Archive for the ‘soundtrack’ Category

Digital Tripping

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

I have a tumblr because why the fuck not. I don’t know if I “get” tumblr. My friend who is hella into tumblr said that, based on the tumblrs I’m following, I like “synthwave” and “aesthetic” but not “vaporwave.”

I barely know what that means. I like synthesizers and 80s shit I guess. Gee who knew?

Speaking of synthesizers and 80s shit….

Various Artists – Digital Trip Catalogue Synthesizer Fantasy

For the past couple of year I’ve occasionally touched upon the Digital Trip Synthesizer Fantasy records. These albums are a collection of anime/manga themes re-imagined (almost) entirely on synthesizers.I’m not a big anime guy. I know, I’m a nerd living in Tokyo so that’s weird, but it’s just not my thing. But what is my thing is dope 80s synthesizer music, and these albums have that in spades.

I’ve only posted one Digital Trip album in its entirety, the Lupin the 3rd one, which happened to be the first one I found. Since then I think I’ve posted the occasional tracks from others, but I really didn’t want to go out and post another album in full. I was trying to instead focus on the highlights of the series and then craft my own sort of greatest hits of them all. Little did I know that they went ahead and did that for me in 1983.

Digital Trip Catalogue Synthesizer Fantasy is a compilation of tracks from the various albums in the series that had been released up to that point. By that time, only half of the series had been released, but they still had a quite a few standout titles to choose from, and I have to say that I’m pretty happy with what they chose.

They also went out of their way to showcase and a wide selection of artists who had contributed to the Digital Trip series, which is really great because it allows you to compare and contrast their different styles. Not all synthesizer cover artists are created equal you know.  For example, on one hand you have Osamu Shoji, who favors heavily modulated and layered sounds to create an almost explosion of synthesizers, while on the other you have an artist like Jun Fukamachi, an insanely talented jazz pianist who favors a more minimal arrangement.  I personally favor Shoji’s kitchen sink approach, but both are great and really work to showcase just how much variety you can get out purely synthesized arrangements of already written music.

Synthwave is good, for sure, but if you really wanna embrace electronic music and fall in love with everything synthesizers from the 80s had to offer, you’ll ditch that synthwave and go head first into Japanese Jazz Funk Synthesizer Anime Music….wave.

Naming genres is really hard.

Barbarians and Slap Bass

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Guin Saga – Seven Mage Doctors (グインサーガ 七人の魔道師)

I have a lot of soundtracks to anime I have never seen. But they don’t hold a candle to the number of soundtracks I have to manga I’ve never read.

That’s right, soundtracks to manga.

In yet another example of how crazy a bubble economy can get, there were scores of soundtracks to manga in the mid-80s in Japan. Many of these were official releases sanctioned by the publishers, while a few were not 100% up-and-up affairs. You can always tell which ones were vaguely unofficial because they didn’t use any licensed artwork from the series, instead opting for abstract graphic designs. This is what an overwhelming number of the Synthesizer Fantasy albums do, which is one of the many reasons why they’re so dope.

From what I’ve noticed through my casual observations shifting through record store racks, a lot of yaoi (teen gay-themed romances written for straight girls) were given soundtrack releases. I haven’t bought any of them, mostly because I absolutely abhor the artistic style on the covers, far too flowery and fruity for this flower-loving fruit. I will probably pick some up eventually though, especially the ones by my favortie manga/anime synthesizer composer, Osamu Shoji.

One series that is not of the hot teenage manlove variety that I often see in the soundtrack section is Guin Saga, which is a long (long) running novel and manga series about a mysterious leopard-masked warrior who doesn’t hesitate to throw down when the time calls. There is an anime of this series now, and that anime has a soundtrack. I have not seen that anime, nor have I listened to that soundtrack. But no matter how good it is, it can’t hold a candle to the Guin Saga album I have.

Guin Saga 〜辺境篇〜 (roughly translated as Seven Mage Doctors, I think) is an all-synthesizer album much like the Digital Trip/Synthesizer Fantasy albums that I love. However, it is much more lush and varied than many of those albums are. That doesn’t have anything to do with the composer, Goro Ohmi composed many Synthesizer Fantasy albums as well as this record (and several other in the Guin Saga series), so I assume it must’ve been a stylistic choice. Whatever the reason, it certainly works this album. Guin Saga is a big adventure story filled with magic, monsters and barbarians, it needs a big sound, and this album sure as hell delivers.

