My Favourite Japanese Punk Bands
Oct 17 2012
There are two fail-safe activities I turn to if I'm bored at work: Getting drunk on alcoholic aerosol sprays, then trying to make my ears bleed with Japanese punk music. Since I already ran you through that first one, I figured there was no harm in sharing some stuff about my other dependable, go-to mood-lifter.
Japan's punk scene has been around for just as long as Vivienne Westwood's been capitalising on every aspect of the original King's Road punk set (literally since the day it started), but Western coverage of the pre-Harajuku stuff has been pretty much nonexistent for whatever reason. Largely missing out on burgeoning alternative music scenes after the Second World War, Japanese youth finally had something to rage against in the mid-70s – industrial decline and major price inflation during the world oil crisis – so Japanese punk was born.
Here are some of the Japanese punk bands you've probably missed out on by being a close-minded, Western segregationist.
Besides having the second best band name in the history of the world ('Paracoccidioidomicosisproctitissarcomucosis' takes first place; shit music, hilarious trolling of self-serious grindcore fans), The Stalin were one of the very first Japanese hardcore bands, and one of the few to achieve a lasting cult status over the years.
Frontman Michiro Edo did everything a hardcore frontman should do: projectile vomiting, self-mutilation, the later formation of an acoustic punk band who utilise harmonicas way too much, etc. etc. The guy managed to amalgamate everything awesome about Iggy Pop, GG Allin and Kikuchiyo's psychotic behaviour in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai – all of which went down incredibly badly when they appeared on a local version of Top of the Pops, which kind of makes them even more amazing.
Like many other early, Tokyo-based punk bands, the guys in Friction are essentially direct clones of their New York and London counterparts, minus that effortless, apathetic thing Richard Hell did so well. I don't understand a word of what they're saying in this interview, but the song kicks enough ass for that to not really matter.
Yeah, I know, "The SS" is such an embarrassing, obvious courting of controversy, but several punk biographers consider them to be the first hardcore band in history, so lay off.
The four pot-bellied members played an angrier, faster brand of punk than their US contemporaries, like Middle Class and Black Flag, while being technically unable to have heard of them, unless they just so happened to have stumbled across a hardcore house party in suburban California in the mid-70s. So, any Americans out there proudly claiming Rollins and MacKaye, et al. invented hardcore – think again. Also, you definitely, definitely didn't invent pizza. That's always pissed me off.
During the 1980s, bands like GISM spearheaded the whole Japanese hardcore and D-Beat scene, so you can thank them straight away for making you Google D-Beat. Everyone thinks they copied The Spits by wearing balaclavas on stage, but they were doing it a good 20 years before that band were even a twinkle in the spit-drenched cocaine wrap of whoever started it.
They also had a record called "Punks Is Hippies" which is great, because that statement is never going to make any sense, regardless of how long you think about it. Anarchy of the brain, bro.
Like pretty much every American gunk-punk band from the 90s, Teengenerate focused on that maniacally fast sound epitomised in the Killed by Death bootleg tapes, occasionally blended in with a kind of 1970s proto-punk vibe. Sorry, I'm massively nerding out over here, but they were hands-down the best band of 1994 (Yeah, yeah, yeah; I hear you crying, Weezer, Nirvana and Jeff Buckley fans) so I don't even care.
THE BLUE HEARTS
Even though most of The Blue Hearts' songs sound like awful Undertones covers and their singer looks like a badly-thought-out villain from Streets of Rage, their song "Linda Linda" was Japan's answer to Van Halen's "Jump", and if that's not something to get besides-yourself-excited about, then I don't know what is.
These dudes covered "Killer Man" – an obscure French punk number recorded in 1977 by Alain Kan and his band, Gasoline – which might be of far more cultural importance than it sounds. I'm 98 percent sure this is the only time in the history of humanity that the Japanese have borrowed something from us frogs without any noticeable trace of Claude François or Serge Gainsbourg poking through, and that's extremely commendable.
This is the best Japanese punk song of all time. In fact, it's probably the best Japanese song of all time.
The Swankys always looked like a much cooler version of the Sex Pistols, too. The guitar player used to wear a sunhat and a golden, silk shirt in order to demonstrate his Japanese-ness, which was undoubtedly more punk than all the homogenised, carefully-manicured Londoners in their matching studded jackets and leather trousers.
The Cockney Rejects wore West Ham's colours and started fights in defence of their working class roots everywhere they went, the Angelic Upstarts fought tirelessly for the rights of the mining-town, working class kids in north-eastern England and the Discocks got wasted in Harajuku and finished all their sentences with "Oi! Oi! Oi!"
Sure, they might not have been as politically involved as the Brits, but whatever, I'm almost certain Japan doesn't even have a working class anyway. And if they do, fuck you – the Discocks don't recognise class boundaries, they're just about getting wasted and jumping around.
More punk from around the world: