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From the archives: The 20 Best Japrock Records, by Julian Cope

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  • published
    4 May 2013
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    Julian Cope
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 From 2003-2008, FACT operated as a bi-monthly print magazine. As part of a new From The Archives feature, we’ll be regularly uploading vintage articles from FACT’s ink-and-paper days. Following Peter Shapiro’s guide to the remarkable Arthur Russell, we’ve dug out a real treat from 2007: the 20 best Japanese rock records of the 1960s and 1970s, courtesy of The Teardrop Explodes frontman, JAPROCK author and dedicated music archivist Julian Cope.

Japanese rock ‘n’ roll music of the past decade has offered the West so much of worth that the time has now come to question how Japan’s rock musicians reached this fascinating place.

The long-sustained underground careers of such contemporary movers and shakers such as the Boredoms, Makoto Kawabata’s Acid Mothers Temple, Boris, Asahito Nanjo’s High Rise, Ghost and their ilk have – while meaning doodly squat in their own country – managed to inspire so many new musicians here in the West that I felt it was essential to investigate thoroughly the Japanese music of their childhoods and teenage years. For, just as Krautrock and the John Peel show sustained my own lost generation in those early ‘70s wilderness years before our own voices could be heard through punk rock, so must the musicians of the aforementioned Japanese bands have been shown evidence from some previous (and possibly now lost) generation that a heady rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle was still possible in Japan’s notoriously anti-hard-drug culture.

That these contemporary Japanese bands drank huge draughts from the same fountainhead as we British and American rock ‘n’ rollers is indisputable, but I knew from my own four tours of Japan that it could be barely half the picture. For those tours revealed to me just how carefully the Japanese thrust everything they discover from the outside world through their own singularly Japanese filter, mainly resulting in a peculiar copy of the original, but quite often bringing forth something magnificent and wholly better than that which had first inspired it.

I figured that if Japan’s rock ‘n’ roll followed the same pattern as the rest of it’s culture, then there must be a high percentage of lost genius still awaiting rediscovery. For, as we have seen from some of the wonderful music recorded in the Communist Bloc and under fascist regimes, most rock ‘n’ roll artists of any real worth will, in their quest to activate the Ur-spirit that dwells within them, inevitably cull experiences from vastly different sources. As such, the music contained within this Top 20 consists of hard rock, proto-metal, purely psychedelic free-rock, experimental theatre works, choral and orchestral music, experimental percussion works, improvised ambient wipe-outs, progressive rock and unadulterated guitar mayhem…

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