Here's a deep thought for a freezing cold Sunday in March - are artistic integrity and mainstream popularity mutually exclusive?
I'll tell you why I ask. My selection for experimentation today is Japan's 'Tin Drum', their last real album before they splintered into solo artist and endless variations of their former band for years to come (some of which may well feature in weeks to come – Rain Tree Crow anyone?).I always got the impression that David Sylvian was grumpily uncomfortable with fame, and has spent the subsequent years actively seeking to avoid it.
My favourite Japan album has changed over time, but tends to vary between 'Tin Drum' and 'Gentlemen take Polaroids' and I always feel that 'Tin Drum' is Mick Karn's finest Japan album, while 'Gentlemen take Polaroids' is David's.
Japan were always much more musically accomplished than any of their other fashionable contemporaries (with the possible exception of The Human League) and as a live act they were unrivalled. We saw them on the tour to promote this album and the more atmospheric tracks (and, let’s be honest, that’s most of them) were fantastic. We still have the tour programme somewhere – it’s tucked inside the LP sleeve if memory serves.
Personal favourites here are ‘Sons of pioneers’, featuring the late Mick Karn’s amazing fretless bass playing, ‘Visions of China’ with Steve Jansen’s signature drum sound and ‘Ghosts’, which felt like a natural hit single at the time, but now seems too unique to ever grace anything as common as the singles chart.
Now regarded as a classic album, for many years this album (and band) was sneered at by almost everyone, including most of the band’s former members themselves.
Label – Virgin.
Year - 1981