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2023 Albums Thing 196 - Japan “Quiet Life”

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Japan’s 3rd album. They’d begun life as a kind of Glam Rock/New York Dolls hybrid but now “Quiet Life” sees them developing a more artful, Berlin-Bowie/Roxy Music style, with singles like “Life In Tokyo”, “European Son” and this albums title track becoming club favourites on the developing futurist/New Romantic scene. You can see the development of David Sylvian’s look on the cover photo, less Glam, more class. I also always thought Sylvian on the front, Mick Karn on the back and the other 3 relegated to inside the gatefold spelled out some weird hierarchy in the band.

Opening track “Quiet Life” distills all the developments from those 3 singles into a perfect whole. Keyboards lead us into a groove driven by Mick Karn’s fretless (?) bass and Steve Jansen’s metronomic drums. Rob Dean’s guitar no longer leads the way as before but adds ringing occasional chords and a Fripp like, Ebow-ed guitar solo. David Sylvian’s voice is not the whiny thing it was on their first 2 albums, but deeper and smooth. All the changes summed up by the opening lines “Boys, now the times are changing the going could get rough, Boys, would that ever cross your mind?”.

Rob Dean’s guitar jumps back to the forefront on ”Fall In Love With Me” but the sound is altogether less NYDolls and much more Berlin-Bowie. “Despair” gives you that exact feeling with drum machine, doom laden piano and a far away saxophone. “In Vogue” is a look ahead to the sound they’re reaching for on their next album.

Over on Side 2 there’s a reverential cover of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “Alien” is again mining that Bowie/Roxy/Berlin seam and we finish up with “The “Other Side Of Life” a lush ballad. Japan were obviously well versed in “Low” and “Heroes” but they add enough of themselves here to keep it steered wide of pastiche. “Quiet Life” is a perfect stepping stone from what was to what will be.

Quiet Life - https://youtu.be/xhm-EqcPta0?si=S2L4k9GYCJWKJuAY

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