The opening is very stereotypical synth, with an obvious synthesizer melody and mechanical drumbeat. But as the album progresses, Ohmi takes more liberties with his instruments at hand, delivering us synthesized string arrangements, echoing chimes and faux-choral accompaniment. It even becomes less like a collection of songs and more like a proper score at times, with ambient, moody pieces filling out a good chunk of the record.

One thing that really strikes me about the album is how much it sounds like the game music that would come in the following decade. While the SNES couldn’t have featured instrumentation as lush and involved as this, it has a similar vibe. If you told me that some tracks from this album were cut from a proposed Actraiser soundtrack, I’d believe you. I can’t really place why, it just feels right. Maybe its the rad synth slap bass. SNES tracks were all about the synth slap bass and this album is just overflowing with it.

If you’ve never heard of Guin Saga or Goro Ohmi, don’t let that discourage you from giving this album a test run. Anyone who is a fan of instrumental electronic music of the 80s should certainly check it out.

Golgo 13 Jams

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Golgo 13 Original Soundtrack
My father owned a video store until the late-90s. Around 1994 or so, he started to carry a lot of anime. The section was instantly popular with many of the high school kids in the area as he was the only store that dealt with it. All the other stores in the area were chain stores that didn’t even bother with the stuff.

I still remember that first batch he got in, stuff like Akira (of course), Wicked City, Riding Beam, and this – the first animated movie based on the Golgo 13 manga.

I, being about 13 at the time and entirely ignorant of manga as a whole, had no idea that the movie was based on the manga. I didn’t even know that the manga existed. Instead, I assumed the movie was based on the NES video game, which I played the shit out of when I was much younger. I loved that game, even though it was punishingly hard and disgustingly unfair. That didn’t stop me from playing it for hours on end. Shit, I even played the sequel and managed to somehow nearly beat it.

1994 me hadn’t played the game in a while, but I still loved it, so I jumped at the chance to watch a movie that I assumed was based on it. I snagged it from my dad’s store the second I saw it and popped it in on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

My mother was very displeased with the somewhat graphic nudity early on, but I recall her rolling her eyes and letting me continue to watch it. My mom is dope like that.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the film. Reading the plot description on wiki, only snippets come back to me. The (disgustingly misogynistic) ending does ring a bell, but the rest of it is a blur. I certainly didn’t recall the soundtrack when I picked it up a few months back. I bought it mostly for nostalgic reverence for the video game, and the super dope cover.

I’m glad I picked it up though, because it’s pretty damn rad. The movie came out in 1983, but if the soundtrack is any indication, disco was still the hottest latest in Japan. The main theme is very disco, as are many of the instrumental numbers that accompany it. One thing that does surprise me is that it’s a predominately analog affair. While some dope keyboard riffs do pop up from now and then, the entire thing sounds very organic, more like mid-70s disco than the more electronic-influenced dance music that was popular in Japan at the time. It still sounds great though.

The composer is Toshiyuki Kimori, who worked on several other anime films in the 80s, including Dirty Pair and Arcadia of my Youth. He also released a Super Mario Bros. covers album in 1986. That goes for a pretty penny online, but I can entirely see myself caving and buying it in the relatively near future. I have no willpower for such things.

This soundtrack was only released once, in 1983, and appears to have been out of print ever since. The seller offering the sole copy available on Discogs is asking over $70 for it, which is about how much the last copy went for on the site. Happy that I found mine for less than $20! Living in Japan has so many perks.

Enjoy the assassination jams.

M.C. Godzilla drops gamma beats

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

The Destruction
Godzilla’s Coming To Town
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone to say that I’ve been a bit down lately. Nothing serious I guess, just, y’know, the current state of global affairs is kind of a bummer, that’s all. Retail therapy isn’t entirely healthy (or sustainable) and I know that. But sometimes when I go out record shopping I find something so marvelously bizarre/stupid/great/amazing that it does help to dull the pain of reality at least for short time and bring a smile to my face.

