Saturday, November 07, 2009


My lack of a Cee-Dee player has upped my appreciation for my vinyl collection just like I knew it would, and amongst my recent traipses down into the dungeon I have been immersing myself in some Japanese pressed Sadistic Mika Band albums that I shoved to the rear of the stack at least until now. I reviewed a compact disc collection of theirs but a few scant years back but must admit that it ain't been getting the spins it should, perhaps out of lethargy more than anything. I dunno, perhaps with my infatuation with the Japanese underground rock of Les Rallizes Denudes and their various acolytes the comparatively commercial rock of Mikas was bound to be forgotten, but given the lack of digital gratification and the fact that the weather is cooling (which always reminds me of the more aware, maturing aspects of my youth for reasons you'd never believe) it was high time that I gave the Sadistic ones a serious listen at least to remind myself whether or not if those rock crits and import bin aficionados of the mid-seventies were RIGHT or just yanking at our sense of wonderment over new LP's arriving at our local shop daily!

If someone were to ask me what we really needed in 1975, I would've answered "a Japanese Roxy Music". Well not rilly since at that time I really didn't care for Roxy one whit (though I was a fan and follower, at least to the best of my abilities, of the more rock & roll-oriented aspects of Eno which is something I proudly hail!), but if I were as up on the international music scene like many of you undoubtedly were I MIGHT have given the Sadistic Mika Band more than just a passing glance! Really, maybe what the world really needed in 1975 was a Japanese Roxy Music or Sparks or Jet or Fans, and if any group was up on giving this decadence a twist it would have had to have been the Mikas, a bunch who at least on the surface looked as if they could have produced a good Far Eastern twist on the same English upper crust mirror gazing!

HOT MENU I guess is the one that broke the ice in England and was available only as an import here in Yankeeville, and surprisingly enough it appeared on the Harvest label which is a tad strange in retrospect because these Japanese Misters and Missus were more attuned to the Island label's infatuation with snazzy sexual decadence aimed at trolloping teens on the lookout for hidden throb thrill music. Maybe Harvest wanted to dig into that audience kinda like the way MGM would attempt to "do" a Warner Brothers with a gangster film like DEAD END, and besides since the Sadistic Mika Band was signed to EMI over there why not have Harvest appropriate 'em over here?

Soundwise HOT MENU seems about as much of a Japanese take on Western Decadence Music that a Japanese act could bear to muster up, though the Roxy Music let alone King Crimson influence touted by this group is minimal at best (the latter of which is OK by me, not being that much of a fan of the Crimsons for at least three-plus decades, and before that as well). Even the bound-to-make-me-drool ref to Velvet Underground white noise mentioned in a NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS tome of the time is MIA which naturally would depress me, but overall the resulting sound, finely tuned and all, is that of a extremely honed, Far Eastern pop-cum-rock (yes, the Kyu Sakamoto effect does come in as you would expect) Roxy without the brash guitar/electronics interplay that made those guys out-there enough that even Rocket From The Tombs would want to cover their numbers. Even Mika's vocals which you'd think would be a tremendous selling point for this group are kept to a minimum making me wonder if what I've heard about Japanese men and their treatment of women as either lust objects or hate figures (see Brian Eno discussion on pornography with Chrissie Hynde in a '74-vintage NME) is true after all, and in fact had carried over into this chart-topping Japanese act.

Still there is a nice lilt to this, nothing I'd want to have a steady diet of but it sure comes in handy when I do get into my occasional mid-seventies progressive/proto-punk blur moments (see Deaf School, Sparks) and feel like re-living those days through rose-colored rear-view mirrors of course. Oddly enough, the LIVE IN LONDON album sounds almost exactly the same as the studio tracks making me wonder if the Mikas are in fact automaton perfectionists and if so why didn't they tour with Kraftwerk! But I sure found it way more enjoyable than much of the hotcha rockmag putsch music of the day even with the lack of a high energy freak rock quotient and they certainly put the other import fodder of the day in the shade with their natural Japanese smart pop quotient mixed with the better moments England had to offer us at the time. And besides, you know that I could look at Mika all day even if she was just propped up there doing nothing but radiating that boffo Japanese femme pulchritude!

If you're able to you might want to latch onto the US Mika album which takes bits and pieces from HOT MENU and that other one which had Mika and band samba-ing on the front cover though don't be confused since thus domestic brand uses the same cover as another SMB album with the group floating in mid-air, only major diff. being that the US cover comes complete with new liner notes used to sucker the unwary prog fan into snatching this one up in the hopes of discovering a new Crimson or Beatles. The live one might set you back a few more dollahs, but it sure fits in swell with that Amon Duul II live London set as far as quickie cash-ins celebrating recent arrivals to the British shores go. And if you're still not sated there is at least one relevant youtube link up that is taken from what looks like a mid-seventies Japanese variation on BEAT CLUB which will give you a sweet taste. As far as later recordings post-Mika go you might want to caveat since even these shoulda-known-better types decided to fall prey to the dread disease of disco for at least for a short spell and why should you forgive 'em!

Interesting aside: after Mika split from husband/group founder Kazuhiko Katoh right at the brink of fame she eventually ended up marrying Harvest head Peter Jenner, while former member Yukihiro Takashi drummed for the Yellow Magic Orchestra, I guess a fate that would befall someone performing this style of Japanese electro rock well into the eighties long after its shelf life had ended. Meanwhile, none other than band leader Kazuhiko himself committed suicide just this past October 18th, presumably not due to any anticipation of this blog post though given some of the reactions I get to this I wouldn't doubt it one bit.


Bill S. said...

thanks for this very interesting coverage, Chris. I've always felt I need to know more about these characters! So are you going to get a CD player for Christmas? I have some things I can burn for you whenever you're ready and have a player...


ps, I've already got a modest Christmas present for you. It's a book and I don't think you have it (although maybe I should double-check the old reviews and see...if so, I could always send it to Brad Kohler and get you something else)

weasel walter said...

they petered out by "hot menu". the first one has some good rocking out on it (prob. the most BTC friendly), and the second one "black ships" has their greatest song "time machine ni onagai" (a real partner to "re-make/re-model", if i ever heard one . . .

Anonymous said...

Chris – Forgive me for going off-topic but famous 2-in-1 London record shop Stand Out/Minus Zero is shutting up shop early next year after 25 years of trading. A few years ago Bill Allerton (owner of Stand Out Records) seemed to come by a job lot of early 70’s Zig Zag fanzines. Anyway, apparently Bill is offering 25% off on all shop goods until the closure. I know these sort of wares are right down your street so why not drop him an e-mail and see what he has on offer? He’s probably got a load of other ultra-rare fanzine booty in the mythical hidden back room that Johan Kugelberg and others occasionally refer to. Bill’s e-mail address is: There’s some good blurb about the closure here: Regards, tf