MELODY MAKER, April 28, 1979 (Thanks to Paulo
in Brazil for this)
When Japan first emerged on the British rock
scene almost a year ago supporting Blue Oyster Cult, they were
confronted with volatile criticism from many who regarded them as
little more than another New York Dolls. However, penetrating behind
the pretty looks and dyed hair it became clear that here was a youthful
British group of considerable musical talent - their debut album,
"Adolescent Sex," being in my opinion one of the finest releases of '78.
Since then they have travelled far, with great
success appropriately in Japan, and last week returned to London for a
one-off appearance at the Rainbow. With no vinyl offering since their
second LP "Obscure Alternatives," I wondered whether headlining such a
venue was a wise decision, as they have yet to make their full impact
in this country.
Judging from the empty seats towards the back
of the hall it would appear that the move may have indeed been slightly
premature. Nevertheless, those in attendance were treated to an
excellent performance by a band for whom I predict a very promising
The material comprised a selection from both
albums together with several new numbers. Of these, a couple strongly
suggested Giorgio Moroder, doubtless due to the fact that the Midnight
Express Oscar-winning producer worked on one song with the band quite
recently. The disco element managed to bring yet another dimension to
Japan's style, which already incorporates funk and reggae with basic
Leader singer David Sylvian was in fine voice,
although he looks somewhat handicapped with a guitar in his hands, and
lost some of his force as a front man during the time he spent playing
an axe. Yet for the rest of the show he appeared cool and well in
command, even venturing into keyboards playing for a couple of songs.
The visual side of the gig was enhanced by the
inclusion of a few short films of the band in very surrealistic
surroundings. Musically, the highlights were "Suburban Love," "The
Unconventional" and the title track from the first album, and
"Automatic Gun" amd "Rhodesia" from "Obscure Alternatives."
It was enjoyable to see Japan live once more
and when they return to the capital with a third album behind them
those empty seats will no doubt be filled.