Simply described, J-Rock is more akin in sound to many 80's euro and glam infuences, but it doesn't stop there. It has a character so unique that it is unmistakable. The degree of melodicism and emotion in J-Rock is unprecedented in the pop genre. There is also their disregard for many western musical stereotypes, allowing J-Rock bands free reign over a vast range of sound and themes.
Here are some of my J-Rock picks, bands whose music are worth breaking the language barrier for:
L'Arc en Ciel
Another group photo
|This is the first J-Rock
band that I truly considered listenng to. Being an anime fan I once chanced
on their single "Blurry Eyes" and ended up playing the very catchy tune.
A friend of mine lent me a tape and I discovered just how much most closed-minded
western music lovers are missing.
L'Arc en Ciel (rainbow in French) is a four-piece visual rock act whose sound is so diverse, that hearing songs from them is a never-ending guessing game. I can fuzzily describe their music as U2-esque brew of many seminal influences. Their music ranges from your typical major scale based upbeat J-Rock to some mild metal, slowing emotionally on some ballads, getting ethereal on some songs I can't classify, using horns on more upbeat ska-like tunes and even musing on some country progressions. I can just say that this band has got to be the most musically diverse band I have ever heard, with the guts to write and execute themes that are naturally cheesy, turning them in to kick-ass rock.
Powered by the ever-rolling basslines by Tetsu, colored by Ken's shrieking guitar lines and Yukihiro's drumming their sound is crowned with Hyde's vocals, probably one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard, rivaling the likes of Bono or Bruce Dickinson.
For most people who even think that the idea of listening to Japanese songs is weird, L'Arc en Ciel will serve as the best introduction.
||Not your typical
J-Rock group. Sans the visual-rock image and the idol singer stigma, The
Brilliant Green reminds me British groups like the Sundays.
Their approach to music is pretty common among alternative music acts,
but unlike their Euroopean counterparts, their songs display much more
Fronted by songstress Tomoko "Tommy" Kawase, the Brilliant Green is a trio that has been playing the Japanese indie scene since 1997. Formed and led by their bassist, "Buri Guri" as they are known in Japan has become quite an item. Their songs have even been tapped for television show themes, and Tommy herself has even modeled for a fashion line.
With a simple sense of fashion and a raw, honest sound , The Brilliant Green belts out some very nice tunes. In a rockscape of all that is fantastic, their down-to-earth sound brewing with intense emotion and intelligence (as well as Tommy's cute English renditions) make this band worthy of any alternative rocker's ears.
||This group is considered
legendary in their homeland and have even spawned a loyal cult following
in Europe and the States. X Japan IS Visual Rock. They are the epitome
of image and sound in J-Rock and have influenced countless rock acts during
their 15-year reign.
Now defunct, X Japan (formerly just X) is led by drummer pianist Yoshiki. Axes are manned by Pata and one of the true icons of J-Rock, the religiously popular Hide whose death in 1998 was as controversial as his whole life.The lineup is complemented by Heath on bass and heralded by Toshi's power vocals.
Their sound is basically glam metal, but a lot of their songs have a tendency for thrash and speed. Though generally compared by many to Guns N'Roses or Poison, X Japan's speed themes on songs like "I'll Kill You" remind me more of old hardcore bands like SOD. The guitars are dirty and razor sharp, with the duo's solos resounding in metal glory. Of course, love songs and ballads are on the menu, and surprisingly, they also write some typically upbeat "happy" J-Rock staples.
With the image that puts Kiss and Motley Crue to shame, X Japan rocks a roll that is loud and powerful. But beyond the noise lies a compromise with melodicism and clashing emotions, which makes their music exciting and stimulating. This is really provocative rock that will leave a taste on any metal head's mouth.
||Probably the most popular
band in Japan today. Glay is a visual group whose music can be described
as above-par J-Rock. They played the Live House scene for a while until
they were discovered by former X Japan drummer (now a producer) Yoshiki
Hayase. Their name "Glay" is really "Gray", but with all the phonetics
in the Japanese language, they stuck with the former while maintaining
the meaning the latter.
Easygoing , emotional , melodic and quite infectious. To be honest , I haven't really heard much of their stuff. As far as image is concerned, they are still very visual, with their black outfits, outrageous hairdos and bishonen persona. Their song "Soul Love" was the number one single for the year 1998, and I can plainly say that it is one of my favorite J-Rock songs.
at a smile like THAT?!
|Do As Infinity is the brainchild
of songwriter extraordinaire Dai Nagao. Barely three years old, this band
has fast become one of Japan's biggest pop-rock acts. Its basically
a weird trio with Nagao on guitars, Ryo Oowatari also on guitars and the
magnificent Tomiko Van on vocals.
Now don't get me wrong. Tomiko Van maybe the most gorgeous woman on this planet, but I would be selling DAI short if I never cared for music. Their music is tightly written and filled with some of the most ingenious breaks I've ever heard. Dai Nagao's infamy as a songwriter is well-deserved. Now back to Tomiko... this woman can SING! Her alto voice is very powerful and her delivery very compelling. Her intonations and falcettos are superb and she sounds just as beautiful live. What else can I say? These guys are the real thing!