Review Summary: Straight from the historical vaults of Japanese music, Jacks's first album remains a wonderful piece of 60's psychedelica, that can draw comparisons to Western acts such as The Velvet Underground.
One of the most groundbreaking bands in the field of Japanese psychedelic is a short lived group by the name of Jacks. Jacks formed in 1965, and in 1968, just three years later, Jacks released one of the most revolutionary albums to surface in 20th century Japanese music. The album, known in Japan as "Jacks no Sekai" (loosely translated as The World of Jacks), and known as "Vacant World" mostly everywhere else, showed the young group channeling pure psychedelic music with an experimental touch, and, with the album's cozy, homelike atmosphere, various bands seemed to have immediately been influenced, starting with the likes of Happy End and Gedo.
"Marianne" is the album's opening track, and its intro has a brief, dazzling, whimsical percussion solo. The song then launches with a sluggy, distorted tone, with frontman, Yoshio Hayakawa, orchestrating a desperate, bleak vocalization, as he loudly croons along the crashes and guitar distortion. "Marianne" is a bleak piece of psychedelica, with chaotic emotion being spilled all over the song's canvas. A unique piece, to say the least, and a great way to break the listener into the world of Jacks (no pun intended). "Tokei wo Tomete" is a dreamy, drifting-type of song which channels the band's Velvet Underground influence perfectly. The song's echoed harmonics and whispered style solidifies "Tokei wo Tomete" as being one of the album's key tracks, with its brilliant mixture of slight psychedelic pop and slightly experimental style. "Karappo no Sekai" has a floating, echoed style to it as well, with little to offer in terms of conventional rhythm. However, "Karappo no Sekai" makes up for it with various guitar plucks toppled over flutes and traditional Japanese instrumentation. Hayakawa's crooning is the cherry on the sundae, as it gives the song just the right amount of effect and substance, to make it an utmost satisfying endurance. "Love Generation" is probably the most straightforward of all the songs, and has a more straightforward psychedelic style to it. A pretty impressive Japanese take on westernized psychedelic rock, as it has all the bells-and-whistles of traditional psychedelic, with Hayakawa's vocals being the most impressive element in the track. It has the effect of going from loud and proud, to a more introverted, damaged type of style, in the blink of an eye. It is that type of ability that gives "Love Generation" a unique punch, and separates itself from other psychedelic songs of its time. "Doko e" revisits the album's acclaimed experimentation, and follows a screwy, surrealistic style with a sinister-psychedelic style barely bubbling below the song's surface. The song's unorthodox style is key to Jacks's style, as they were one of the first bands to breakthrough the Japanese music scene with such experimentation, and, with "Doko e", Jacks makes the point that they are psychedelic, screwy and proud crystal clear to the listener. "Toui Umi ni Tabi ni Deta Watashi no Koibito" is a dreamy track, akin to "Tokei wo Tomete" in many ways, in terms of its echoed melodics. Its levitated effect is contagious, and the listener may very well find themselves floating in the Jacks realm, alongside this relaxed, beautiful piece of bare psychedelica. The album's final track, "Tsumetai Sora Kara 500 Mile", slowly emerges, and Hayakawa's floating vocals accompany the song's sheer melodic sense. He then begins to casually talk to the listener among the gentle melodics within the song's background. The song's melodics then, soon, fade away, which works tremendously well to close the legendary album.
All-in-all, "Vacant World" is an extraordinary example of early psychedelic executed within Japan. Although the group were only active for four years, there is no denying Jacks's influence in the Japanese music scene as a whole. If you're a fan of psychedelic music, then I highly recommend "Vacant World" by Jacks. Even if you're interested to see one of the bare roots of early day Japanese rock, I recommend this as well. "Vacant World" by Jacks remains, arguably, the strongest example of pure Japanese psychedelic out there.