[KR Goes Global] Tokyo Jihen and their new album, Sports

[Ed. Note: In an effort to provide a diverse range of music, not only in genre but also by location and culture, Lin Lizhuang, from Singapore, writes about music from parts of the world that may go unnoticed on this here blog (you can find more of her work on her blog, Rock Loves Romantic.) Enjoy! Previous KR Goes Global here.]

By Lin Lizhuang

In my opinion, the Japanese rank very highly on the “Asian mysticism” mysterio-meter. They have a language that is specially designed to mask the true emotions of the speaker and anything that goes through their handling becomes somewhat complex (origami, flower arrangements, gift wrapping, elaborate green tea ceremonies) and entirely worth your worship. You don’t really understand their motivations and inspiration, but somehow, you find yourself trusting and fascinated by whatever that is Japanese (ok, let’s leave Toyota out of the picture for a while, those guys will be back on their limited edition sneakered feet in no time, I presume).

Shena Ringo (or sometimes known as Shiina Ringo) is a Japanese lady who has named herself after a fruit (ringo = apple in Japanese). She also happens to have a very peculiar voice, which is complex and very difficult to describe. Sometimes it’s rusty like the sound of paper tearing, other times its sexy and exciting like the ring of pants unzipping in the midst of passion. But for most of the time, she sounds like a women soured by bad relationships and listening to her can be like torture; it can bring out some pretty intensely unpleasant emotions.

Tokyo Jihen is her band, made out of some of the most competent musicians in the Japanese music industry. Each of them are gods of their respective instruments, and although at times you are confused about what to listen to, you are more than likely to be stricken with awe at the impeccable precision of the instrumentation, and the cosmic chemistry between the band members.

At this point I must admit that it has been one hell of a long introduction, but the matter of the fact is, Sports is the worst Tokyo Jihen album to date, and I do desperately want to impress upon you that they are indeed too great a band to be judged based on the shortcomings of a single album.

東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen) – “雪国 (yukiguni)” (from Adaruto) [stream only]

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Sports is the fourth album from their “Programming Genres” line up (the first was Kyoiku (Education), followed by the rather dark Adaruto (Adult) and the more relaxed and entertaining Variety). It is a tightly packed set of 13 vigorous tracks, which begins with an overly elaborate opening ceremony anthem, Ikiru. The album  then proceeds to cover as many sporting activities as possible, such as the intense racetrack adrenaline in Denpa Tsushin, to the dignified grace of archery in Sweet Spot, the pool table sophistication of FAIR and lastly, the euphoric rush of extreme sports in Noriki.

As if to go along with the theme, here, each member’s competitive streak comes to light, everyone is screaming to be heard and it really comes across like an overwrapped present; its just too noisy, too tipsy and a tad too alcoholic. I felt absolutely exhausted after listening to the album.

Here’s the part where I tell why you would still fall head over heels in love with Tokyo Jihen despite all the failings that are apparent in Sports. Tokyo Jihen is considered a suitably westernized band in Japan, but the listener is often blindsided by a surprising Japanese hook in the middle of the song. Moreover it is almost impossible to understand any of the lyrics as Shena Ringo rambles incomprehensively (both Japanese and English alike), but when listening to tracks like Zenttai Zetsumei, Senko Shojo and Noudouteki Sanpunkan, you’ll find an unlikely kindred spirit in their music and let yourself be carried away inexplicably by the amazing atmosphere created by the songs.

You’ll get a taste of what it ‘s like to be Japanese and to be mysterious. And then you’ll finally understand how to feels to be invincible.

東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen) – “能動的三分間 (Noudouteki Sanpunkan)” (from Sports) [stream only]

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東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen) – “絶体絶命 (Zettai Zetsumei)” (from Sports) [stream only]

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