JAPAN - Sandii And The Sunsetz
Sheffield City Hall Oct 30/31
Look through David Sylvians eyes and all you,ll see is a frustrating dilemma. What are Japan doing here ? They,ve given over three months notice for this tour and yet, from the introductory taped bars of `Burning Bridges` to the final coda of `Fall In Love With Me`, they haven,t a single new song to speak of.
The fact that Japan split up several months ago but haven,t had the courage to inform either their fans or their record company is the dilemma.
So here we are being distracted by the urgent beat of Sandii And The Sunsetz on their debut tour of Britain.
Fronted by a good-looker with the larynx of an oriental Kate Bush, the five piece Japanese band gyrate through a gruff, doped-up funk sound before a hypnotic, monochrome background of op-arty aspiration.
Although failing to fully recapture the organised melody and resonance of the new album, `Immigrants`, and often reflecting more of the sombre, cluttered menace of their first record, `Heat Scale`, the Sunsetz remain riveting.
The days of Japan, on the other hand, have long since been relegated to fairly uninspiring memories. Featuring Masami Tsuchiya of Ippu Do, on guitar - he was showcased on a recent OGWT - Japan 1982 present an incestuous, backslapping soiree with all the people and music you know and love most. From the clothes down - a profusion of silk baggies and waist jackets designed by Tsuchiya,s wife Yoko Sudo - the entire package waltzes through the indiscriminate world of big business with an incorrigible mask of mock suavity
Sylvian rises like a fox to the occasion ; his pained meander of a vocal slipping through the punchier `Alien` and `Swing` with never a duff note to taint the expensive, crystal sound. Karn duck waddles across the stage repeatedly like a two bob Chuck Berry in a snazzy red dress, while Barbieri and Jansen stay rooted to keyboards and drums respectively, pumping out the traditional, grandiose Japan overtures.
Shame though that Tsuchiya,s accomplished but nevertheless hysterical guitar grates so abrasively against Japan,s smooth, dextrous landscapes.
Their strength lies implicitly in the lack of sharp edges, in their almost blandly innocuous lullabies.
In fact, its only when Tsuchiya abandons the guitar and moves onto the keyboards that Japan hit the heights. Through `Visions Of China` and to the quiet catharsis of `Nightporter`, Sylvian sits serene on his Prophet 5 throne and, accompanied only by Mick Karn,s gentle clarinet, projects an elegy of cliché-free romanticism with absolutely overwhelming passion and bitter lament. The next single is without doubt Japan,s finest moment, its their only one at this performance.
With Tsuchiya once again returning to murder `Quiet Life` through feedback tricks and fast, furious riffing and even Sylvian scratching out the essentials on a six string for `The Art Of Parties`, the value-for-six-quid dream begins to fade at a remarkable rate.
New Musical Express 13th November 1982
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