Still Life In Tokyo, With Zombies

Saturday night is games night in chez 1537 and recently my son and I have got back into playing Zombies!!! It’s a tile-based game where players take the role of survivors in small-town America, who have to fight and scavenge their way out-of-town to a helipad to get choppered away to safety.  It’s great simplistic fun scavenging your way through the town’s hardware stores, hospital, skate shop etc. for bullets and lives and bracing yourself for the inevitable onslaught of the zombie horde.  It comes with 100 plastic zombie figures, which tells you all you need to know.

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As the venue was my son’s room the soundtrack came courtesy of his recent Pink Floyd obsession*.  My contribution was one of the fruits of my most recent obsession Japan Life In Tokyo, a 12″ I only picked up a few weeks ago and I am still very smitten with.

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I remember Japan from way back in the 1980’s and a friend of mine had and loved Tin Drum, but something about the austere cover always put me off them and it.  I next came across them in a Kerrang!! glam rock special where they featured their first two LPs, realised I really liked their logo and promptly forgot all about them for 28 years.  A month ago fuelled by these half memories I picked up a pristine copy of their 1979 LP Quiet Life for £3 and it just clobbered me right between the eyes.

So here I sit a few weeks later quietly frugging my way through ‘Life In Tokyo (Extended Mix)’ on tight repeat, just marvelling at how, much better the last 36 years could have gone for me if I’d only had this record.  I would probably have been an immensely successful captain of industry, lover of even more chicks, have hair like David Sylvian except even more fluffy, I’d probably be exhibiting my paintings at the Royal Academy** and living in a sumptuously appointed house boat on the Thames.  Easy.

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Life In Tokyo was first cut in 1979 as a collaboration with, source of much that is truly great in the world, Giorgio Moroder.  This 1982 12″ version is the best by far, featuring a great disco-y extended version and ‘Life In Tokyo (Theme)’.

Like all the best Moroder produced tracks do Life In Tokyo sounds like a cruise through a garish neon-candied city at 3am.  Japan really hit it right here nailing all that pop sophistication a thousand times better than any of their big-trousered be-yachted peers ever did.

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The main event here is a slice of sophisticated catchy genius, Moroder having burnished the band’s playing into the shiny forms of the throbbing future, bringing out the absolute best in Mick Karn’s already excellent bass playing.  There is just something utterly irresistibly lush and louche about Sylvian’s singing too, he sounds like a less plummy Bryan Ferry for my money^.

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One reason I plumped for the particular re-release of Life In Tokyo that I did is for the B-side ‘Life In Tokyo (Theme)’.  It’s an ultra-futuristic, nourish, heavy synth thingybob – think of the tune that would soundtrack a killer robot returning to his lair amongst the darker vice pits of town in an 80’s straight-to-video sci-fi flick.  It’s a powerful thing in its own right…

… but play it at 78rpm, as I am able to do on my fine little portable gramophone spinner thing and you find out that it is the instrumental backing track for the single version of ‘Life In Tokyo’ artfully slowed down.  I love that.

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You also have to love the iconic cover shot of David Sylvian, wearing headphones crouched in a window against the Tokyo skyline taken by photographer Yuka Fuji; Mick Karn’s girlfriend and later Sylvian’s partner.

Perfecto.  Especially with added zombies.

882 Down.

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*If he was to start a rival reviews-based blog he’s at the point where he could call it 7 now (after adding the Cure The Head On The Door and Black Sabbath to his collection last week).  #ProudFather.

**as opposed to seeing Fish live at Liverpool Academy this evening.

^anything that reminds me of Roxy has to be a positive thing in this troubled universe.

17 thoughts on “Still Life In Tokyo, With Zombies

  1. I overlooked a copy of Tin Drum way back even when my pal was buying the other copy and saying it’s a great album. I thought “eh, I’ll stick with my Harry Nilsson, thank you very much”. It remains the only Japan album I’ve seen on my travels.

    Anyhoo, you know how to sell records. I’m thinking this sounds great. Looks great, too.

    And zombie games… with records… what a way to live life!

    1. I still haven’t heard Tin Drum, but hey – today’s payday!

      This is a really good 12″, the best versions of the track are right here. I really don’t think you can go at all wrong with Moroder.

      Yup, Zombies!!! and Japan – we really know how to live it up down here! One of the really nice things about having older kids.

      1. I had a wee look on Discogs. Discogs is terrible, man… why does it have so many records? You are an agent of terrible… a record pusher…

  2. Sounds like a 12″ that delivers. Nice one.

    But sadly, I must scupper your fantasy. I’ve been enjoying Japan for around 18 years, and here is my updated report based on your vision:
    part-time self employed, lover of just the one, wispy cranial stubble, drawings on the fridge, rowing boat in need of a paint behind the garage.

    Bet David S is as jealous as hell.

    1. Hot damn, you and your ‘reality’! You did make me laugh there though,

      I want to live on a houseboat on the Thames! even though I’m not very fond of London and I don’t like water I can’t stand up in!

      So is Tin Drum worth a punt? (I typed that very carefully)

  3. Japan got a lot of coverage back in the day in Creem Magazine. I miss that magazine as Read about a ton of bands that weren’t Metal or KISS so to speak.
    Japan was one of them. Utopia was another. Elvis Costello. The Clash. The Police. Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Patti Smith we’re all acts that I read about thanks to Creem as even if they had VH or Rob Halford on the cover that would be it for Hard rock in that issue of Creem…so not to waste a magazine I would read it cover to cover and learn about acts that I normally would have never heard about in Circus or Hit Parader!

    1. I miss having a good varied music press – you’re right, in those far off distant days mags were really the main source of info and I would always read every word of everything even about bands I didn’t like/genres I wasn’t fussed on. It’s why we are the well-rounded, sophisticated chaps we are Deke.

      Creem always sounded like a great mag too.

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