Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's hip to be strange. (変のはかっこいいんや。)

I promised you a proper 宇宙戦隊NOIZ post at a later date, and it appears, dear readers, that that date has finally come.

It's always good to have a few back-up post ideas for those days you're not feeling very creative. Good advice for all of you future bloggers out there, take notes.



Oh yes indeedy. ビジュアル系 (Visual Kei, V-Kei) band extraordinaire, and possibly the most accurate example still active in the music field today. Heck, in my opinion? These guys probably epitomize the genre. If ever you need to explain V-Kei to your friends, just hand over the above picture.

Or, you know, tell them to google it. It is the age of the internet, after all.

Take note, however, that the above photograph is of the current band line-up; the following is an image of the original, and possibly most recognizable line-up:

... what can I say? I love me a man in a belly-shirt. Personally, I recommend clicking on this one to get the full experience.

....Uh. Anyway.

Uhm. Er. Yes! Ahem.

According to the vast fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia:

Uchuu Sentai NOIZ (宇宙戦隊 NOIZ) is a Visual Kei rock band from Japan. They are famous for their energetic music, wild Cosplay-like outfits, and amazing live shows full of energy and on stage antics. Their music is very eclectic and has many different elements from genres such as punk, J-pop, metal, hip-hop, and electronica in their sound and thus cannot be properly labeled. Some songs tend to not mix all these sounds together and focus on one or two, while other song combine all these elements. There are two singers, Angel Taka (lead) and Masato, where as for the most part Angel sings in more of a pop friendly voice though occasionally can sound a bit more punk-ish, while Masato tends to sing in harsh/brutal metal vocals and even purely hip-hop/rap style vocals which Angel will sing backup for.

Uchuu Sentai NOIZ formed in 1999 under the name NOIZ. Later, the name was changed to Imitation PoPs Uchuu Sentai NOIZ (Imitation PoPs 宇宙戦隊 NOIZ), which is the name they are best known for as well as the name under which most of their albums are listed under.

...Recently members S@TT-ON(Drums) and TAKEswiy(Guitar) left the group to be replaced by Yamato(Drums) and Kotaro(Guitar). Soon after the band shortened their name to the now-official Uchuu Sentai NOIZ (宇宙戦隊 NOIZ) and signed up with a new major label. After this, they have released only a new Single "Brave New World" with the new member on their major label as well as a greatest hits called GREAT ROCK'N' ROLL HEROES (Best of).

Yes, I realize that that is a bit more lengthy than would be my normal quote from Wikipedia, but it actually has some good, helpful info on these guys (surprisingly enough.) Anyway, as far as I can tell, the former guitarist and drummer "retired," and thus left on amicable terms--I suppose that there are some people who can only do this sort of thing for so long, after all. I have not yet heard otherwise, and will continue to believe that there was no in-fighting until someone proves me wrong.

Because I hate inner-band strife, guys. I really do.

Though it does strike me as a little suspicious that the two pudgy, less-than-pretty members were the ones who left... Only to be promptly replaced by two musicians of the more aesthetically pleasing variety... Hmm.

But hey, the new drummer makes adorable blog posts, so I'm not complaining.

Oh, that's right. These guys have their own band blog, which is both highly entertaining to read and makes them far more accessible and real, which would put them towards the top of my favorites list even if their music wasn't fun to listen to.

Because, you see, in this day and age, far too many of these hard-rock bands take themselves entirely too seriously. Dir, I'm sorry guys, but you're one of them. (Admittedly, I think most of their problem is letting all that American-aimed PR get through. Yeesh.) I like a band who knows that what they're doing is kind of ridiculous, and can have fun with it all the same. I like a band who enjoys what they do, and doesn't mind running into fans, making fools of themselves, or just generally appearing human.

And man, despite all the ridiculousness these guys represent, they are by far the most human example of V-Kei I have ever seen.

Take this, for example:

(I apologize again for the size; click here to see it in a new tab.)

