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Album Review

The 1981 compilation Assemblage gives a skewed, incomplete picture of Japan's early career; this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Japan's early career frankly wasn't very good, and it certainly had little to do with the mature, studied art-pop of their later albums. For example, the glammy disco thump of the opening "Adolescent Sex" has more to do with the Sweet than Brian Eno, and the version of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "I Second That Emotion" taken from a 1980 single sounds more like a failed attempt at chart success than an artistic experiment. Furthermore, David Sylvian's voice is completely different on the early tracks here, a nasal whine that's difficult to listen to for more than a few minutes at a time. That said, there are a few not-bad tracks here. "Communist China" is intriguing post-punk that hints at the loud-soft dynamic of Gentlemen Take Polaroids, and "Rhodesia," a not entirely successful reggae experiment, at least introduces the use of world music forms, atmospheric production, and smoother, more controlled singing that would characterize their later career. That later career starts on side two, where, after the electro-disco sidetrack of the Giorgio Moroder collaboration "Life in Tokyo," Japan's sudden left turn into artsy soft rock begins with the original "European Son" and an imaginative reworking of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties." Assemblage isn't entirely essential, but with its singles and previously unreleased tracks, it's a better starting point than either of Japan's first two albums.

Customer Reviews

Japan a real alternative...

Japan were one of those slightly untypical electronic synth of the early 1980's. They still sounded strongly depended on synths but delved deeper. Their songs range from subject matter on apartheid in Rhodesia, post war Europe citizens to Life In Tokyo. Couple with their universality and topic coverage Japan had a unique style and je ne sais quoi that placed them above many equally popular but more mainstream synth bands such as Duran Duran, Tears for Fears and dare I say it the then poppy Depeche Mode, now only of the only new romantic bands to still be thriving and now considered accomplished rock stars. Back to Japan, another point that singles them out as "different" to most other synth bands at the time were there inclusion of lovely, slow near classical ballads and instrumental pieces. On this album this includes I Second that Emotion. Strongly advise readers check out Nightporter and Ghosts for examples of Japan's finer musical pieces

New Propaganda? We've been waiting oh for so long?

Assemblage of the best kind - Sylvian is at his best here with lyrics that go from of Europe, Berlin, Tokyo, China and of course that great place in Africa with a heart ache from Amsterdam thrown in to top it off.
This great album takes me to all the places I want to go - reminds me of my adolescence all over again but I should not cross this state line - no sir.
I'm having a quiet life now that I am much much older.
Going to have a party and play all of my Japan albums - might do this tomorrow.
Now, I second that emotion, won't you?


Formed: 1974 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Japan's evolution from rather humble glam rock beginnings into stylish synth pop (and beyond) made the British group one of the more intriguing and successful artists of their era. Formed in London in 1974, Japan began its existence as a quintet comprised of singer/songwriter David Sylvian, bassist Mick Karn, keyboardist Richard Barbieri, drummer (and Sylvian's brother) Steve Jansen and guitarist Rob Dean. In their primary incarnation, the group emulated the sound and image of glam rockers like David...
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