[19] Japan, ‘Quiet Life’

Japan

Quiet Life was the first LP I bought. Sure, there were a couple of cassette albums before that – both by Duran Duran, naturally – but this was my first 12” vinyl breakout, along with Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching For The Young Soul Rebels in the WH Smith bargain racks. It was March 1983, four years after its release, nicely in keeping with Japan’s own idiosyncratic chronology. You see, I bought it on the strength of their superb cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, which has just come out as a single – also four years after the event. And then there’s this, into the singles chart with a bullet, two years after its first appearance. They can’t have known if they were coming or going. In 1983 they were going.

Straddling Japan’s lurch from glam to Orient-obsessed electro-artpop, ‘Quiet Life’ veers in to the sound of helicopter blades – at least it sounds that way to me, and Junior agrees – and David Sylvian moans about – what? The break-up of the band, years before it happened? The changing state of the nation? His transitional football team? He was to take the quiet life to extremes afterwards, pootling around in the margins, crafting barely penetrable avant-pop, but still he carries on. So Junior identifies the blades, spots the handclaps, and sways to the slides, clips and ticks in the back of the car.

[17] Japan, ‘Ghosts’

At the time, I thought this went to Number One. To be honest, until I started taking a keen interest in the chart during the summer of ‘82,I thought everything that appeared on Top Of The Pops was a No.1 single. Happy, uncomplicated days, before my first Guinness Book of British Hit Singles destroyed these reveries. I felt crushed for Sylvian and the lads, and their No.5 hit.

They were probably ecstatic, or as ecstatic as a bunch of in-fighting, studiedly glacial, new romantic poseurs were ever going to get. Maybe they flared a nostril.

‘Ghosts’ is thuddingly pretentious, a glorious mood piece of mannered vocals and blandly eerie effects. It’s certainly no better than ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ and ‘Mirror Man’, but it thinks it is, and that’s half the battle. Like The Jam, Japan were gone by the end of the year, with a frontman indulging his whimsies. He plods along still, still able to bore you to death at a hundred paces, but at least he does it without Ocean Colour Scene.

I bloody loved Japan, really. Junior tried to look enthused herself, dancing with unsuitable vigour to the first few bars of tuneless electronic dabbling. After a couple of minutes she was thinking of forming the Style Council.