Such is the case with the album I purchased today, Howl: The Grunts and Growls of all Toho Monsters. Like the name suggests, it’s an album comprised almost entirely of the sounds made by various Toho kaiju, including but not limited to Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gorosaurus and many more. But that’s not why I bought it. Sure, having 20+ minutes of various monster growls, howls and roars is fun, but for me, the centerpiece of the album is the opener, “Godzilla’s Coming To Town,” a megamix of monster sound effects set to a killer backbeat.

This existence of this makes me so very happy. It’s Art Of Noise with monster roars. It’s great.

This is credited to “The Destruction” but a quick skim through the liner notes shows that the track was composed and arranged by one Kenji Iwakura. Never heard of him before, but apparently he was in a little-known Japanese synthpop band called Spy. They released one album in the 80s. It was produced by Kazuihiko Katoh, who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I guess that means I’ll be picking up that record in the near future. Iwakura also worked on a few (lesser) Yukihro Takahashi records as well as an album of Hudson Game Music. Between his kaiju work, Takahashi collaborations and his game music releases, quite frankly I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of him sooner.

The track also features Hirofumi Tokutake on “acid country guitar.” Never heard of him before either, but thanks to Discogs I now know that I have at least four releases that feature him (including this). He’s on the YMO album Technodon, as well as the accompanying live CD. He also shows up on the Takeshi/Jensen collaboration PulsexPulse and on a Sketch Show album as well. This all ties into my theory that if you buy any Japanese electronic music release from 1978 to 1999, you’ll find at least one person who worked with at least one member of YMO at some point.

This is stupid. Please enjoy.

The Strangest Of Days

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Sigh.

A few weeks/months ago I said on Twitter that if Trump won I might quit writing this blog. Just because I didn’t know if I’d have the motivation to keep it going, living in a world that would readily elect a fascist conman to the world’s most powerful position really puts a damper on my desire to write about music.

Well, I guess the good news is that I’m reneging on that thought. In times of extreme strife, writing is one of the only things that keeps me remotely sane. So unless I want to plunge headfirst into depression and/or insanity, I best keep this thing going.

Right now a lot of people are talking about the importance of diversions and distractions. Even in the harshest of times, people need to escape with something that gives them joy. For example, I was exceptionally happy that the Giant Bomb guys avoided politics with their podcast this week. I needed some stupid laughs about video games.

But, I don’t know if I can do that. As long time readers of this blog know, I write what I feel, especially when what I feel makes me angry. This was especially true a few years back, when this blog could’ve been more accurately titled “Angry Ramblings and Synthpop.” But those were stupid little posts about how much I hate the VMAs or the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Rambling off a few hundred words about a pop culture event that makes you angry isn’t exactly the same as crafting an in-depth and well-researched essay on the dangers of fascism.

What I’m basically saying is that I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do right now. Probably a little bit of everything. So if you were hoping this blog would be a respite away from the horrible world we find ourselves in, sorry that’s not going to happen. And at the same time, if you wanted me to rebrand this site as an anarcho-punk blog showcasing protest music and anti-fascist action, sorry that probably won’t happen either.

If for nothing other than the fact that most anarcho-punk sucks.

Here are some songs from a movie about a future I wish we had.

Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest
While The Earth Sleeps (Album Version)
While The Earth Sleeps (Long Version)
The “album” from which the album version comes from is the soundtrack to the film Strange Days, an absolute masterpiece of 90s cinema that is 100% required viewing in the world we live in today. Want to see a movie that predicts by about 20 years the Black Lives Matter movement, smartphone video culture, and the struggles of living in a thinly veiled fascist society? Check out Strange Days. You also get to see Angela Bassett beat the fucking shit out of people. And that’s just cool.

Anyways I was browsing a record store in Yokohama today and I came across a single for said song, which also includes the long version. I had no idea there was a long version of this song, so hey, nice surprise. The long version is basically just an extra two minutes of vocalizing by Peter Gabriel, but there are worse ways to make a song longer so I’m not really going to complain about it. But I really bought the single for the next track.

Juliette Lewis
Rid Of Me
Strange Days is a sci-fi neo-noir, and you can’t have a noir with a femme fatale. In the case of Strange Days, the femme fatale is played by Juliette Lewis, who plays an indie-rocker named Eve. For some reason, all the songs Eve sings are PJ Harvey cover tunes. I guess someone involved in the production of the film really dug PJ Harvey. The soundtrack has Lewis’ cover of “Hardly Wait,” which is featured prominently in the film. The other PJ Harvey cover is this tune, which didn’t make it onto the soundtrack proper. I always figured it wasn’t even recorded in full so imagine my surprise when I discovered it today. It’s a really great cover of a fantastic song.

