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Friday, Oct. 9, 2009

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Then and now: Yolz in the Sky formed in a music scene created in large part by artists such as Phew. JAMES HADFIELD PHOTO

The past and present of bands tearing up Japan's underground scene


Special to The Japan Times

Old school: Notable for Koichi Makigami's distinctive, Kabuki-influenced vocal style, Hikashu were, alongside P-Model and The Plastics, one of the defining bands of Japanese new wave and technopop, although from their poppy debut they quickly tacked in a more experimental direction. At Drive to 2010 they are notable for being one of only a handful of artists to perform at all three "Drive to . . . " events.

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Phew

One of the key bands of the "Tokyo Rockers" compilation as well as Drive to '80s, Lizard's brand of keyboard-led new wave and sneering vocals brought obvious comparisons with U.K. punks The Stranglers, whose bass player Jean Jacques Burnel produced Lizard's debut album. After the album "Gansei Teien" in 1987 the group went quiet, but have re-emerged in time to play a much-anticipated show on the closing night of Drive to 2010.

Another artist who has taken part in all three "Drive to . . . " events, punk-poetess Phew has passed, chameleonlike, through numerous guises in her time, appearing at Drive to '80s as part of the avant-garde group Aunt Sally, then at Drive to 2000 with the postpunk band Big Picture. This time round she is performing as the "P" part of B.E.P. alongside Bikke from Lovejoy and multi-instrumentalist Eiko Ishibashi from Panicsmile.

Kenzo Saeki was at college at the time of Drive to '80s, but his band Halmens hit the scene the following year and he quickly gained a reputation for his sharp way with lyrics. Saeki moved on to the group Pearl Brothers after the second Halmens album, but this time round he is bridging the generation gap by performing a set of Halmens songs backed by the new wave-influenced Boogie the Mach Motors.

Young Turks: Publicity-shy indie popsters Soutaiseiriron take some musical cues from 1980s Scottish bands such as Orange Juice and Aztec Camera with their blend of sweet melodies and occasionally offbeat arrangements, but fans of Japanese Shibuya-kei bands such as Flipper's Guitar will also feel a sense of familiarity with their sound. Despite hardly ever allowing themselves to be photographed, the band are rapidly becoming huge, and as a result the Drive to 2010 team gave them the coveted first night headline slot on Oct. 5.

Dance-punk four-piece Yolz in the Sky have been one of the more striking bands to emerge from the Osaka underground scene in the last few years. Eschewing the showmanship and wacky on-stage antics that has come to often characterize their city's music scene, they have instead focused their energy into an intense, brutal assault on the senses, like a kind of disco Melt-Banana, which should make their support slot with Polysics an intriguing proposition.

One of the younger bands affiliated with the Tokyo Boredom night at midnight on Oct. 11, The Mornings have been tearing through the Tokyo underground scene like a plague of furiously stage diving, crowd-surfing locusts. Gaining a reputation not only for their own frenetic, cut-up rhythms, breathless call-and-response vocals, and acrobatic guitar violence, but also for the verve and enthusiasm with which the members regularly hurl themselves into other bands' mosh pits.


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