Today marks the release of Lay Your Hands On Me, the final release from Boom Boom Satellites. In case you missed the horrible news (which received next-to-zero press in Western media), the group had to disband earlier this year due to another brain tumor relapse suffered by lead singer/guitarist Michiyuki Kawashima, which has sadly left him partially paralyzed.
I wrote about it on my other blog, how tragic this news is and how upset it has made me, and I encourage you to go read that. This post is like a part 2 of that.
I’m used to liking bands that no one else care about. I guess it’s my thing. And I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve come to accept that the bands I like, the bands who I think should stand head and shoulders above the rest and reign supreme as pop gods the world over, that they’re all doomed for second-tier status or less. I get it. The music business is tough, random and evil. Cream rarely rises
But fuck, man. Boom Boom Satellites? They should’ve been huge. They should’ve been the first Japanese rock act to break international. And definitely the first Japanese rock band to break into the states. They sing in English. Their music (especially their later stuff) is tailor-made for the mainstream, designed to kick a stadium’s ass. They sound 100% original, but still accessible and fun. There’s no pretension, no reason to issue a warning with the recommendation i.e. “they take a bit getting used to, but…”. One minute into their 2006 masterpiece On, and the opening track “Kick It Out” commences a full-throttle assault on your senses, pounding you to pieces with a wholly unique combination of balls-to-the-wall rock and frenetic electronic beats that should’ve had people all around the world buying the album in droves.
Why not? Why the fuck didn’t they take? Their first album was released in the states and probably did decent enough. I remember seeing the videos for it on MTV and they even toured with Moby. But for whatever reason that was it, their second album was never released in the states, and only a few since have been, and then only digitally. Maybe the band didn’t wan to put in the effort to breakthrough overseas. Maybe the label (which won’t even stream their videos on YouTube in the states) didn’t want to devote the resources. It’s hard to say.
I would guess that the band had it sights on breaking through into the states as recently as 2010, when the attempted to remix “Kick It Out” to appeal to a Western audience. This, of course, means that it was a complete disaster, featuring vocals by B-level former child star and wannabe club singer Tahj Mowry and even a disastrous rap by Flo Rida, which is phoned in and lazy even by his low standards. That monstrosity rightfully tanked and probably dashed any future plans for American domination.
Yet another thing I can hate Flo Rida for. Great.
But what really tears my heart apart is that more people didn’t get to see the group live. As I said in my other post, Boom Boom Satellites live was a revelation. A lightening bolt of pure energy. Just totally non-stop, always on and ready to kick ass. Every time I was fortunate enough to see them, whether as an opening act, as part of a festival line-up or as headliners to their own gig, they fucking owned the stage.
While their Japanese label has made it inexplicably impossible to watch their videos proper on YouTube, thankfully many fans have uploaded live concert footage, much of it taken from the multitudes of live releases the band put out over of the years. I cannot implore you enough, go on YouTube and check those clips out. This user has quite a few on his YouTube page, all of which I recommend.
Then, if you like what you hear, please please please please buy what you can. Their new EP is on iTunes! You can buy it! You should do that! You can also get their greatest hits on iTunes in the states. I recommend starting there (it’s the only way you can get the real version of “Kick It Out” in the states. If you dig that, then move onto Embrace, their 2013 release, followed by their 2007 album Exposed. Their 1999 debut is also available digitally in the states, I recommend that last. It’s a great record, but it is not indicative of their more recent or live sound. However, if you dig 90s electronica, it’s a stunning example of that.
After that, if you want more and can afford it, then bite the bullet and pay the import prices for the rest of their stuff. The one that’s most worth the dough is On, that’s where you’ll find “Kick It Out” and 11 other high-velocity rock tracks that will refuse to let you take a breather for its 50 minute running time. From there, I suggest moving to the follow-up To The Loveless, which is very similar to On, and then skipping ahead to their final full-length Shine Like A Billion Suns (the albums between To The Loveless and this one are on iTunes). Shine is a bit more sedate than the albums that preceded it, but in it’s more mellow groove there’s a beauty that you can’t find on their other albums.
From there I recommend their least accessible full-length releases, the insane jazz/dub hybrid 2001 album Umbra, and its follow-up, 2002’s Photon, which is good meeting point between their more experimental sound from the album before that and the mainstream rock that followed.
Finally, go after their EPs, Joyride and Push Eject. Both are early releases by the group (the former actually being their debut) so they’re more in the dub and electronic arena than the rock one, but they’re still solid. I also obviously recommend their live releases, Experienced and Experienced II.
You should buy their music, it’s in print. That’s why I’m sharing anything from their records proper tonight. I’m only sharing audio rips from video releases that are well out-of-print, or from Blu-rays that go for over $100 online. That seems like the right thing to do. Not only that, these tracks are my favorites from the group, the ones I think of when I remember them, and I feel are the best representation of their amazing live shows.
Boom Boom Satellites are over. Let’s not let them get forgotten.