Posts Tagged ‘Survival Research’

Happy End – Happy End

Its been a long time coming, but many of the essential Japanese albums from the psychedelic era are now coming back to the reissue circuit. While most were represented in the CD-heavy aughts boom, the trickle back to vinyl has been slow for some, and even then it’s been limited to imports in many cases. With the reissue of the Hosono catalog through Light in the Attic, the artist’s other pre-Yellow Magic Orchestra work is now creeping out from the corners. Last year Survival Research reissued Hosono’s early band Apryl Fool, a band that would stand at the beginning of his journey into the modern musical heart, and now they’re continuing with the band he skipped onto next, Happy End. While the band’s sophomore LP is probably the most widely known, their debut hardly anything to dismiss offhand. Alongside Eiichi Ohtaki, Shigeru Suzuki, and Takashi Matsumoto, the latter also of Apryl Fool, they began move away from the blues that held sway of the Fool and into the strains of country rock, folk and lightly flecked psychedelia that would prove pervasive in their American counterparts. The difference here is that the band made the insistence on keeping the lyrics in their native Japanese, possibly alienating Western audiences at the time, but endearing them to their local crowds.

While it seems only natural that Japanese bands might sing in Japanese, at the time the Western influence was so strong that it was seen as almost a given that English language was the only path to prominence. This led to the Nihongo Rokku Ronsō or Japanese Language Controversy, a debate that the success of this album and the subsequent Kazemachi Roman helped to settle. It’s easy to see how this album catapulted the band to success — with a combination of soulful songwriting, adept musicianship that easily incorporates and melds their various genres, and hooks that should have transcended any language barrier — the only true curiosity is that the album didn’t crossover beyond their country’s bounds at the time. There are elements of CSNY, Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service at play, especially in the three-part harmonies working their way through the folk forms, but the leads on Happy End tend to push further than most US/UK bands ever let themselves wander. In every sense this is a killer album that outstrips similar fodder that ruled international charts at the time. Very glad to see this back in print and hoping that this is the beginning of a run of the rest of Happy End’s catalog for US audiences.



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The Apryl Fool – S/T

Seems like over the past couple of years, the house of (Haruomi) Hosono has been rebuilt reissue by reissue. His solo records have been getting a good shout, Happy End got some (far too limited) reissues in the last couple of years and even some tangential works that he was involved in like Minami Masato’s The Tropics have found their way back to the table. This, however, is where it all started. The Apryl Fool were more straightforward than any of his works, but Hosono’s bass anchors their simmering vision of blues rock in 1969 and gives it some great dimension. The band only really laid down one album, their eponymous debut, though a collaboration with Japanese musical theater group Tokyo Kid Brothers exists in a scant pressing around the same time as well. That single isn’t as indicative of their style, though and this LP remains the most complete overview of The Apryl Fool at the time.

Aside from Honso, other members would spread through the burgeoning Japanese psychedelic channels with members popping up in Shinki Chen & His Friends, Food Brain, The Floral, and Happy End. The record is rooted in the kind of British Blues that were dominant around the time, but occasionally also skews towards the psychedelic, especially on the more outre “The Lost Mother Land (Part 1) which came to the attention of many Western fans through the compilation Love, Peace & Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music at the crack of the Aughts. This album proves that, while that track is an excellent example of effects-indulgent psych, the band had way more to offer. The band quit the day the record was released, and even while it was issued on a Japanese subsidiary of Columbia at the time, that spelled disaster for this music reaching enough ears. Survival Research ensures that this gem doesn’t get lost to the winds forever.


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