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Discovolante's Best of 1985 (Japan Edition)

From the beginning of the year to the end, via the Sputnik release calendar.
Dead Song

Crucial to the development of visual kei and just one of the best underground metal bands Japan ever had period, Gastunk was a band that was as groundbreaking as they were disturbing at times to listen to. Releasing only one full length album during their initial 80s run, "Dead Song" is an album full of horror-tinged hardcore-metal crossover goodness that is virtually incomparable.

In 1985, Auto-Mod concurrently disbanded and released their defining album, the Japanese post-punk masterpiece "Deathtopia". It is everything that their excellent-in-its-own-right debut, "Requiem (Biyuku Jidai e no Requiem)", wasn't: more serious, more focused, and more frantic/psychotic. It has everything in the right places to fittingly earn the practically spotless reputation it has today as one of the ultimate Japanese goth albums.
Stand the Pressure

The crowned princes of Japanese Oi! punk, Cobra are probably the most notable band to emerge from the Oi! subgenre in Japanese music history, as they would surprisingly acquire two top 10 albums in 1990 without changing their sound. Their best effort though would be their 1985 debut "Stand the Pressure", which is ballsy and full of piss-and-vinegar. If there was ever an album that had to represent pure punk rock in Japan, I honestly believe it would be "Stand the Pressure".
4Akina Nakamori
Bitter and Sweet

Japanese pop goddess Akina Nakamori reclaims her crown with "Bitter and Sweet", her finest album in two years and after four albums. It would also be the album where Akina really hones her own style, significantly breaking away from the Momoe-esqued nature of her prior albums in favor of a more modern, pop heavy sound. A recommencing of an onslaught of pop classics.
5The Alfee
For Your Love

Prog-pop masters The Alfee follow up their huge breakthrough "The Renaissance" with "For Your Love" just a year later, which would commercially eclipse "The Renaissance", becoming their first chart topping album. And while the material isn't necessarily as good as its predecessor, the tight, gripping melodies are still there in bunches, rocketing off into the cosmos with the throttling opener "Affection".

Aburadako has been a longtime favorite among fans of underground Japanese noise rock for about 20 years now, with their recognition just expanding over time. However, in the very beginning, they were a noise punk band inspired by the new found movement in their home country. Not to trivialize either, since those days would spawn perhaps their finest moment yet in their extensive run, which was their 1985 debut. Now widely acclaimed for its impressive musicality and unhinged experimentation, although not necessarily at the avant-garde level they would later be engulfed by, it shows that Aburadako were never exactly comfortable in staying in one place. Oh yeah, and on a side note, "Paranoia" is one of the best songs ever made too.
7The Genbaku Onanies
Nuclear Cowboy

The Genbaku Onanies are one of the pioneering hardcore bands in Japanese punk, and one of the longest-lasting ones as well, with an overall run lasting exactly 40 years this year, with little breaks in between. Their debut "Nuclear Cowboy" was brave and daring in its tackling of heavy political topic matter, as well as their controversial name itself, which translates to English as "the atomic bomb jackoffs". Yeah... total punk rock royalty all around lol.
8The Checkers
Mainichi!! Checkers

The Checkers were one of the most successful and beloved bands from 1980s Japan, and it took seemingly no effort at all for them to strike a vein in mainstream Japan, with their very first single reaching number 8 on the Oricon charts and its accompanying album, 1984's "Zettai Checkers!!", topping the charts. They would release another album a few months later which also topped the charts, "Motto! Checkers", but it wasn't until their third, 1985's "Mainichi!! Checkers", that I think The Checkers really came into their own. And man, did they come into their own, honing a style that harked back to the days of 1950s doo wop, while simultaneously blending an 80s pop sound that sounded like nothing else at the time. It was too poppy to be rockabilly, and too... odd to be plain JPop. It was the phenomenon that is simply The Checkers.

