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J-Band Of The Week! 11/30/09 – SCANDAL!

SCANDAL - Haruna Ono (Front - Vocals, Guitar) , Tomomoi Ogawa (Left - Bass, Vocals), Mamai Sasazaki (Right - Guitar, Vocals) & Rina Suzuki (Center - Drums, Vocals)

If you listen to Japanese music and don’t know about SCANDAL, then you obviously live under a rock. If, on the other hand, you are discovering SCANDAL for the first time then welcome to the POWER of Japan’s #1 Girly Rock Band for the new generation. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean but it comes straight from their website so it must mean something… I think… Make no mistake this a band that knows how to market themselves and make pretty darn nifty music.

SCANDAL was formed when 4 girls, Haruna Ono, Mami Sakazaki, Tomomi Ogawa and Rina Suzuki met at Dance/Vocal School. Taking the advice of their instructor to take up an instrument the four girls came otgether and began playing as a unit. Before long they were doing street performances in Tokyo and Osaka before being asked to perform at Shibuya Club Asia, which for a quartet of teenaged high school girls is quite a big deal. Not long after they were signed to Kitty Records, a sub-division of Kitty Films and through theri distribution deal with Tower Records Japan got theri first single Space Ranger on Marcg 3 2008. Three more singles followed throughout 2008 and 3 more in 2009, including Shojo S which was chosen as the 10th openign theme for the anime series BLEACH.

Finally on October 21 2009 the girl’s first full length CD BEST SCANDAL was released, featuring all their singles and 6 new songs. Along the way SCANDAL switched from Kitty Records to Sony Music Japan in order for their records to get wider release. The problem with Kitty’s distribution deal with Tower was that the records were produced in limited quantity and thus would sellout quickly.Now with wider distribution the girls have been reaching more fans and even making new ones. Some of those fans are even American as SCANDAL toured the United States in 2008 as part of the JAPAN NITE 2008 Tour, which featured several Japanese acts touring 9 nights in the U.S. Not bad for 4 girls from Osaka who, at that point, hadn’t even graduated High school.

The band’s look actually plays off of that fact as all four band members wear school uniforms for all points of promotion. Be it music videos, public appearances or even live shows, SCANDAL has built a following for both their look and music and in Japan, where a good look can rocket you to stardom despite negligible talent, that is something. Luckily the girls of SCANDAL have both talent AND a marketable look. Of course all 4 girls have graduated High School so it will be interesting to see if they repackage themselves when they start work for their second album. Until then we’ll just to enjoy the effort SCANDAL has put thus far and that really isn’t such a bad thing because these girls can only get better and better with progression of time!

Also to better market themselves, SCANDAL has even had a series of animated mini-sodes commisioned, telling how they came together. I think this might be the first actual anime about a band since the old Pink Lady anime, though I very well might be wrong about that. It is an effective marketing tool, so effective that Stereopony, another all girl band, is doing the same thing!

And now, for your viewing pleasure…

Space Ranger was SCANDAL’s first single and it is still one of their best. A totally updbeat song with shared vocals between Haruna and Tomomi. The best aprt of any SCANDAL video is Rina, as she just sits here playign her drums with the most excited look on her face, as if she thinking “OH MY GOD! I’m totally playing the drums!”.

Up next is my personal favorite is “Doll”, probably the best rock song on BEST SCANDAL. Rina is excited to be playing the drums and the rest of the girls absolutely demonstrate that they can rock it whenever they want!

Last is a song that ISN’T on BEST SCANDAL, a SCANDAL perform “Don’t Say Lazy”, the closing song from the anime K-ON!, a show about four high school girls who… form.. .their… own… band… eerie ain’t it?

SCANDAL performed this for a anime TV music special back in Summer of 2009 and they absolutely killed it! Listen to the crowd’s reaction, as that is a group of hardcore Japanese anime fans who are probably geeked as hell that SCANDAL is covering a song from one of their favorite shows (K-ON! was pretty popular when it aired). Want to bet this ends up on SCANDAL‘s next CD?