宇宙戦隊NOIZ has apparently become something of a regular guest at an American anime convention, realizing, like most of their fellows, that we Westerners have a pretty substantial financial fan-capacity, and may be worth the effort to get to know a little better.

However, they're not satisfied with being simply musical guests, especially since I'm quite willing to bet that only about 10% (if that) of the convention attendees actually knew who they were.

So, they don't take themselves seriously. They realize what they must look like to a bunch of weeaboo types, and run with it.

However, they aren't good at Dance Dance Revolution.

So they cheat. And entertain. And make fools of themselves.

And it's hilarious.

You want to fulfill a contract, play the gig. You want to get invited back, do something like this.

(You know what also makes them real? The fact that the leader sounds eerily like a buddy of mine from 同志社 [Doshisha University]. It's a little unsettling, actually.)

Oh, and did I mention they have their own Youtube account? Full of similar hilarity (including adventures with meat economy in an American supermarket) and amazingly entertaining LIFT-OFFs?

What on earth is a LIFT-OFF, I hear you cry.

That, my friends, is a LIFT-OFF. Don't ask me to interpret that bit at the beginning; it's pretty garbled with the music and the microphone and would take a significant amount of concentration which I simply don't have the time for... or I'm just lazy. That might be it. Ahem.

As you may have guessed, the above LIFT-OFF (ok, fine, it's a video introduction, happy?) is for Angel-Taka, the main vocalist and leader of the band. Except, he's not the vocalist; he's the Angel Voice. Similarly, 呼太郎 (Kotarou) is the Neo Eccentric Guitar, MASATO is the Hyper Sonic Guitar  (Kyou) is the Super Vibrator (Bassist; don't ask me, because I'll never know) and YAMATO is the Machinegun Beat Grappler (Drummer; at least that one sort of makes sense.) I've linked you to each of their LIFT-OFFs, because... well... they're fun. And they're one of the main reasons why I gave these guys more than just a second glance.

And I am so very glad I did. What with the Youtube account, their ridiculous website, and their blog, I was convinced that I was destined for NOIZ-fandom even if their music was absolutely atrocious.

Imagine how pleased I was when it wasn't.

And even if you don't like the music, you can certainly appreciate the videos (another of which is posted here, remember).

Oh, and did I mention the fact that most (if not all) of them speak hard-core 関西弁 (Kansai-ben, Kansai dialect)? That gets them an automatic one hundred points in my books, as we all know. Ah ha, bias. 

You know, oftentimes, people use bands like these guys as an example of how weird, strange and utterly alien Japan is, an example of why it's fun to visit but they certainly wouldn't want to live there, and man, aren't those Japanese crazy? After I count to ten and clear the indignant, righteous anger from my head, I offer my own perspective.

Yes, these guys are weird. Yes, they dress in crazy costumes and look completely different from just about anything you'd find over here in the civilized, gloriously advanced West. But you know what? I love that. Far from being a reason not to go, these guys are one of the many reasons I love Japan, and one of the reasons that I can see myself living there for decades at a time, despite the tendency towards xenophobia, casual racism and conservative policies. (Sorry for the wake-up call there, weeaboo legions.) Guys like 宇宙戦隊NOIZ are an example of how tolerant and laid-back Japan has the capacity to be. 

I absolutely love the fact that these guys can succeed, doing what they do, being as ridiculous as they are.

And I don't give a flying fig for anyone who would use interesting bands like this as yet another means to poke fun at that strange and distant land of Japan.

...whoa. I didn't mean for this to turn into such a passionate rant; I do apologize (though not for the sentiment).


I hope that I have opened your mind to what some (namely me) might call the last pure V-Kei band out there, and that you have at least gotten some enjoyment out of this post, if only through giggling slightly at the poor dancing skills of these men.

And just think--without weirdos, where would we be?

This is Edo, signing off bobbing her head to the music and wishing her hair was blue again.

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