One of the most unsung and tragically underrated bands in Japanese art pop, Picasso is a name that is largely forgotten in Japan and completely unknown for the most part overseas. A huge shame, really, since their music was truly in a league of its own, which is particularly evidenced on their self-titled 1985 debut. Concocting a sound that is both complex and palatable, there's a huge arthouse feel throughout the album that is downright warm and cozy. Not to mention it contains their finest moment, "Ci-ne-ma", which just might be their only release that is somewhat known to the unfamiliar. A pioneering art pop album that deserves far more attention.
10The Roosters
Neon Boy

Moving forward with their chameleon charm, The Roosters decide to do a total breakaway from the goth sound they mastered to a tee with "Φ PHY" and instead tackle glam in their sixth album "Neon Boy", which is my personal favorite of their catalog. A listen that ends up being sleazy, drowning in excess and an overall great time, "Neon Boy" manages to encapsulate the very best of early glam and combines it all in an amazing tribute.
Seikima-II ~ Akuma ga Kitarite Heavy Metal

Whether it was through their signature "devil" theme or through their unrelenting merchandising which included a Famicom game in their likeness, Seikima-II was the first heavy metal band in Japan to be a really big deal. While Loudness were the first to have a top 5 album break the Oricon, their momentum was soon lost, while Seikima-II took the cake when it came to insane levels of promotion, with their streak continuing throughout the remainder of the 1980s and first few years of the 1990s. Thought by many to be their best moment, the Japanese metal monsters that are Seikima-II got their start with their 1985 debut "Seikima-II ~ Akuma ga Kitarite Heavy Metal", which is probably their heaviest release and absolutely soaked in tongue-in-cheek Satanic and horror references. A major turning point in Japanese heavy metal.
12Onyanko Club

A decade before Morning Musume and two before AKB48, Onyanko Club was the grandmothers behind the large idol group craze. Before Onyanko Club, idol groups were typically no bigger than 5 members, which made Onyanko Club stand out immensely as over their two year run, they would cycle through over 40 members, a formula which was unheard of at that point and is crucial in idol music today. But beyond all of that, the music was undeniably catchy, cheesy and total pop genius. The lyrics were extremely suggestive and shockingly sexual, with their enormously popular debut "Kickoff" boasting their signature song, "Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanai de", which loosely translates to "please don't make me take off my sailor suit". Needless to say, that sort of boldness was far from common in popular Japanese music, and that sort of topic matter was exactly what shot Onyanko Club to the top of the charts practically upon formation, as well as made total music history.
13Zelda (JPN)
Sora Iro Boushi no hi

The greatest all-female band ever, Zelda boldly chose to abandon their insane extremely eclectic sound that they peaked with with "Carnaval" to pursue a more generic new wave sound. Theoretically, I suppose you could call it a sellout moment, but the music on that album, "Sora Iro Boushi no hi", is so goddamn amazing even if it is far more approachable in nature. It has a mystical sound that can be compared to a more active Zabadak and showed Zelda reaching towards mainstream acceptance, which was eventually granted over the years. While their following three albums were pretty good (especially "D.R.O.P."), Zelda's remarkable three-punch streak ended here.
14Kome Kome Club

Kome Kome Club would become one of the most iconic bands of not just the 1980s in Japan, but of all time, revered for their bombastic live shows, at one point boasting a lineup that stretched to 11 members, as well as officially instilling R&B and urban music into the Japanese mainstream. It all started here on their debut, "Shari-Sharithm", which, although far from being their most successful (originally only reaching number 35 on the Oricon charts), just might be their strongest and most cohesive. The songs have a sort of pop-funk smoothness that was unheard of in Japanese music up to this point, at least popular Japanese music. From the very beginning of the album with the opener "Fiction", you are greeted with swoon on a grandiose level. One of the most cutting edge albums of the decade, by far.
15Barbee Boys

A band that would soon break down many walls and borders in commercial Japanese music, such as being the first Japanese band to headline the Budokan, 1985 would be the testing year as far as if the mainstream audiences would connect. While their debut, "1st Option", released in February of 1985, would garner little fanfare commercially or critically, their follow-up, "Freebee", which was released that same November, would be their first to really show off their knack at dynamite pop melodies. Supported by the brilliant singles like the adrenaline pumping "Makerumon ka" and the eerie "Demo!? Shouganai", "Freebee" was the official jumping-off point for one of the most electrifying and astounding bands Japan has ever produced.
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