Until Next Time...

J-BAND Of The Week 11/15/2009 – JUDY & MARY!


JUDY & MARY - Yuki (Vocals, center), Takuya Asanuma (Guitar, left), Yoshihito Onda (Bass, back) & Kohta Igarashi (Drums, right)

After 2 weeks of no J-Band of the week I’m coming back at you with the awesomeness of JUDY & MARY!

Now why bring up a band tht broke up 8 years ago? I mean that doesn’t seem to make much sense does it?

Ah but JUDY & MARY aren’t just any Rock/Pop act from Japan. One could definitely make the argument that they are THE Japanese rock act of the decade. So let’d dive into JUDY & MARY with a quick look at some history. Theband first formed in 1992 after vocalist Yuki Isoya met bassist Yoshihito Onda, Yuki had been working as a beautician and Onda had been working as a production assistant on a movie and so began the the journet of JUDY & MARY. From there the two hooked up with drummer Kohta Igarashi and guitarist Taiji Fujimoto. Fujmoto was eventually replaced by Takuya Asanuma, whose sound helped define the band’s raw yet melodic sound. The band released their first independent record Be Ambirious in 1992. That led to a major label deal with Epic/Sony andt he release of their first single Power Of Love in 1993. The band grew a strong fan base quickly due ot their melodic blend of pop and rock with punk and raw noise elements.

JUDY & MARY made it big in 1996 when theri single “Sobakasu” (aka Freckles) was used as the opening for the animated series Rurouni Kenshin and sold over 1 million copies in Japan. All together they released 22 singles and seven originalk studio albums, along with 4 Best Of Compilations. High energy from Takua’s guitar work and Yuki’s high pitched yet extremely powerful vocals are the fuel for JUDY & MARY and were kind of the reason that they never gor stuck with the label of being a Visual Kei band. Still, by 2001 the band had taken things as far they wanted too. They released their last studio album WARP the same year and promoted it with a nationwide farewell tour. The last show of ther WARP TOUR was held at the Tokyo Dome adn JUDY & MARY blew the roof off the place.

Since then Yuki has embarked on a successful solo career, TAKUYA is a much sought after guitarist and Yoshihito Onda has been working with The Hot Rod Crue and ZAMZA N’BANSHEE. Yuki also got married, suffered the loss of her first child and rebounded to have 2 more. Still, JUDY & MARY are one of those bands that those who follow the Japanese music scene stil miss. There si hope that maybe one day, they will reuntie as a one off occurence but no one is holding their breath.

JUDY & MARY Videos:

I’m hitting you with nothing but JUDY & MARY from their WARP TOUR FINAL LIVE! DVD. Some really great performances, including one of the last times that Yuki performed “Sobakasu”. While it is one of the band’s biggest hits, Yuki grew tired of singing it and refuses to perform it anymore (though she has broken that vow for a few TV Specials).

JUDY & MARY – Sobakasu

Next up is “Brave New Wave Upper Ground”, which, as great as the studio version is, this live version is fantasticly greater…

And now the Coup De Grace as he bad busts out with “Lolita A-Go-Go!”. The original is a great 3 minute song but this is the Tokyo Dome and deserves special crazy near10 minute epice version complete with pink dancing Teddy Bears with pom-poms! I’m seriosuly not even joking about that shit. It is far and away awesome and kinda surreal. Hell Takuya even tackles one down astraddles it! Still, the “Lolita A-Go-Go!” is fucking BOSS!

J-BAND Of The Week 10/18/09 – SHAKALABBITS!

