Japan
Gentlemen Take Polaroids


4.5
superb

Review

by smaugman USER (18 Reviews)
November 23rd, 2016 | 46 replies


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Japan refine their avante-garde pop sound.

After making two albums in the vein of typical post-punk and one synthpop/post-punk crossover, Japan successfully created their own and unique music. Comparing Gentlemen Take Polaroids to other artists of the same time is quite hard, because I've failed to hear anything remotely resembling this. While having sung in a punk-ish David Bowie style on previous records (except for Quiet Life), frontman and singer David Sylvian swapped his earlier singing voice to baritone, making the music sound more mature than ever. Growing up and becoming more mature applies to the music as well. Average song length is longer, greater instrumental diversity, and the lyrics are deeper and better than ever before. Even though David was only 22 at the time of recording and despite being in the music business for merily 3 years, he is very confident and targeted. Knowing his musical capabilities, and acting as band's sole song writer, David knows exactly what kind of music he wants to create.

Kicking the album off with the strong title track, it's easy to point out how he has progressed in just over a year. Guitars no longer rely on power chords, but rather play in the background, with quirky synths and interesting fretless bass becoming more apparent. The title track is a dynamic masterpiece alternating between the experimental, free-floating middle parts, and the casual pop chorus found throughout the song. As for as diversity goes, it might actually alienate some listeners. At times, you can draw paralells between the works of minimalist artists like Brian Eno. Burning Bridges is by far the strangest track on the album, refraining from the likes of rock almost completely, but instead focusing on creating a strange atmosphere, utilizing a wide variety of synths and recording techniques. An important element to the album's quirkyness is bassist Mick Karn's fretless bass playing. It's often played in a way that almost sounds anti-catchy. The basslines are for the most part independent, and they give off a totally freaky, psychedelic vibe. However, it perfectly fits the music because of its strangeness.

Furthermore, David has enough brain to lay off with the whacky sound, and instead deliver some very pretty ballads. Both Methods of Dance and Nightporter stand out as top notch tracks. Both are seven minutes in length, and don't fail to impress the listener in any way. Methods of Dance follow the title track's song structure, with similar elements such as the synth. However, it is much more melodic, with David singing in a much more passionate way and sharing the chorus with a female background vocalist. Nightporter on the other hand sticks out from the other songs completely. It doesn't contain any bass or drums, only vocals, piano, synth and additional woodwind and string instruments. Nightporter is the ultimate "looking out of the window while it's raining outside" song, reeking with sadness, but also beauty.

In short, this album is strange, but good. Recommending it to everyone would be a pretty crazy thing to do, because it might be a bit hard to swallow for some listeners. Nonetheless, the album's strange sound shrouds the real element behind it: the grace. In every song, you always find moments that you can savour. If you like broadening your horizons, this album is perfect for you. Approach with an open mind.



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user ratings (92)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
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Tin Drum

Comments:Add a Comment 
Jasdevi087
November 23rd 2016


5544 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fuck me only just realised only Tin Drum had a review up until now, that's embarrassing

Digging: King Crimson - Discipline

EvoHavok
November 23rd 2016


7691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

About time this got a review. Did some proofreading for you:

anything that remotely resebling this -> anything remotely resembling this

David Sylvan -> Sylvian

a more diverse range of instruments are utilized -> range... is / more instruments are utilized

David is only 22 at the time -> was

An important to the album's quirkyness -> An important asset/element/part... quirkiness

independant -> independent

to impress to listener -> the listener

and David sings in a much more passionate way and sharing the chorus with a female singer acting as background vocalist -> with David singing in a much more passionate way and sharing the chorus with a female background vocalist

any bass nor drums -> any bass or drums

because while it might be a bit hard to swallow for some listeners -> cut the 'while'

moments that you can savior -> savour

horizens -> horizons

Digging: Sukekiyo - INFINITUM

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice, it was kinda rushed because i had to go, so ill change these right away



now it's better

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2016


18710 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee boi



reminds me I gotta do something for Brilliant Trees

Digging: The Sound - Jeopardy

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

japan is severely underrated on sputnik

TwigTW
November 23rd 2016


3770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A japan review on Sputnik--now I've seen everything

Digging: Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari

bloc
November 23rd 2016


55882 Comments


Always thought this band was overrated

Digging: Paris - Sleeping with the Enemy

TwigTW
November 23rd 2016


3770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Nightporter is the ultimate "looking out of the window while it's raining outside" song, reeking with sadness, but also beauty." --totally agree



It's actually a pretty funky album too--soulless funk, but funk.

SandwichBubble
November 23rd 2016


9703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gud review, pos'd. Best Japan album

TwigTW
November 23rd 2016


3770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^^I go back and forth between this and Tin Drum for best.

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

adolescent sex and quiet life are also pretty good

SandwichBubble
November 23rd 2016


9703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@TwigTW ye didn't like Tin Drum too much at first, but it grew on me a lot.



@smaugman I might need to listen to Adolescent Sex again..

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it's pretty funky

e210013
November 23rd 2016


2351 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's good to see this album finally reviewed here. However, I was a bit envious. I had already noticed, some time ago, that this album has not been reviewed yet on Sputnik. So, I put it and "Tin Drum" in my list of future reviews. Anyway, maybe I review both in the future months. Who knows.

About the album, I always loved it. I really don't know if it's better than "Tin Drum", but I think I prefer this one. Besides, I always loved its title. By the other side, I always loved the basslines of Mick Karn. By the way, do you know that the keyboardist of Japan, Richard Barbieri, is the same keyboardist of Porcupine Tree?

Nice review smaugman. Pos.

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yea i knew that man, im a wiki nerd tbh. thanks for the pos too

Jethro42
November 23rd 2016


15839 Comments


Will check later. Internet is unbearable in my area today.

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

french canada!

Jethro42
November 23rd 2016


15839 Comments


Exactement.
=P

KILL
November 23rd 2016


81232 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

omg!

smaugman
November 23rd 2016


4993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

bump it



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