And if you’re chuckling at the idea of Juliette Lewis singing, stop it, her voice has an angry intensity that serves the PJ Harvey track well. Listen to her actual albums of original material sometime, they’re not bad.

 

10 Years Of Being Lost: Fish Story Will (Still) Save The World

Friday, March 18th, 2016

A lot of these posts to celebrate my 10th anniversary cover genres, themes and other overarching threads that have been present on my blog for the past 10 years. But tonight’s post is just one song, one that’s really important to me.

Gekirin
Fish Story
Fish Story (Silence 1975 Version)
No movie has ever moved me as much as Fish Story. I think I’ve seen it over 10 times now, and each time a scene near the beginning of the film nearly brings me to tears.

The world is doomed. A comet is due to smash into Earth in mere hours, destroying all life on the planet. Tokyo is deserted save for three souls inside a record store. One man is a fatalist who is eagerly awaiting the planet’s demise. Another is a customer still in denial. But the clerk is still convinced that earth will be spared because, “Music will save the world.”

I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

It’s hard to stay optimistic these days, isn’t it? Seems like in the 10 years since I started this blog the world’s been nothing but bad news peppered with false hopes and dashed expectations. We stand on the verge of America’s most terrifying general election to date, and the world is still on the cusp of utter destruction, as serial killers disguised as CEOs pump millions of dollars into misinformation campaigns to delay action on climate change.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your head in the light. Things get dark. Things got so dark for me a couple years back that my anxiety went into overdrive and fear of the unknown nearly crippled me into a soul-crushing depression on the eve of my move to Japan. I managed to get myself out of that funk (thanks to Yes) but I still sometimes come dangerously close to sliding back into it. I read the news, I think about the future, and I just want to crawl into a hole and bury myself inside.

But then I remember, music will save the world.

How?

Yeah, so that’s the thing. I don’t know. But I believe it with every fiber of my being. Music has the power not to just change the world, but to literally save the fucking planet. It has the power to save the environment, stop terrorism, cure cancer, eradicate crime and make puppies even cuter. You name it. Music is life. Music can save the planet and music can save you.

“Fish Story,” and now I’m talking about the song, not the actual movie, is in Japanese. But the lyrics honestly don’t matter. As the movie explains, they’re pretty much gibberish. But the song saves the world. And when I listen to the song, I reminded how it saves the world, and that gives me hope for my world. No matter how silly that sounds.

Fish Story will save the world.

If you want to watch Fish Story, I highly recommend skipping the horrendous Region 1 DVD and instead grabbing a UK copy. The Region 1 edition by Pathfinder Pictures is not anamorphic (meaning there are vertical and horizontal black bars on the screen at all times) and the subtitles are burned in, making them hard to read. Additionally, from what I’ve read they’re also occasionally inaccurate and omit some key details during the film’s amazing conclusion.

If you can’t get that, then look for a torrent or check Netflix, it occasionally pops up there. Just don’t give Pathfinder Pictures your money, they’re idiots who bought the film off a Korean distributor instead of going the right (aka more expensive) route and getting their hands on a proper master.

I believe that music will save the world from most disasters currently facing us, but sometimes theft and public shaming are the only ways to save the world from bad media distribution.

And for more songs from Fish Story and more information on the song and its composer, check out this post.

And don’t forget, Fish Story will save the world.

10 Years Of Being Lost: I Like Bad Music

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

If there is one thing this blog has taught me, it’s that  I have bad taste in, well, just about everything.

I guess that’s not entirely true, but in my search to find weird and hard-to-find records, I’ve discovered that I’m more likely to enjoy a substandard piece of entertainment that does one unique thing than I will a by-the-numbers, well-executed work that everyone falls head over heels for. Why else would I own the complete discography of Fireballet?

And it goes well beyond music. For example, one of my favorite movies of all time is Pretty Maids All In A Row. It’s a comedy about a womanizing high school guidance counselor; his favorite student’s affair with a hot teacher; and a series of grizzly murders taking place on campus. It stars Rock Hudson, Telly Savalas and Roddy McDowell, and was written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

It’s great.

