Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Four Electric Ninjas from Japan

As a longtime music fan, rock reviewer, disc jockey and concertgoer, I thought I was fairly aware of most of the musical fads and genres that had come and gone over the past few decades. Oh, sure, I was occasionally taken aback by things like Viking metal and the like, but I thought I knew my pop history pretty well.

Color me embarrassed. How else to explain not just the existence but also a revival of the previously unexplored Japanese movement known as Group Sounds?

Exploding onto the scene in the wake of the Fab Four's appearance at Budokhan in 1966, Group Sounds was earmarked by hundreds of bands featuring fresh-faced boys in matching clothes, one word names like Jaguars or Spiders, and a heavy dose of catchy pop-rock. By the time the psychedelic movement began flowering in the late 60s, the bands that had spearheaded the movement either changed with the times or simply disbanded.

Group Sounds was over as quickly as it had begun.

Fast forward to the 21st century and Group Sounds is back thanks in large part to bands like The Captains and The Psycrons. While the latter prefers the fuzzed out sounds of psychedelic garage that you might have heard on the original Nuggets compilations, The Captains go for a clean, crisp sound to go with their matching military uniforms.

Though popular in their native land, The Captains are just tasting their first bit of success in the States. Their new CD – Last Group Sounds – is out now on Tokyo No Records and collects seven tracks specially selected from their previous efforts plus three new tunes. Taking high energy pop-rock and meshing it with surf guitar and drums, the band comes off at times sounding like a Japanese-language version of the Swedish surf garage band Hawaii Mud Bombers.

Currently on a tour of the States, The Captains land in Philadelphia on Tuesday, September 25th for a Japanese Group Sounds Night brought to you by Joseph Gervasi (co-founder of Diabolik DVD and Exhumed Films) and Tokyo No's Eric Besller. In addition to a performance by the band, the night will feature a subtitled screening of the rare 1968 Japanese rock & roll spy film GO FORWARD starring The Spiders.

For an additional taste of what you can expect from The Captains check out the video below, featuring the band in an homage to the Spaghetti Western. For more videos (including one where they battle gangster rappers who have stolen the lead singer's girlfriend) and concert performances, check out Bessler's page at YouTube.


Cinema Suicide said...

So is this happening in some kind of mainstream capacity or are these guys on the underground like Guitar Wolf. I know that Japanese Pop and Rock has a tendency to move in very brief waves of fads and it's entirely possible that this could be the latest thing to seize Japanese pop culture, but it seems like something small-time.

I part time in a record store on the weekends and my boss is this crazy psych/garage fan that is a walking encyclopedia of all things obscure in terms of 60's rock. He might be into this, but it's sometimes hard for him to even acknowledge anything released after 1969.

Nigel M said...

There was a Japanese mod band called The Spiders which featured the guy from the TV series "Monkey".

Dan said...

I wonder if it's the same band.