Japan: where to start? (the band, not the country)

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, Jun 11, 2002.

  1. I'm going to get a fretless in a few weeks and I want to open up my ears to some fretless sounds that aren't Jaco or Tony Levin. I know that Mick Karn is known as one of the greatest fretless bassists of all time. What Japan album should I get that best shows Karn's talents?
  2. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    I've never heard much Japan (heard a few sound clips but couldn't get into the vocals).
    I'd recommend "Polytown", all instrumental with Mick Karn, David Torn, and Terry Bozzio.
    I haven't heard any other stuff from Mick Karn but someone else once recommend "The Tooth Mother" to me (knowing that I liked "Polytown").
    Good Luck and Happy Shopping!
  3. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    The live "Oil on Canvas has some great Karn work on it....and their reunion Rain Tree crow is good too!
    I love Mick Karn.....about as far from the Jaco fretless thing as you can find....a wonderful artist!
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree on this - its a great album with some wonderful sounds/songs!

    I remember being really into Mick Karn's playing and then I read an interview in a UK Musician magazine where he told about making this album. He mentioned how nearly all the bass lines he put down were out-of-tune and out-of-key - presumably he had intonation problems. But Sylvian and the keyboard player liked the sound of the basslines so much, they re-recorded all the keyboard parts to fit! ;)

    So if you're trying to copy his style I would make sure you have a very "understanding" band!!
  5. I knew I would find you here. :D

    Any thoughts on Dali's Car?

    Another Mick Karn disk that I love.
  6. This, sir, is why they make basses with lined fingerboards.
  7. Jontom


    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    Dalis' Car- Love it! I like the way Mick Karn double tracks his fretless(one take right -another take left) to make you feel like you're "inside" his bass. Its like an ear massage!
  8. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    I just got Rain Tree Crow, at a mere four pounds, and I've listened a few times, but to me it doesn't reach the same level as Japan did.
    I like Japan better because the singer still sings with his falsetto voice (here, he is using this lowish vocal that is just on the wrong side of pretentiousness), and because the bass playing of Karn was more upfront. Karn has a few lines, and he leaves a lot of room in the music which is also nice but...I guess they didn't continue the band for nothing.
    I think it sounded a bit too much like a David Sylvian record alltogether.
    I would also recommend getting tin drum, or other Japan albums. Especially now they are being remastered and repackaged and all that.
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I bought Tin Drum a couple months back...I heard a clip of "Visions Of China" & hadda hear more from these guys. Weird, I never really heard of them until recently.
    Their 'look' is very Duran Duran-ish.
  10. Judge


    Mar 26, 2004
    Got to go with Tin Drum on this one. Fantastic album with great bass lines plus some great drum patterns by Steve Jansen (I think that was his name). This album really distinguished Japan, with classy arrangments and well structured songs. Their previous album Gentlemen Take Polaroids was a bit more standard 80's pop.

    I have vague recollection of Mick Karn, when Japan disbanded, doing a single where he does some slapping on the bass. For some reason I seem to think it was with Kim Wilde's brother. Anyone remember this? I know I've got the single stored in my sister's attic with the rest of my vinyl collection.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    BTW, I heard the clip to "Visions Of China" outta some Bass mag from the U.K.
    ...why/how did this somewhat convoluted fretless bassline/figure make it into the magazine's "Top 50 Basslines of Punk"?
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It's weird isn't it!!?

    Japan were about in the background when Punk "happened" in the UK and then we had the "New Wave" which came out of punk and bands like Joy Division were using new production techniques and going way beyond the punk ethic with which they started - like in "Closer".

    So - this album : "Tin Drum" appears in the midst of the post-punk New wave and it was right for the time, purely by accident - people were interested in expanding the music and new instruments and production techniques - but not going back to the "excesses" of prog rock that punk wiped out in Britain.

    So Japan are mostly about mood, atmosphere and relatively short songs - you could listen to Closer and Tin Drum - and get the same kind of experience.

    But the bands had travelled very different roads and Japan were lucky to be mostly ignored during the punk era and then to re-appear when people were more open to arty experimentation. Although - there were always elements of this in British punk - like Siouxsie and the Banshees, who were considered punk and "art rock " at the same time ...?? :confused: Lene Lovic was another example of this "punk/goth/art school" crossover...
  13. No! It's the other way round! Duran Duran's look (during the 80's) is very Japan-ish! ;)
    ...well, at least I've always thought Japan had started before LeBon & Co.?!
  14. it should be "their look is very Roxy Music-ish".
  15. Well, probably both is correct. I was more judging by what the guys looked like during their "Quiet Life" phase (David Sylvian looks like DD's Nick Rhodes)! There are even pics where their look is very "Sweet"-ish!
  16. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    They're my favorite band, and Karn is my favorite bassist. 'Quiet Life', 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' and 'Tin Drum' are all essential, all very different. Once you fall in love with those, pick up their first two albums, which were also just reissued: 'Adolescent Sex' and 'Obscure Alternatives'. They're rougher and dirtier, but still very great in their own way. And Karn's fretless bass still sticks out (though not quite as much). In fact, I never picked up the reissues of the first three albums because I already have one or two versions of them. Maybe I'll gave eventually though.
  17. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    I like that song 'mobile homes' a lot, from Tin Drum. Even though it sounds dated now, I preferred David Sylvian's falsetto singing back then to the new agey low murmur he exercises now. I wouldn't recommend the same to David Bowie, though.
  18. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    The thing that bugs me about Sylvian is that in interviews he says stuff like, "I haven't listened to Japan since Tin Drum was released." Yeah, okay, like anything you've done since your Japan approaches the greatnest of that band. The only song he looks back kindly on is "Ghost," one of their worst songs because it has no fretless! His most recent album 'Blemish' is unlistenable. And the thing is...it got great reviews all around.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Maybe that's because most music critics don't use : "has fretless bass" as a criteria for judging whether an album is any good or not!! ;)

    "Ghosts" is certainly one of Japan's best ever tunes and a big favourite with their fans - as is "Night Porter" - but neither has any fretless bass from Mick Karn!! ;)