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JAPAN/The Regulars


SOUNDS  April 28th 1979

David at The Rainbow

I had just half a pint remaining when the muffled boom from the auditorium announced the arrival onstage of Japan. At that point appeared Will Birch to chew some fat. This face, a gent of considerable suss in these matters, opined that Japan will eventually sell a mess of records. Oh, says me.He departs to take his seat and I to take a leak. This accomplished, I enter the hall in time to find Mr Birch making his exit. But but but, Will, says me. Ah, quoth he and cocking the eyebrow, but I didn`t say I liked them, did I ? And I had to concede that this was indeed true.

Japan, who are indubitably Big In, have the appearance of a commercial phenomenon looking for a place to happen. You,ve seen the poster, now hear the band ! They pick their gestures with care, even as far as embracing that curiously vogueish idea of hiring a reggae band to support. (I haven`t yet come across a reggae group extending a similarly patronising hand in the direction of a white outfit.)

The Regulars, who can`t decide if they`re to be called Reggae Regular or no, have signed for CBS after a couple of ethnicky singles for Greensleeves, and are thus, presumably, steering mainstream.

They are pleasant and refreshing and all seven of them wear nice hats. They are pleasant because they sing very well indeed and refreshing because they keep the Rasta countdown to the level of a red, gold and green belt sported by one of the two singers. They also dance good and couldn`t write a memorable song if given years to do it in. However, that ain`t significantly held back Steel Pulse or Third World.
My fave moment came when the keyboard man weaved a rather … er … euphoric course towards the mike and announced, “Id just like to say….absolutely nothing”.

Seeing as how the place was barely half full downstairs, Japan must have wished they were down the road at The Music Machine. What tickles the Nipponese may not have the same effect on Londoners. Hype springs eternal. I must confess to anticipating masonry mauling heaviness and became puzzled when in its stead we were dealt with some plumy swagger a la New York Dolls wrapped up with apologetic reggae.

The band they most resemble is The Only Ones minus good songs. David Sylvian is patently in favour of anything that leaves room for a decent amount of simpering and shaking off his oddly unfinished hairstyle. During instrumental passages they complement all this by showing us their home movies on a screen that is from time to time lowered on top of the drummer. We`re treated to Japan catching a tube, Japan wading (clothed) through a swimming pool, Japan negotiating an escalator and David Sylvian in full drag. He`s a lad, inne ?

Their most recent concession to fashion is in the way of an injection of Moroder style keyboards. I have little doubt that they will soon be tuning in to Gang Of Four records and skimming off a touch of that. Like Queen took heavy and arty and resold it as new, Japan attempt to cover the gamut of late seventies style and seek to present it in an ostentatious and undemanding enough style to pat the heads of those who feel threatened by any core of individuality.

On that level its puzzling that Generation X get taken moderately seriously while Japan remain the butt of jokes. Both are, in truth, weedy as they are deliberately superficial. The crux is that Generation X would like to be loved and respected while Japan, if they have any sense, will settle for wealth.

They have worked very hard, particularly on their haircuts, and will undoubtedly appeal to those who prefer style to substance. From that point of view, I might not cross the street to hear them but, like Will Birch, I might be interested in some shares
David Hepworth, Sounds, published 28/4/79. Thankyou to Craig for the review and pic.

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