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2023 Albums Thing 198 - Japan “Assemblage”

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“Assemblage” is a compilation album made up of tracks from Japan’s first 3 albums, released by their original record company, Hansa, around a year after “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”, no doubt hoping to cash-in on some of the success Japan were now having. Side 1 covers tracks from their first 2 albums “Adolescent Sex” and “Obscure Alternatives” when Japan were a very different sounding band from the Euro/Japanese art-rock influenced outfit they developed into. Back then they were digging a much more Glam Rock/New York Dolls era vein with rocky guitars and David Sylvian’s uncharacteristically whiny vocals. There’s nothing approaching outstanding here, the best track is “Suburban Berlin”, which sits somewhere between the Glam stylings and the art-rock sound they developed later, and “Adolescent Sex” a weird mix of synths, dance floor bass and a pseudo metal guitar riff..

The main interest for me in this album is over on Side 2 where things get much more interesting. Here we have 2 tracks from Japan’s 3rd album “Quiet Life” (the title track and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrows Parties”) and 3 songs released only as singles, “European Son”, a cover of Smokey & The Miracles “I Second That Emotion” and the big club hit “Life In Tokyo”. This is where Japan’s sound has changed markedly to a more EuroDisco/Berlin/Asian influenced style aimed squarely at the dance floor. Back in the early 80’s an alternative scene was developing around Post Punk and electronic dance music, “Quiet Life” and “Life In Tokyo” became big floorfillers in what we then called the Futurist clubs (Birmingham’s Rum Runner and Romeo & Juliets et al) but eventually became dubbed New Romantic. We weren’t dancing to no Spandau Ballet though, it was Japan, Bowie, Kraftwek, Bauhaus, Krautrock, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Brum’s own Fashiön that were filling the floor.

Japan’s move to Virgin Records saw them develop their sound further as we already know, but the start of that development can be heard here on Side 2 of “Assemblage”.

Life In Tokyo - https://youtu.be/nsbrw9Y6_ng?si=rcnh-k8cSHAW98ba

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