SHAKALABBITS - UKI (Vocals), TAKE-C (Guitar), MAH (Drums) & KING (Bass)

SHAKALABBITS - UKI (Vocals), TAKE-C (Guitar), MAH (Drums) & KING (Bass)

I had promised an acquaintance from the Joshifans Message Board that today I would pimp the excellent GaGaGa SP. The one problem with that is that I can find no information on the band and in case you haven’t figured it out, I like to give some background on the bands I feature here. So I’m really torn, do I keep my promise and feature a band whose music I’ve hard and enjoy but have no real information on, or do I talk at length about bands I know about so I can pass my knowledge onto you, the reader?

A tough call my friends, a tough call indeed. I am going with the latter option, just because I think people ike to get some background on what I’m exposing them to as opposed to just throwing up random music videos in a language that most (including myself) barely understand. So having said that, it is high time I introduced the J-Rock band that has been hands down my favorite since 2003… SHAKALABBITS! Formed originally in 1999 as the band JUU-Shock, SHAKALABBITS have spent the last 10 years recording andreleasing really great music. The roots of the band are in punk and SKA, the latter despite the fact they have no dedicated horn players in the band. The band derived their name by combining the Japanese pronunciation of the English phrase “Love It” with lead singer UKI’s favorite animal, the rabbit, thus SHAKALABBITS.

The band began gigging around Tokyo not soon after forming and soon cut their first single “SWISS MAMMY” for indie label Evil Design Records. Next came their first Maxi-single Overdoing. Since then the band has made at least 1 release a year, be it single, EP or standard Album. The band grew a large and dedicated following and even teameed up with another indie darling band, 175R, to record the excellent “Stand By You”. Their biggest succes thus far include achieving the #3 position in the weekly Oricon charts for their 2003 release “Monster Tree” and having other singles like “Pivot” and “Mommy’s Back” achieve some minor chart success. They recently came back to the charts in 2008 with “Walk Over The Rainbow”, the first single from their self-titled album. The band released Mushroom Cat Record, a greatest hits collection in February of 2008 and a second Greatst Hits collection, featuring their favorite B-Sides will see release at the end of October 2009. Keeping true to form, the band released their new double single (their 15th single release) “ROLLER COASTER/HAPPY BIRTHDAY” back in August.

Also UKI, the band’s singer, doesn’t stay with a specific look verylong. In fact from album to album she changes her look (in fact you if you go back to the last D&D post you can see a picture of UKI during the band’s CLUTCH period. The look she currently sports is a short,single-tone bob and much like all of her pervious looks, she looks great in it. What I can’t say UKI looks good?

So who wants to hear the band’s music now?

First up is the song that got me hooked on this band “Monster Tree”. I heard it once and had to hear it again, it was that catchy. From UKI’s vocals to guitarist Take-C’s great opening riff, everythign about the song just clicked with me. It remains the band’s biggest chart success to date and has even been featured in several music games, like Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania. It remains their most recognizable song six years after release and one of their most anticipated when they play live.

Next up is “Pobby To Dingan”, a sentimental song about friendship and young love. It akes its title from the Ben Rice novel Pobby & Dingan. Pretty esoteric reference for Japanese Pop/Punk/SKA band. Still it is a great song that once again putsUKI’s great vocals front and center. The video is taken from their Live DVD between YOU and ME SHOW FINAL 2005 in Nippon Budokan

Lastly I’ll leave you with 2 more live performance and their most recent single. Up first a great live performance of “The Pitchfork Diaries” from their Riddle Glide Sound System 2008-2009 LIVE at ZEPP NAGOYA and one of their signature songs “G*S*G” which stands for “Groove SHAKA Groove”. Then last, their newest single “Roller Coaster”. Really get an idea of how great this band is live, as past live performances have included UKI taking true Rock Power Stance on stage, TAKE-C going nuts on his guitar and Bassist KING just… well being KING!

(Note: The BURNING CYLIDER LIVE CD comes with a DVD and you get to see UKI breakdown with emoti on stage, it is actually a breathtaking sight ot behold and gives an idea of just what the fans mean to this band)

NEXT BRAVE BLOG: Bad Movie #6!

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