Fancy getting a basic knowledge of the current crop of Japanese mod bands? Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn a new language, Acid Jazz has done the hard work and compiled Swinging Japan (The Neo Mod Scene Tokyo Style).
The Japanese mod scene has always been a vibrant and exciting thing, fuelled by enthusiasm for the past, as well as a desire to create something of their own. This album is pretty much the embodiment of that.
Of course, documenting any ‘sound of mod’ in the modern era is always going to throw up extremes. There is no ‘defined’ sound of mod (and probably hasn’t been for years), which means each of these bands has their own take on the term. That leads to the usual mixed bag, with tunes you will doubtless love and others that might leave you scratching your head. But it’s interesting trip, that’s for sure.
Kicking things off is a track called 6 by Six that’s on the noisy edge of garage. For some, perhaps too rough and ready. But for me, this very short number is far more exciting than just another rehash of a Small Faces riff. The Marquee’s Turn Me On is a raucous take on old school R&B, The Furs (with Free Man) offer a fairly average indie-esque tune (I did say it was a mixed bag), The Scarletts’ instrumental Scarlet Eyes has more than a hint of The Eyes about it (think I’m Rowed Out), The Bergamots go down the garage route with Tell Me Now (throwing in what sounds like a bit of The Cramps too), The Absolude give us some nice vintage-style pop with Band Wagon and ending side one (yes, this is coming out on vinyl too) is a band called Shotgun Runners with Come On, again with garage that’s a little rough around the edges (which is what garage is supposed to be).
As for that side two, that kicks off with old friends Les Cappuccino, a band who were one of the first to be reviewed on this site if I’m not mistaken, here reworking the classic Blow Up! movie theme. Sounds as good as ever.
Following that is The Hair, with the Hammond-y / easy Weekend, Soul Mission’s Groovy Foundation (a funky little instrumental which pretty much matches the title and is not unlike some old school Acid Jazz meterial), plus The Crawlin’ Kingsnakes’s Boogaloo Twiggy, another track that matches the title perfectly – a 60s-style instrumental aimed very much at the dance floor.
The Tramp offer the wonderful Boy and Girl, which sounds like it’s straight of the floor of some psych club in ’67 or ’68, the lead vocalist of Sandiest does his best Jam-era Paul Weller impression impression (and it’s a very good one) on Keep Running From Reality and bringing things to a close is the band that started us off. Yes, Six are back with GPBB, which isn’t s million miles from their opening effort. You’ll love it or hate it.
That shouldn’t be the case for the album though. It’s actually a quite a good collection, which is either down to the quality of the music in Japan right now or some rather clever compiling. Perhaps both.
It documents a scene that’s obviously musically confident and not particularly self-conscious or indeed worried about the ground rules laid down by others in the past. If the end result is as good as this, perhaps others should take note. If you want an overview of what’s going on in Japan, this collection is well worth picking up.