Thomas Wictor

A sign that the apocalypse is imminent

A sign that the apocalypse is imminent

We are doomed. The world is about to end. How do I know that the apocalypse is imminent? Because after fifty years, there’s finally a good Japanese pop band. It’s called Tricot, pronouced “tree-ko.”

Our destruction won’t be pretty.

Tricot may be over before it really begins. Although most English-speaking press say that it’s an all-girl band, drummer Kazutaka Komaki is a man. He also left the band on March 27, 2014, forcing Tricot to “restart” its career. Currently the band consists of Ikkyu Nakajima (lead vocals, guitar), Motoko “Motifour” Kida (backing vocals, guitar), and Hiromi “Hirohiro” Sagane (backing vocals, bass).

Westerners say they play a genre called “math rock,” though the band disputes that. I was a music journalist during the heyday of the style, and I’d never heard of it until I discovered Tricot yesterday. The influences named in the Wiki article are all progressive or prog. Putting a label on something makes it more easily dismissed, which is why bands reject descriptions such as prog, death metal, grunge, and—I suppose—math rock. Such labels are for the convenience of the music press.

Here’s a Tricot song titled “Pool.”

The lyrics are opaque.

Simply coming up with conclusions is just ignorance
A mixture of heavy gases is just reason
Sing on even it’s abstruse
Aaahhh I can’t hear it

Don’t be trapped in a network of webs
Habits are just servility in disguise
Concealed in numbers

Hey, stick with your partner when among a street crowd
Watch out, throats quenched with cola easily dries
It would be good if able to ask for more, right?
Here you go, lukewarm water for preventing colds

Tricot is from Kyoto. When I was there in 1983, I fell in love with min’yō, traditional folk songs. I hear the yodeling, sobbing influence in Nakajima’s vocals, at least in this tune.

I can’t really get across to you how rare it is for a Japanese pop band to have substance. Back when math rock was said to be evolving, the Japanese listened to what they called “city pop,” which in Japanese is pronounced “shitty pop.” And boy, was it ever! Japanese popular culture requires that women be cute and girly. The music I heard on the radio and saw on TV was utterly without value. It was so childlike and saccharine that it made you want to knock yourself out with a hammer.

There was a dark side to it too. Japanese pornography is the most anti-erotic conceivable. The women are so passive and infantile that they come across as mentally challenged. “No! No! No!” they protest throughout the whole encounter, grimacing with their eyes closed and raising their hands to protect themselves.

It’s chic in the west to talk about “rape culture,” but the handful of Japanese adult movies I’ve seen in my life were genuine examples of it. The Japanese are so regimented that they blow off steam with horrific entertainment.

When I lived in Tokyo from 1985 to 1991, there were young women called “idols” who sang, acted, and did millions of ads. Their careers were short, and often so were their lives.

One of the worst things I’ve ever seen was an idol who killed herself after her middle-aged actor boyfriend dumped her. She threw herself off a skyscraper, and the media spent days showing photos of her body lying face down on the pavement. Her brain had skidded across the concrete after being ejected from her exploded skull, and her teeth were scattered like popcorn all around her.

It just made the whole country love her. All my Japanese coworkers studied the newspaper photos while eating lunch. They were titillated, cooing and murmuring in awe. I finally had to call in sick for a week because I was having nonstop nightmares about it.

Here’s another Tricot song, “Ochansensūsu.”

Now that drummer Kazutaka Komaki has departed, maybe the band can get someone with a deeper tone and a less-frenetic style. I’ve never liked that punk-influenced, trebly drumming. It sounds toylike to me.

Doosh-doosh-dash, doo-doosh-doo-doosh-dash, doosh-doosh-dash, doo-doosh-doo-doosh-dash.

My favorite drummer is John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

Listen to those slow, meaty fills. Bonham totally avoided that ticky-tacky, scratchy, whirling-kitchen-appliance sound that so many pop drummers have.

Tonight I found a photo that I didn’t know I had. Here I am in Tokyo, playing with my band A Window in March of 1988.

Behind me is a white, headless bass that I’d forgotten I owned until I saw this image again tonight. On the floor in front of me are my volume pedal, my chorus, and my octaver. I loved that pedal. One of the best bass-and-octaver songs is Paul Young’s “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down,” with Pino Palladino doing the honors on a fretless.

I had that line down. The band I was in before A Window didn’t want me to play a fretless. Or an eight-string bass. Or use an octaver. I was just supposed to be in the background, barely audible, while they pranced and preened, getting all the attention. I’m sure that’s why drummer Kazutaka Komaki left Tricot. As the only man, he felt that not enough people were talking about him.

Here’s what I always wanted to ask people who left bands right when they hit it big.

Would you rather be in the background of a hugely successful band, or would you rather proudly nosedive into total obscurity?

I didn’t quit my first band. They fired me. And then my friend Steiv Dixon and I formed A Window. Our drummer Tom Hojnacki quit after our first show, the night that photo was taken. Christ, I was so angry at him. He quit because we forced him to wear a metronome.

God bless you, Steiv and Tom, wherever you are.

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