Tokyo Damage Report

Sick of this mess!

I’m going to piss off some people!
There’s this idea – both in japan AND in the west – that if you say  you’re ‘into Japanese punk’ then you must be ‘into ‘80s punk’ , because ‘80s bands are “The Real Deal.” 
Balls to that idea!
I am obsessed with Japanese punk, (in fact, it’s the whole reason I came here in the first place!) but I have never heard the ‘classic’ bands. I don’t even hate ‘80s j-punk – I just simply do not care about it .
People I DO hate are record collectors and know-it-alls who are into obscure ‘80s “classic” punk SO MUCH THAT THEY TOTALLY IGNORE CURRENT BANDS THAT ACTUALLY PLAY LIVE. That just sucks for everyone. Dummy! All mythologizing some scene that they can never be a part of, while refusing to rock out with current bands that would love to have them as fans. The dude from GISM isn’t going to be your friend, dude! Young bands will! If you were young in 1984, you would probably have ignored OUTO or SWANKYS because you were mooning over some broken-up band from the ‘70s.
Here’s another concept : that people who love punk listen to it all the time. This concept is much more sensible than the first concept, but I say bollocks to IT, too! At home, I’ll bump some rap, prog, kraut, doom, and massive amounts of Kvlt BM . . .but you won’t catch me listening to punk, and DEFINITELY you won’t find me ever buying any damn overpriced albums.
Here’s the thing: the first concept (Japan punk died after ’88) and the second concept (punkers always listen to / collect punk) are really the SAME concept: Punk is always about the live show,  not the fuckin’ recordings. The intensity and immediacy.  Blundered notes, broken strings, flying bodies, random sweat . . .that is the shit that sets punk apart from all other styles of ‘heavy’ music.  At least for me!
If you say that so-and-so was the hardest band ever in ’83, I don’t disagree. They might have been. But this isn’t fuckin’ ’83. I don’t want to see a bunch of geezers my age, who haven’t had an idea in 20 years, going through the motions. And I don’t want to buy a record in order to try and re-live someone else’s ’80s either. My 80’s was like   Butthole Surfers, Repo Man, Killdozer, and Venom, and have absolutely no regrets.
Some people talk about “such-and-such a band are hardcore legends because they fight the cops and go to jail.” I’m sure they could kick my ass, but so what? Any gym coach could kick my ass. That doesn’t make gym coaches the kings of punk! And there’s a difference between fighting the cops in an anti-war demo or an anti-Emperor protest. . . and fighting the cops because you and your junkie friend broke into a pharmacy to steal some codeine and left a fingerprint. Oops!
War stories like that are awesome, but they’re STORIES, not songs. I get the feeling that for a lot of these ex-con veterans, the band is the LEAST interesting thing about them.
Exception to the rule: Gauze. Gauze is OK, but every other angry-uncle band :  whatever. Life is too short for that. Matter of fact, I’d rather listen to Too $hort. Or Nomeansno. Or ELO. Or Perry and Kingsley.
And if you’re not mad enough now, let me add more poopoo to the fire:  I don’t even LIKE THE WAY ’80s JAPAN PUNK SOUNDS.
What I like about ‘classic’ USA HC is 4 things: the short songs, the stop-start parts, the slower breakdowns, and the total absence of guitar solos. Jappacore fails on all four categories.
It’s too complex to be a short sharp shock, but too generic to really be “complex.” 
Dudes just go from one riff to a same-sounding, same-speed riff, for 4 minutes.  They kept all the boring parts of English / American hardcore, lost all the good parts, and then (on top of that) decided “We invented this! This is our thing, we didn’t copy anyone. This isn’t hardcore, it is a separate style of music.” So you got this bullshit nationalist attitude as well. Like making minor changes means you own it. Of course this attitude goes back a thousand years – you can hear old, right-wing Japanese guys crowing about how “We Japanese invented kanji, we Japanese invented ramen noodles, we invented calligraphy.”
And so on.
So in that respect, it is no surprise that old Japanese musicians would copy the nationalist biases of their fathers and grandfathers and say “We invented hardcore.”  Patriotic tomfoolery, I won’t stand for it.
Well, maybe I’m just jealous because I can’t be a popular ‘scene guy’.
But on the other hand, I’m glad I’m not a ‘scene guy’ because then I’d have to pay dues for years, have to give up all my other hobbies.
Maybe I’m not ‘hawd’ as the next guy, but on the other hand I got freedom. I’ll go to a hardcore show tonight, and I can spend the rest of the week listening to Lord Finesse or Cluster or whatever the fuck floats my boat that day. Bushwick Bill. I mean, Little Big Man? That shit was classic. Fuckin’ uh, fuckin’ Audio Two. Or Critical Beat-down. Fuck keeping shit real- I’ma listen to The Swans and Conway Twitty back-to-back. The Day Everything Became Nothing. Klaus Schulte in the house. Some Wolfskin when I’m trying to sleep. Mad enka tunes. The Brak Show soundtrack. The fuckin’ Frogs, for goodness’ sake. All the beats on I Got Next are scary as hell and utterly timeless. Anyone got an instrumental version of BLOWE? Ten Point Buck. Jesus! Can’t forget Li’l Baby Buntin. Why settle for less? I really can’t accept cookie-cutter bands unless they’re copying Burzum. It’s a guilty pleasure, I know, but I love me some fake Burzum. Dude is second only to Discharge in spawning a cottage industry of bands that are proud to be clones. If I ever start a discharge-clone band, we’re only going to copy the GRAVE NEW WORLD album. Bum all the other d-beat bands out. Furthermore, and I can’t emphasize this enough: The Alice Donut version of War Pigs is one of the best things ever recorded by humankind. I liked the beat from Natural Born Killas so much I took the first 4 bars and made an instrumental version out of that. I like to get kind of drunk, put that shit on the ipod and freestyle about hating rich peoples’ helicopters that always make a gang of noise when they fly low over our building. Fuck’em! Holy shit, guess what I just found online: 10 different live versions of John E. Smoke. Can you even imagine the vocal goodness that awaits? See, that’s what I’m talking about: if you focus all your energy on trying to get “cred” in one narrow “scene” you’ll never experience the epic goodness, the fuckin’ audio cornucopia that the world of music has to offer.
Course, if you get too broad-minded you’ll wind up listening to techno sooner or later, so you got to have SOME standards.



24 comments Tags: ,

24 Comments so far

  1. Keith McX January 16th, 2010 7:14 pm

    I think people can jam and live anyway they choose. However, I feel that most people need to worry about themselves. I’m sure most of the people involved in the 1st wave scenes don’t think about the emulators because they lived it. Gotta love 1st world problems.

  2. Kevin January 16th, 2010 8:50 pm

    Well said Steven, support your current local scene!

  3. S January 16th, 2010 11:19 pm

    You make a valid point about trying to live in the past and ignoring the present etc., but some of it is just simple preference. Japanese hardcore is damn near the extent of my hardcore listening at this point, but I prefer the older bands for the most part…a lot of the newer stuff comes off as way too fucking formulaic/lacking genuine angst(we won’t see anything like GISM ever again)…anyway, watching even current Japanese bands play live isn’t possible – let alone practical – for many(most) foreign fans.

  4. Chun Lee January 17th, 2010 2:25 am

    Ain’t you a little old to be hanging out in punk clubs? I reckon your in your late 30’s and out to be living in the burbs and checking out new lawnmowers at SEARS on the weekends. Grow up, man.

  5. countbeavertron January 17th, 2010 2:43 am

    Hell fuckin’ yeah dude. I am not even into punk of any stripe necessarily (except for live shows) so I have got your back. ‘The Swans and Conway Twitty back to back’ made me lol and that is totally the way to be into music, so rock on. Not that you need the validation of your comments section, but I just wanted to add my voice to the ones saying you have got it right. Keep on keepin’ on.

  6. Tzench January 17th, 2010 4:14 am

    Kvit BM?

  7. François January 17th, 2010 6:53 am

    @Tzench: You got yourself a spelling mistake…
    Google should help you when you get it right.