Just kidding, it’s a fucking mess. But it’s fascinating mess! And it’s filled with situations, sub-plots and characters that you just don’t see in more polished work. I love it because its rough around the edges. Ambition, originality and just plain eccentricity goes a long way with me I suppose.

And I think that shows with tonight’s music, a selection of some of the…lesser tracks I’ve shared over the years that I still unapologetically love, no guilt with these pleasures.

Okay, maybe a little guilt.

Billy Idol
Heroin (Durga Trance Dub)
Heroin (Durga Death Dub)
Heroin (Don’t Touch That Needle Mix)
Heroin (Smack Attack)
Heroin (VR Mix)
Heroin (Needle Park Mix)
Heroin (Overlords Mix)
Heroin (Nosebleed Mix)
Heroin (A Drug Called Horse Mix)
Heroin (Ionizer mix)
Was this in the soundtrack to Hackers? I feel as if it should’ve been in the soundtrack to Hackers. Or at least The Net.

I actually just re-watched the video of this and to “Shock To The System,” the other single from Idol’s Cyberpunk, his failed 1993 album that all but completely destroyed his career. I like a few tracks on that record and I think it’s underrated, but even I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a lost classic. Reading about its release sure is interesting though. Did you know that this album was controversial? Apparently, many of those involved in early online communities, such as the the WELL, thought of it to be bullshit and Idol to be poseur. This was even though Idol went out of his way to seek advice and guidance from those in that community during the production of the album. It seems that some just couldn’t get behind the idea of a celebrity using the Internet as a means promotion.

I bet none of those people are among the 40+ million who follow Kim Kardashian on Twitter.

Dolby’s Cube
Hunger City
Howard The Duck
It Don’t Come Cheap
Don’t Turn Away (Lea Thompson Vocal)
Howard The Duck (Mega Mix)
I’m On My Way
Vinyl re-issues of movie soundtracks are hot shit at the moment. I blame/credit Death Waltz for starting the trend. And while I think it’s really starting to get out of hand (I just bought a glow-in-the-dark re-issue of the Fright Night soundtrack), I don’t think we’ve reached maximum saturation yet, mainly because the soundtrack to Howard The Duck hasn’t been re-released yet. And that’s a fucking shame.

BECAUSE THE SOUNDTRACK TO HOWARD THE DUCK IS FUCKING GREAT.

Thomas Dolby. George Clinton, Stevie Wonder. Joe Walsh. They all perform on this album, and they’re fronted by Lea Thompson, who is a shockingly good rock singer. I want to hear her sing “Cherry Bomb,” I bet it would sound incredible.

My favorite of the Thompson-fronted tracks from Howard The Duck isn’t the theme song (although it’s rad), instead it’s “Hunger City,” an intense, 80s pop rocker that really channels the anger and energy of pop-rock like Pat Benatar or even some early Joan Jett. There’s a desperation to the lyrics, and to Thompson’s powerful delivery, that have a surprising aura of honesty to them. This song feels like it was written about someone’s real struggles, and not the struggles of a duck trapped in a world he never made.

The other songs are good fun, but “Hunger City” is a lost classic.

Bell & James
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (12″ Remix)
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (Instrumental)
I love this song so much that I almost typed this entire section in all caps with every sentence ending in exclamation points. THAT’S HOW GOOD THIS SONG IS!!

This is the title track to the film of the same name, and it more or less just tells the story of the film. So not only is this song a funky masterpiece of 70s soul, it also does you the service of saving you from having to watch The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, because that is a bad movie that’s not good. I know I said that I like a lot of things that other people consider to be bad, but this is one instance where I share the critical consensus: that movie is a pile of dog shit.

The song is dope though, some might say it is the second-best song ever written with the word “fish” in the title.

Let’s Get Ill With Rappin’

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

rappin

Rappin’ is the poor man’s Breakin’. No, strike that – it’s the poor man’s Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo.

An all-but-forgotten 1985 hip-hop musical drama, it’s mostly known today for featuring an early starring role for Mario Van Peebles, as well as an early vehicle for Ice-T, whose featured more prominently in the film’s amazing trailer than the film itself. I’ve never seen the movie, but from what I’ve skimmed on YouTube I don’t think I’m worse for it. The soundtrack certainly is…something else.

