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Quiet Life (Reviewed by Bogie):

Quiet Life by Japan, released December 1979, HANSA.
Quiet Life (4:52)
Fall In Love With Me (4:37)
Despair (6:01)
In Vogue (6:36)
Halloween (4:26)
All Tomorrow's Parties (5:43)
Alien (5:04)
The Other Side Of Life (7:29)

I can still recall the initial hesitation when it came to Japan. When you're in your early teens, who wants their girlfriend looking at pictures of "The most beautiful man in rock n' roll" (singer David Sylvian)? The look is effiminate, the music even seems androgynous. But in the calmer views of old age the true impact of Japan is much more evident.

I've heard some say (and I agree to an extent) that Quiet Life is the album that David Bowie should have made as a follow-up to Heroes. It is definitely that good. There is a very special feeling about this album from beginning to end. There are almost funk beats and basslines cavorting below unique keyboard sounds and David Sylvian's soothing croon.

In discussing the transformation from punk rock to new wave/new romantic/blitz it is often taken for granted that this just sort of happened. Well it didn't. Bands like Japan and The Cure provided the bridge from raw punk to the newer sounds of the early 80s. Japan themselves were never even a punk band. More a cross of Hot Chocolate and Roxy Music in their early days. Perhaps with a bit more of an edge.

The title track Quiet Life ranks with Wire's Ahead as one of the most unique and impressive songs of the entire 80s. The guitar and synthesizers are crisp and clear. Mick Karn's fretless bass never rests through the track and throughout the rest of the album for that matter. Karn's playing is one of the outstanding qualities of the entire record.

Covering Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties became a standard practice for many newer bands through the 80s and even 90s. This version is unique rather than a mere salutation to Lou Reed, John Cale, et al. Synths and bass merging beautifully with the Sylvian drone blending in more as an instrument than a storytelling voice. I prefer this version even to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

As was always the way with Japan records, the content here is populated with ghostly imagery and stark visions. Halloween, Alien and the powerful finale The Other Side Of Life evoke the personal desolation that suits this music so well.

"...If you could remember
to wave a sign of life

Japan's first album Adolescent Sex was released in March of 1978. Their last album of new material was Tin Drum, released in November of 1981. And yet in such a short time they were able to compile a steady list of successes with tracks like Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Life In Tokyo and Nightporter. Still, with huge success in Japan and Europe, Japan was never able to crack the North American market in terms of true commercial success. Which is ironic seeing as how influential they were on bands that would sell millions in Canada and the U.S.

In his 1988 book Starmakers and Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management, Johnny Rogan quotes Simon Napier-Bell (Japan's manager) as saying: "They were so well known it was extraordinary. They'd single-handedly created the New Romantics who were having hits all around them. Duran Duran dressed like Japan and even begged the group to produce them, then they went off and made a sensible commercial hit record. Japan could not do that."

Response to this review by xistenza): I love the song "Quiet Life"!! This is "classic" new wave at it's best. Great review Bogie!

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