Japan - Quiet Life - Review
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critics' view

Back in the days when I was high into new & artsy waves, I always found it surprising and disappointing that everyone hated Prog so much. For me, both movements where just different expressions of the same urge to bring innovative and meaningful music. Some of the commotion about this topic seems to have blown over now, at least here. I have been pleasantly surprised to find many 21st Century prog fans with an open mind towards the issue. Quite an improvement over the time when Japan got bricks thrown at them when they were opening up for Blue Oyster Cult. (What an idea :-)

Japan's sense for musicianship, sophisticated arrangements, artsy attitude and the later involvement of some members with prog musicians sure make them a logical addition on the archives. All songs here are poignant art-rock songs that took the heritage of David Bowie and Roxy Music into the new decade. The bass and drum duo Karn/Jansen is a delight to listen to, and so is Barbieri on keys. His contribution to the Japan sound was always one of the features that attracted me to them, even though I didn't really like them initially. His later involvement with Porcupine Tree confirmed his creative and tasteful synth approach and made him into my favourite keyboard man. Sylvian adds some of his best vocals ever on this album.

A song like Quiet Life fared well in the post-punk clubs, other songs like Despair, In Vogue and The Other Side of Life are more intimate and reflective, stretched-out musings that leave more room for musical development. A sure influence on Talk Talk.

A good 20 years ago, Japan was a favourite band from one of those friends of mine who hated prog. So obviously I hated Japan, I would have thrown bricks at them any day! When I gave them another chance due to Barbieri's involvement with Porcupine Tree I was pleasantly surprised how fresh, classy and influential this band still sounded.

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