I’ll be honest…this is one of those nights where I’m not sharing music that I would call good. I’m more…exposing you all to some musical history, artifacts if you will, from a bygone era that time has largely forgotten, rap’s first foray into the pop landscape.

It has not aged well. But let’s take a listen!

Lovebug Starski
Rappin’
The Fight Rap
A honest-to-goodness old-school hip-hop pioneer, Lovebug Starski started as a DJ in the late-70s before moving to rapping in the early 80s. He released several singles and one album, but he apparently went to prison sometime in the mid-80s, which put a serious dent in his music career. Dude still seems to be kicking it though, I found a video of him performing in 2008. I wonder how many other old-school pioneers have been lost to the ages?

Starski has two tracks on Rappin’. The first is the title track. It’s okay, although like most of the tracks on the album, his delivery seems rather stilted and simplistic when compared to what followed. I much prefer “The Rap Fight,” which is a dope electro tune with a sick beat and some totally ill synth lines. I would totally pop-and-lock to this one if my bones didn’t already pop-and-lock on their own throughout the day.

Melvin Plowden, Mario Van Peebles, Eriq La Salle, Kadeem Hardison & Richie Abanes
Snack Attack
This is a rap by the stars of the film, Mario Van Peebles, Dwayne Wayne from A Different World, the asshole doctor from ER and…two other dudes (more on the them in a minute).

In case you were wondering. Neither Mario Van Peebles, Dwayne Wayne nor Dr. Peter Benton from ER can rap. Not only can they not rap, they really can’t rap. And don’t forget, the standards for “good rapping” were pretty low in the early 80s. That’s not to say that the rappers of the era were bad, on the contrary, many are some of the best who ever lived, but the artform was new at the time. People were still figuring it out, the rules were still being made, so a lot of rap from the era is pretty simple.

With those limitations and expectations established, this is some bad rap that sounds horrible. Firstly, it’s a rap song about snacking. And, like I said before, this was the early-80s, but rapping about how much you like food? That was already well-trodden ground by The Fat Boys (who were amazing rappers FYI), so in addition to being a stupid topic for a rap track, it’s an unoriginal topic that’s been done better. I don’t know who’s rapping what line, but they’re all doing a horrible job. They got no flow, no rhythm, no meter. They’re just spouting out lines about food that rhyme. Well, they usually rhyme, at one point they do try to rhyme sardines with cheese and beans.

It’s even bad musically. Most great rap of the era was built off of solid samples or original electronic beats. This has neither, and is instead built off of a generic guitar lick and what sounds like a preset drum beat. Not to mention the piano outro that tries to give the track a jazzy feel, for some reason.

Peebles, Hardison and La Salle were all wise for not pursuing rapping further, but what of the other two on the track? Well, Richard Abanes is an experienced actor and singer, but he’s mostly known for his books. You may have seen them in the religious section, with titles like Harry Potter and The Bible, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code and What Every Parent Needs To Know About Video Games. I really wish he would take up rapping again, but only about these topics. Who would want to see a middle-aged Mormon rap about the evils of pop culture, “Yo now listen to what I have to say, Harry Potter is evil and he’ll make you gay!”

I couldn’t find anything as humorous about the mysterious Melvin Plowden, aside from the fact that he produced some forgotten rap tracks, including one called “You Ain’t Right Eddie Murphy.” If he was referring to Murphy’s then incredibly homophobic stand-up routine, yo Melvin, I agree with you.

Mario Van Peebles
Neighborhood Walk
“Rock Box” but bad.

The Force M.D.’s
Itchin’ For a Scratch
Now here’s an example of an old-school rap song that’s obviously dated but still great. A simple but catchy beat, some great synthesizer and, of course, some totally over-the-top scratching effects. The Force M.D.’s were a legit rap outfit with a long carer that produced a few minor hits, and it shows here. These guys got the rhythm down, and their lines are simple-yet-clever. The Force M.D.’s were mostly known for their ballads and love songs, but this track shows they had some solid old-school hip-hop skills too. An album highlight and a lot of fun.

