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Friday, July 3, 2009
Yes, Jitterin'Jinn are still going.
Arguably the definitive Japanese rockabilly pop band, Jitterin'Jinn formed in 1986 in Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, capturing national attention when they appeared on the audition show "Miyake Yuuji no Ikasu Bando Tengoku" ("Yuuji Miyake's Rising Band Heaven," which also exposed such revered bands as Blanky Jet City and Tama) in 1989. They went on to moderate success in the early '90s with such songs as the wistful "Natsu Matsuri" ("Summer Festival") and "Present" (appropriately enough, a song about presents). Later, in 2000, "Natsu Matsuri" became a smash hit for Hokkaido pop group Whiteberry, appearing even now in various iterations of Bandai Namco's taiko arcade games.
The band's allure lies in their bittersweet melodies and kinetic rhythms, a runaway-train sound that somehow captures the nostalgia of decades gone by while still being cool enough to groove to. Vocalist/accordion player Reiko Harukawa has a thin but nonetheless emotive voice, and Jinta Hashi's guitar is a pure distillation of the early sounds of Johnnys Cash and Marr.
While they never achieved the success of, say, Judy and Mary, Jitterin'Jinn wove themselves deep into the fabric of Japanese music culture, to the point where most people of a certain generation know at least a couple of their songs, and their influence can be heard on current ska-punk bands such as Muramasa. They even toured the U.K. and North America in 2001.
Although Jitterin'Jinn continue to release occasional recordings, mainly to their fan club, they play only a handful of gigs a year. And so their two shows in July are not to be missed — not least because they will be playing in support of Osaka rock queens Shonen Knife, who are themselves freshly back in Japan after a European tour. But whatever you do, don't forget the Brylcreem.
Jitterin'Jinn play July 6 at Shibuya Club Quattro, Tokyo (6 p.m.;  3444-6751); and July 12 at Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka (5 p.m.;  6535-5569). Tickets for each show are ¥3,500, Jitterin'Jinn open for Shonen Knife at both shows.