  8. admin January 17th, 2010 8:15 am

    @tzench : hell yes kvult! Ruins of Beverast , Bone Awl, and Drudkh in the heezy for the ’10! Check, check, check it ooout.
    @countbeaverton, kevin: thanks for your support
    @ chun lee : you’re attacking my ‘anti old-guy japanese punk’ post by saying I’m too old? We’re on the same side, you contradictory-ass chinaman!
    @S : I never heard or cared about Gism. But I see your point : people in foreign countries don’t have the option to see current Japanese punk bands play live. OK, but you DO have the option to buy their shit, support them, and bask in the warm radiant light of their gratitude, and be pen pals. What you DON’T have is the option to be pen-pals with gism. And yeah, 90% of bands are crap, but 90% of the bands back then were crap too. It’s on you to find the good ones, and, nice guy that I am, I’m helping you. You’re welcome!
    @keith : I don’t understand your comment. Speak clearly, son!

  9. z January 17th, 2010 9:22 am

    I feel the exact same way w/r/t my scene. I don’t listen to hardcore or noise or black metal really at all at home, but the hardcore/noise/blackmetal bands in my town are awesome and they’re cool dudes, and their shows are always fun, and that’s all that ever matters.

  10. statiq January 17th, 2010 9:48 am

    You never show your americanness more than when you carpet bomb/bash “techno”.

    Kraftwerk is techno, so is Afrika Bambaataa, not down with any of that?

    Other than that yeah, 30/40/50 something clinging to the scene of their youth are pretty bad but not as bad as 20 something who weren’t there at the time and idolize that specific subculture even more.

  11. Deze Nutz January 17th, 2010 9:56 am

    I’ll be clinging to the scene of my youth when I’m 30/40/50, hopefully some of my friends will be too. Otherwise I’ll just be the lecherous old guy at gigs.. or I’ll have to grow up and cut my hair. I’d probably pick the first one.

  12. 23 Wolves January 17th, 2010 10:53 am

    Yeah, I listen to all this hot shit…AND TECHNO. Spread thou arms wider and embrace the totality of sound. Or don’t, if you don’t dig it, I guess. Anyways, I totally agree with your anti-isolationist stance, because what is the point of pledging your ears to only one style? It doesn’t make you pure, it makes you dumb! Peace, dude.

  13. szaszha January 17th, 2010 11:40 am

    i was just coming over here to show you guys this neat photo essay about the rise of punk in china.

    that said, good article. i wish you didnt hate techno so much, because i’d love to see more of the crazy tokyo fetish/goth scene, like the shows that sisen does, but you never really go to those anymore. i know they’re ridiculous, but that’s pretty much why i like them. sisen’s band seileen is coming to san antonio on my birthday! i’m so pumped.

    but, i know what its like to hate on music and be totally unable to see someone’s point of view on it. i’m famous for my hatred of most classic rock, especially the beatles. i openly despise pretty much everything any of my friends and family listen to, because it is a bunch of fucking garbage, and no one’s going to change my mind. a friend of mine tried to rope me into seeing an ani difranco concert. i told her that it would be like being waterboarded with sound and that there was no way in hell i was going to that shit.

    so i know i’m not going to get you to like techno or goth shit, but you should change it up once in a while and go to some crazy goth club or fetish event and make fun of all the kiddies like you used to. i miss that. i still love your punk show photo essays, because i dont really go to punk shows anymore so i get to do it vicariously thru you.

  14. szaszha January 17th, 2010 11:58 am

    @chun lee: if you dont live fast enough and die young enough you do tend to age. but old is a state of mind. i’m 26 and for all intents and purposes i may as well still be 16. if you want to grow up and be a curmudgeonly old dick who tells people what to do then be my guest! some of us get old without having to grow up, bitch!

  15. admin January 17th, 2010 5:54 pm

    @szaszha : Actually I don’T mind the music at goth / shisen-y events as much as you’d think – because the people are all dancing. The reason I don’t go is a) it’s always the same 4 bands over and over, and b) they got their own ‘official’ cameraman/camerawomen that take much better pictures than I do! I assume those hi-quality pictures wind up on the internet somewhere – anybody know where?
    Also, THANKS for the link to the china photo-essay! That is rad! Everyone, more comments like this please.