Warren Mills
Flame In The Fire
The first of two pre-teen performers on this album. Mills is by far the better of the two because he can actually sing, but that’s faint praise. The production is about as generically 80s as you can get, it sounds like the bastard love-child of “Rhythm Of the Night” and a Pretty Poison song. And while Mills has pretty good vocal chops for a kid, he still sounds like a little kid. And there’s nothing I want to hear less than a little kid try to serenade someone.

The sax solo is pretty ill though.

D. Terrell
Call Me
Who is D. Terrell?

No, seriously, who is he? I can’t find anything on this dude. Can’t find anything on him online, I think this is the only song he ever wrote that made it to any release at all. It’s not all that bad. Not all that memorable either.  I feel like it belongs on the soundtrack to D.C. Cab for some reason.

Lajuan Carter
If You Want To (FU12)
I could be mistaken, I’m a little drunk and it’s been a long week. But I’m fairly certain that this is a song about wanting to fuck a robot. Literally. She says “I don’t need nothing but robot love.” Someone call Brent Spiner.

Lajuan Carter never released a full album proper but she’s had a decent career as a backup singer, appearing on the Set It Off soundtrack and on albums by Vanessa Williams and Darryl Hall. I don’t feel like this song really takes advantage of her voice, she kind of has a Vanity thing going on with a trying-to-be-sexy whisper voice. But she occasionally does let that soprano of hers rip and it’s pretty impressive.

Tuff, Inc.
Golly Gee
This album has too many shitty love songs by little boys who are all too fucking young to know what love is. This is the third one, and it is by far the fucking worst. Abysmal garbage. I don’t want to hear the lovelorn woes of little shits whose balls haven’t even dropped yet. You fucks. You don’t know what love is. You think love is holding hands after homeroom.

“What didn’t you know why he claimed to be true. He’s running around making a fool of you.”

What the fuck is that? What is this song suggesting? That the girl this kid is falling for has a boyfriend who is fooling around with other girls? What the fuck? YOU’RE TWELVE! When I was that age I didn’t know any kids who were prowling homeroom for pussy. Ick.

Eugene Wilde and Joanna Garnder
First Love Never Dies
The soundrack to the film Rappin’ ends with a quiet storm love duet, because…fuck if I know. This song is pretty awful, but I think that largely has to do with it being incredibly dated than anything else. In an alternate reality I could totally see this song being a top ten hit single and making an appearance on Solid Gold.

Joanna Garnder never really had much of a career, but Eugene seemed to have a few hit singles in the 80s. A quick search on YouTube turns up quite a few tracks, including the incredibly dope “Gotta Get You Home Tonight” which I can only assume was the early-8os equivalent of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You.” I totally bet that song would work on my boyfriend.

フォースと ともに あらん ことを。(May The Force Be With You)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Star Wars is, of course, an international phenomenon, and during my time in Japan I’ve come to realize that the franchise might be even more popular here than it is in the west. Sure, in America you have much the mocked Star Wars fruits, but do you have a Star Wars vacuum cleaner? What about Star Wars chopsticks (that light up)? Can you buy a X-Wing inspired Star Wars pen and pen stand (for a combined price of over $2,000)? Star Wars dishes, high-end Star Wars doormats, Star Wars kimonos. You name it, Japan has it. It’s pretty dope.

In fact, Japan getting exclusive Star Wars goodies is not a new phenomenon, just check this out.

20160105_220340

The Story Of Star Wars (Japanese Edition)
Side 1
Side 2

This is the Japanese edition of the Story of Star Wars LP, a 1978 record that summarizes the…story of Star Wars (duh) by combining audio and dialog from the film alongside original narration that helps to cut down the running time to something that would fit on an LP (and work without the aide of visuals).

Now, a lot of countries got this record, it was released all across North America, and also in several European countries. However, all those countries, no matter what their native language, got the album in English, even if the movie came out in their country dubbed.

This was not the case with Japan.

When the time came for the album to come out in Japan, Fox actually went out of their way to release a Japanese language version of the record, complete with all new Japanese narration, as well as the original Japanese dub of the film.

I don’t know what made Japan so special that they got a uniquely localized version of this record, but I think it probably had more to do with the LP buying habits of the Japanese people than the runaway success of Star Wars in the country. During the late 70s and early 80s, these “audio drama” types of records were oddly popular in Japan. In my time browsing the used LP bins here, I’ve seen audio drama LPs for countless TV shows, feature-length anime, sporting events and even wrestling matches. The releases dry up sometime in the mid-80s, I assume home video killed it.

