By their end, Japan had developed more in common with arty post-punk New Yorkers Talking Heads and world music lover Peter Gabriel than their new romantic brethren, leaving behind a style they had helped pioneer. 1981ï¿½s swansong Tin Drum had finally turned the band into stars in their native UK and followers like Duran Duran were on the edge of global domination.
One thing the band never lost during its short recording tenure was singer David Sylvianï¿½s icy Ferry-esque croon. Often a figure of ridicule in the weeklies for his pretty boy good looks and mop of bleached hair, Sylvian led his band with an ever-mutating musical vision, all the way from their glam-punk beginnings in the late ï¿½70s.
Past attempts to compile their career have always fallen short of the mark, thanks to the band switching labels from Ariola Hansa to Virgin in 1980. While the majority of their best work comes from the Virgin albums, there are a handful of tracks from their early incarnation that rank as highly. The Very Best Of Japan captures, for the first time, a truly comprehensive overview of the groupï¿½s highlights.
Mercifully, their two misjudged 1978 albums Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives are left untouched and this collection begins with their creative turning point, ï¿½79ï¿½s Giorgio Moroder collaboration _ ï¿½Life In Tokyoï¿½. A swirling synth-pop masterpiece, the song set the standard for Japanï¿½s new romantic output, which peaked with the title tracks from their next pair of albums, _Quiet Life (1979) and Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980). The latter, a particularly hypnotising seven minute long swoon of a song, provided a platform for the subtle, interweaving rhythm section, made up of Mick Karnï¿½s gurgling bass lines and Steve Jansenï¿½s jazz-derived drumming.
Obviously influenced by the mercurial nature of David Bowie, Japan took a leap into the avant garde on their next album, Tin Drum. Featuring exotic instrumentation and ambitious, off-kilter melodic swoops, the album was an instant critical success. Scoring a sizeable hit with the creepy, minimalist _ ï¿½Ghostsï¿½_ ï¿½ which appears here, rather oddly, in two near-identical versions ï¿½ this belated public recognition perversely drove the band apart, with Sylvian going on to cult success as a solo artist.
Despite leaving out the excellent reunion single _ ï¿½Blackwaterï¿½, released under the name Rain Tree Crow in 1991 (perhaps best left for a future Sylvian solo collection), _The Very Best Of should be the last word in Japan compilations. A timely reminder of the creativity present in the early ï¿½80s, where style so often dwarfed substance.
8Tom Edwards's Score