  16. AnokPanda January 17th, 2010 8:16 pm

    I can relate – drum and Bass/Jungle is easily my favorite genre, but since I’ve been going out to clubs and edm events, I hardly ever listen to it at home. I don’t get how you love percussion but don’t like dance music more, you should give a proper non-goth rave a chance.

    And to your thoughts on tough guy war stories…a couple months ago I was highly amused when, at an anime con of all places, these hardcore dudes were going off about how violent their scene was; it was clearly a great source of pride. Being drunk and in full elegant gothic lolita attire , I had no choice but to rudely butt into the conversation and discretely mock them and preach to them in a super positive kids show manner about how the violence in their scene is their responsibility and how lame fighting was. Nothing takes the piss out of a brutal hardcore penis measuring competition like the drunk ramblings of gothic crossdreser.

  17. Steve January 17th, 2010 10:48 pm

    This is one excellent post. Too many people boil their identity down to one scene/genre, either to fit in somewhere (which is understandable, few people go out of their way to isolate themselves) or just because they don’t want to take a chance with anything else.

    But hey, it’s not easy. Even with the internet, people are lazy and don’t take the time to discover a new genre or even a new artist. Props to you for covering all these live shows, no props to local radio stations that refuse to play anything that nobody has heard of*.

    *exception being some good college DJs, but then they can’t go do that for a living

  18. Ryan January 18th, 2010 12:04 am

    I understand where you’re coming from, and I think this happens with every genre/niche of music. You say that you like one thing, and people automatically pigeonhole you and make an assumption based on that fact. It’s annoying, especially with music as it definitely seems to be something that defines you over many other things.

    Good luck in your quest for the converted!

  19. Babouin January 18th, 2010 5:49 am

    Dear lord Admin,
    I’m sorry for having fun collecting records and hating live and concerts.
    I’m sorry for not wanting to be friends with musicians, I’m sorry for listening Friction, Inu or Totsuzen Danball and digging them a lot.
    I’m sorry for not writing a list of the other bands I’m listening in order to sounds cool and as open minded as you.
    I’m sorry to giving you my time by reading your blog and not being as cool as you.
    I’m sorry for not being good human enough for you.

    And, finally, I beg your pardon for being born dear lord Admin.

  20. admin January 18th, 2010 6:52 am

    @babouin : Is that the famous French sense of humor? You know who is funny? Asterix. I dig that guy.

  21. Babouin January 18th, 2010 8:02 am

    Trust me, I’m not laughing at all.
    Maybe you feel better by putting a clown mask on the faces of those who don’t necessarly agree with you.
    In my book you certainly deserve respect to bring such an original blog with humor and a view on a very different Japan, but this last article is just a piece of crap.
    “Music theory” ? How fucking pretentious is that and how poor is the result.
    Japanese 80s punk and new-wave includes a lot of my favourite music, and it’s not because a know-it-alls point of view, and definitly not because of a concept like “japanese punk died after 88″, it’s just because I like this music.
    And I like studio recordings, not live, what is the problem with that ?
    I’m not forcing anyone to think the same, and I’m not claiming that it is the right way to enjoy music.
    It’s just the way I enjoy music.
    You are doing nothing but judging and giving lessons of what is right and what is wrong, saying that there is an only way of digging music and of course it’s your way.

    So, I’m wondering, what is the difference between you and the know-it-alls-dudes ?

  22. Jo January 18th, 2010 3:45 pm

    word. support your local scene and those around the world. theres something happening out there right now.
    great post.
    up the black metal gangsta rap punks!

  23. szaszha January 19th, 2010 7:58 pm

    @babouin: too heavy bro! take a xanax and pop in a record. relax!

  24. sephim January 26th, 2010 9:14 pm

    I’ll just keep “killing the scene” by downloading 96kbps mp3s of LPs that are long out of print if it’s all the same to you…

    Seriously, I can’t afford much music, old or new, but I’ll buy when I can and I’ll always support my friends.

    Even if I’m just posting junk to their guestbook, they know they’re appreciated.

    I just realised that this comment doesn’t really relate to your post – sorry.

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