is an aerie faerie electronic pranceathon for even with the synth and the glitter BALL POWER still rocks out like nothing heard at least until the second great age of metal in the mid-eighties! And it's so powerful and pure in that classic early-seventies way that you KNOW it shoulda gotten the late-seventies punk reissue treatment (after all, the guys at Stiff recs showed interest in these old tracks so maybe Loyde coulda been another Mickey Jupp for all we know)! And it all comes down with the massive "G. O. D." ("Guitar Overdose") which if you ask me is GOD, and in a more insane world would have been the LAST WORD in metal music dontcha think???


Anonymous said...

Most helpful is that review of the Cope book. I won’t buy it but will have a free read of the Denudes chapter next time I’m in the bookshop. You’re right, Cope picks excellent subject matter then ruins it with that pretentious flowery waffling writing style of his. Also, I still remember the lightweight chart pop masquerading as psychedelia that he served up over here in the UK back in the 80s. It’s difficult to take a book from shelf to till under those conditions.


Anonymous said...