I’m going to be real for a second. Even though I’ve lived in this country for two years now, my Japanese is still dogshit. In fact, calling it dogshit might be an insult to dogshit. So don’t ask me how loyal to the source material this translation is or anything like that.

So yeah, when I listen to this I can probably only pick up every 10th sentence, if that. But despite my ultra-limited understanding of the language, I still find this record an interesting listen. Not only am I using it to help with my Japanese, it’s also fun to listen to hear the dubbed voices and the stylistic choices they went with for each of them. Han Solo and Obi Wan sound like rough samurais (not surprising) while Luke still comes off like a whiny idiot. Most interesting, to me at least, is that C-3P0 still speaks with a British accent.

In case you’re wondering, R2-D2 remains unchanged. Bleeps and bloops are international.

Special thanks to the boyfriend for translating “may the force be with you” into Japanese. In case you’re wondering, you pronounce that “o-su to tomoni arankoto.”

Ice Cube Hates Brandon Lee

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Just one song tonight. But don’t worry! It’s really bad.

Ice Cube
Street Fighter
One of the only things that bums me out about living in Japan is that it’s a little harder for me to find weird 12″ singles. That was my bread and butter in the states, but they’re not as common here. And when I do manage to find them, they tend to be insanely overpriced. That Neil Young single I featured a few days ago? That was almost 20 bucks. That would’ve been no more than five bucks in the states, but I guess that’s the (literal) price you pay for living on an island nation that has to import most of its used vinyl.

While Japan doesn’t seem to be a fan of the 12″ single, it is thankfully more than a fan of the needless soundtrack. Since coming here I’ve scored original (not expensive modern reproduction) soundtracks to Phantasm, Xtro, Prom Night, the Knight Rider TV show and even the little-seen Australian kung fu flick The Man From Hong Kong.

A few weeks ago I got really lucky and scored a copy of the soundtrack to Street Fighter.

Street Fighter: The Movie.

On vinyl.

Yeah, so I bought that.

Spoiler: it’s fucking HORRIBLE. Nas and The Pharcyde aside, it’s mostly second-rate hip-hop and new jack swing by artists who were nearing the end of their relevance (Chuck D and LL Cool J) or by nobodies who thankfully vanished without a trace (The B.U.M.S., Rally Ral).

Oh, and Deion Sanders with MC Hammer. Because 90s.

It’s shit. And not even fun shit. It’s boring, forgettable shit from a nearly forgotten era of pop music. Not even worth talking about. Except, for this, the title track by one Ice Cube. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s shit too. But it’s shit in the most wondrous ways.

This is a boasting track, with Ice laying down rhymes about what a bad motherfucker he is. Usually, that’s quality material for an Ice Cube track. He is a bad motherfucker, after all. But Ice is a bad motherfucker when he’s talking about dealing drugs and drive-bys. He is not a bad motherfucker when he talks about his marital arts prowess. Who the fuck does he think he is, Wu-Tang?

Some choice lines:

“At the Japanese deli fo’ my troop.
And we all take malt liquor, in our wonton soup.
Oops as I smell my fork.
It smells like sweet’n’sour pork.”

Japanese deli. Wonton soup. Sweet ‘n’ sour pork.

Repeat after me, Ice, Japan and China are different countries with different cultures and cuisines.

He also talks about eating burgers with chopsticks, drinking 40s of sake and offing dudes with poison darts. But to be honest the culturally confused lyrics aren’t the worst offenders here. No, it’s when Ice calls out individual martial artists. At one point he straight up says “I want to kill Chuck Norris” before dropping a line targeting Jean Claude Van Damme that is sadly censored (probably because the movie featured Jean in the starring role).

Neither of those lines can hold a “what the fuck” candle to this though.

“Many black belts wanna try and snatch the pebble.
From the mas-ter, but I’m much fas-ter.
Just ask Bruce Lee.
Him, and Brandon died, befo’ I can who-ride.”

So, unless I’m mistaken, Ice just claimed that he could’ve laid waste to Bruce Lee had he been given the chance, and not only that, but that his son Brandon was actually lucky to have died before Ice had the chance to fuck him up.

This was 1994. Brandon Lee died the year prior.

Man, Ice that’s some fucked up shit.