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Japan

Japan's evolution from rather humble glam rock beginnings into stylish synth pop (and beyond) made the British group one of the more intriguing and successful artists of their era. Formed in London in 1974, Japan began its existence as a quintet comprised of singer/songwriter David Sylvian, bassist Mick Karn, keyboardist Richard Barbieri, drummer (and Sylvian's brother) Steve Jansen and guitarist Rob Dean. In their primary incarnation, the group emulated the sound and image of glam rockers like David Bowie and the New York Dolls; Sylvian's over-the-top vocals, much in the vein of Bryan Ferry, also earned Japan frequent (if derisive) comparisons to Roxy Music.

After winning a label-sponsored talent contest, they were signed to Germany's Ariola-Hansa Records in 1977 and debuted a year later with a pair of LPs, Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives, which received little notice at home or in the U.S. but did find favor among Japanese audiences. With 1979's Quiet Life, Japan made a tremendous leap into more sophisticated stylistic and subtle territory; a subsequent hit single covering Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion" further underscored the newfound soulfulness of their music.

1980s Gentlemen Take Polaroids continued to broaden Japan's scope, incorporating a variety of exotic influences into their increasingly atmospheric sound. With 1981's Tin Drum (recorded minus Dean), the band peaked: tapping sources as diverse as funk and Middle Eastern rhythms, the album moved beyond pop confines into experimental tones and textures, and scored a U.K. smash with the single "Ghosts."

However, Tin Drum also proved to be Japan's swan song: long-simmering differences among the bandmembers came to a head when Karn's girlfriend moved in with Sylvian, and the group disbanded in 1982. The individual members quickly forged ahead with their projects: Sylvian began a successful solo career and also entered into a series of collaborations with performers like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czukay and Robert Fripp, while Karn issued a 1982 solo LP, Titles, before founding the short-lived duo Dali's Car with Bauhaus' Peter Murphy. In 1986, meanwhile, Jansen and Barbieri issued Worlds in a Small Room under their own names before recording together as the Dolphin Brothers.

In 1987, Karn released Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters, a solo LP which featured contributions from Sylvian and Jansen, spurring rumors of a reunion which came to fruition in 1989 when the four principal members re-teamed under the name Rain Tree Crow. By the time an eponymously-titled album appeared in 1991, however, relations had again dissolved in acrimony, and the musicians went their separate ways; while Sylvian continued working independently, as the decade wore on Karn, Jansen and Barbieri occasionally reunited in various projects while also maintaining solo careers. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Mystical, magical and profoundly abstracted by obscure vision of genius. There is no comparing sublime creativity and talent as Japan to others who could only hope to be.
bellemcmilla n
I dont comment a lot but I happen to love Japan. Their music is light years more interesting than DD. On par with the genius of Sparks. Both bands have my undivided attention!
(Rolls eyes) who would put Japan in the same category as Duran Duran? Wtf? Japan was avante garde art rock. S**t like Duran Duran u took home to mum n dad. How bland! I love stuff like Siouxsie, Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Alien Sex Fiend n all that just rocks in a dark, macabre way! This way the fans can love it, n the authority figures can piss off!
I heard Roxy Music in this one.
hollestelle
Though I see the Duran Duran link, I do think DD did not really rip from Japan. If so, then who stole from the Cure, from Jesus and Marychain, the melancholy of the Smiths of which Sylvian's singing is reminiscent. Or think ABC and Spandau Ballet... it was the sound of the times; new wave bands inspired by David Bowie.

DD also had distinctivel y more rock elements meandering through their sound. Way more power pop than Japan is. Think GIRLS ON FILM, on of DD's first hits.
Too much bran at the Organic Food Depot - and not enough taste...
poop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop pooppoop poop
Listening to Night Porter for the 5th time in as many days and I never get tired of it. Actually never tire of hearing any Japan song.
One of the most unique and talented bands to come out of the late 70's/early 80's. Mick Karn's fretless bass playing is perfection.
Mystical,mag i c a l and profoundly abstracted by obscure visions of genius.
Japan dissolved too soon!
RIP Mick you live forever in music
I've lost track of how many copies of 'Tin Drum' I've played to death.
barkenn
Got into Japan due to Sylvian's solo work. Way ahead of the times. Has aged very well and still very listenable.
My cousins brought them to me from across the pond. And from the first listen I was hooked. Amazing band!
I wouldn't say Japan is THAT unknown here in the states. I'm an American bassist and I loved Japan from the early days. I think Mick Karn is soooo underrated. The stuff he did with Dali's Car was brilliant as well! Now...who is Duran Duran? HA. Just kidding. Blech...no comparison.
Grew up listening to Japan in the very early 80's....stil l love them and yes, I moved to the States in "96. Impossible to find stuff on cd back then, sad that they didn't make it here....
totally wonderful genre unto thyself mention only minor mentions! UK music mags haven't an unknown porcupine barbieri poking your 2000 pretty essential eyeliner. LA. girls but sophisticate d guys. best sylvian-esqu e , mickarnist, barbierians. barbarians. right?
JAPAN is - like so MANY of the greatest music artists of all time - A GENRE UNTO THEMSELVES. My beloved Duran Duran appeared a band without precedent - until I discovered JAPAN in 1995. OIL ON CANVAS was my 1st CD by Japan...afte r years of minor mentions in UK music mags, I bought a CD to judge for myself (pre-intenet era LOL. No sampling then!). SO creative, artistic - & yet unknown in the US. I saw Richard Barbieri w/PORCUPINE TREE in Miami this April... genius. JAPAN will always be revered.
Agreed Alistair - I moved here in 2000 and they are pretty much unknown here. Tin Drum is essential as is much of Sylvian's solo work (Brilliant Trees, Spirit of the Beehive and Dead Bees on a Cake especially). Check out Richard Barbieri's work with Porcupine Tree also.
ahalleron
Best band of the 80s and influenced me at the time, D.D. was for girls but sophisticate d guys like me (!) followed Japan. I even wore eyeliner at the time. A real shame since I moved to the US that nobody has heard of them here. Still my best of all time, David is in LA now and has his own home page
love japan
niki_manray
magical sound ,i love japan
David Sylvain father of Ambient Pop.
contrarycrow
Could never really stand Duran Duran, partially because I'd heard of Japan first and realized what a ripoff Duran Duran was. Plus all my teenage lust was focused on David Sylvian and Peter Murphy. It's well worth it to look up the other solo projects and other things these guys have been involved with!
Now I know who Duran Duran ripped off. Don't me get wrong, I think Duran Duran were solid (and very underrated muscians) but now I know where they got all of their inspiration from and I think that much more of Japan...it's too bad not many here in the US have even heard of them.
Wow. Before pandora came along, I never knew this band existed.
To S.A. Birl
No.
No they don't.
best band ever. found out about these guys a year ago, and i am now obsessed.
traiskin
One of the most influencial bands of the 80s, who influenced bands like Duran duran. There is an old story the during the recording of Gentlemen Take Polariods and Duran Duran's first album, Nick Rhodes approached Sylvian about producing. Sylvian declined. Duran Duran never did quite reach the sophisticati o n of Japan, but instead became a great dance/pop band.
They sound like old Duran Duran
I really think this was one of the best synth bands to come out of the 80's. It's a shame they didn't get the airplay in the states that alot of other bands got. The first two glam albums are great also.
boldline0072
the best band in the world!
brill

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