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Nimaime wa so-so, baby

by Steve McClure

I hate to say it, but Love Psychedelico has succumbed to the dreaded “second-album syndrome” with “Love Psychedelico Orchestra,” which was released Jan. 9. It’s not a bad album — in fact it has some great songs, like the opening track, “Standing Bird,” which features a wonderfully infectious keyboard riff, and “O,” a fast-paced rocker. There’s also more acoustic stuff than on the duo’s debut set, “The Greatest Hits,” which varies the band’s sonic palette a bit.

Overall, though, the album (which entered the Oricon chart at No. 1) follows the same formula as “The Greatest Hits”: ’70s-style rock with lots of hooks, a stripped-down “analog” production style, a strange amalgam of English and Japanese lyrics (with a far higher ratio of English than most J-pop songs) and Kumi’s very nasal, American English-accented vocals. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, as Dick Nixon used to say: I’ve got nothing against American English per se. It’s just that Kumi’s strong American-style intonation and accent sound terribly affected and are rather grating after a while. Enough, already.

As for the wacky lyrics, well, here’s a sample:

“You got it, oh, yume wa snack/Sore mo baby, not so long ago/Act like a goose, nakaredo need (need) Yamanuholic”

I know I sound like Steve Allen when he deconstructed “Be Bop a Lula” (totally missing the point of the song), but to me, these lyrics simply don’t work, even given the benefit of poetic license. The English and Japanese languages both deserve better.

My unsolicited advice for Love Psychedelico: On album No. 3, stick to one language or another within the context of each song. And don’t rely on the same musical formula next time round. Let’s hear what else you can do.

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Yoshiki, former drummer/pianist of disbanded rock group X Japan, certainly has some high-level political contacts. Back in 1999, he performed a specially composed piece of music at the ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Emperor’s accession to the throne. And he recently met Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who apparently is an X Japan fan.

Koizumi reportedly found time to go and see the X Japan concert movie, “X Japan Film Gig,” with Yoshiki on Jan. 27 and was quoted as saying he is looking forward to the musician’s next project: a musical titled “Forever Love,” which I am emphatically told is not about the fractious relationship between Koizumi and fired Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.

Last year, Koizumi caught the public’s attention with the release of the album “Junichiro Koizumi Presents My Favorite Elvis Songs.” Can we look forward to a collection of the PM’s fave X Japan tunes being released sometime soon? And maybe there’s a place for Yoshiki in the Cabinet. With his excellent English-speaking ability (he’s lived for several years in Los Angeles), Yoshiki could well be foreign-minister material.

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Last week I mentioned that the Recording Industry Association of Japan and the Japanese Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) had taken legal action to try to shut down a Web site operated by Japan MMO Ltd. offering a Japanese-language version of the File Rogue file-sharing software. Since then I’ve learned that, owing to the glacial pace of the Japanese legal system, it will be at least a few months until the Tokyo District Court reaches a decision.

I managed to get hold of Michihito Matsuda, president and chief executive officer of Japan MMO, who said he has no intention of closing the site and described the legal action taken against his company as “very regrettable.”

He claimed — somewhat disingenuously — that his company is only offering a place where files can be exchanged and noted that the user’s agreement on the site stipulates that those downloading the software should not violate third parties’ copyrights. “Our company bears no responsibility concerning file exchanges among users,” he said.

Matsuda said Japan MMO will delete illegal files if rights holders object to their music being available through the site. That sounds reasonable, but it’s obviously very time-consuming for record companies and songwriters to go through the “notice and take down” procedure each time they want this done. The RIAJ and JASRAC say some 70,000 MP3 files are currently available through the site.

As with Napster, Morpheus and all the other music file-sharing services, what’s needed here is some sort of fair, transparent mechanism whereby rights holders can be compensated when their music is copied and distributed. If not, it’s theft, pure and simple.