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With a name like this one, it's obvious that the band has no intentions of topping the pop charts, and, indeed, the Stalin (spelled with an article until 1988) were the most famous and radical Japanese hardcore/punk band of the '80s, always ready to push the boundaries of provocation further from accepted norms. "The name Stalin is very hated by most people in Japan, so it is very good for our image," explained the band's mastermind Michiro Endo, who founded the Stalin in 1980. Endo, a Vietnam vet and a street singer, had experience living in the West, and a strong socialist stance to boot (though he also remarked on the band's name as pointing to "the downside of every good idea"). The group, which debuted in 1980 with the single "Dendou Kokeshi" (the cover of which was adorned with a picture of a penis with a needle in it), achieved notoriety fast, due to the combination of raw punk music and an anti-romantic, anti-nationalist, and anarchist stance which scandalized Japanese society. Endo called his lyrics, not devoid of poetry, "tanku," combining "tanks" with "haiku," a form of traditional Japanese poetry. The live shows also played a part in establishing Stalin's reputation, since those included fish heads, human feces, minor self-mutilation on the part of Endo, fights with the audience, and abrupt endings after a single song. The talent for wreaking havoc soon got the band banned from most clubs, but their talent for writing punk tunes allowed them to plow further, releasing the Stalinism EP in 1981. After that the band was joined by Tam, another Japanese punk rock guru, formerly of Typhus, which later transformed into Gauze. With him, Stalin shifted to a hardcore sound, which can be heard on the band's debut full-length Thrash. It has become really obscure since then, but it got the band a deal with the major-label Climax. The potential sellout didn't faze Endo, who explained that going major gave them a chance of sowing mayhem on a grander scale. In 1982, the Stalin recorded their second and most famous album Stop Jap and appeared in the movie Bakuretsu Toshi ("Burst City") by Sogo Isshi, which was later praised by the famous director Takeshi Kitano. In 1983, the Go Go Stalin 12" and third album Mushi followed, and in 1984, the group got some international recognition, because their song "Chicken Farm" was featured on the Welcome to 1984 compilation along with Raw Power and BGK, among others. But by then the extreme approach had begun to create turmoil among bandmembers. In 1984 Tam left, and Endo assembled a crew of American musicians to record the jazz-influenced Fish Inn album. It was a blunder: like Bad Religion with Into the Unknown, Stalin learned the hard way that musical provocations are much more frowned upon than ideological ones. The Japanese punk community didn't approve of Fish Inn at all, and the extremely disappointed and angry Endo disbanded the Stalin in 1985, after a double-live album For Never. However, this proved to be only a hiatus. Inspired by Perestroika, Endo reassembled the band in 1988, dropping the article from its name. Endo brought the Polish punkers Dezerter for a tour in Japan, returning the favor by playing a set of shows in Eastern Europe in 1990. In 1989, Stalin had two albums out, Joy and their eponymous CD, followed by two more in 1990 (Sakkin Barikedo and Street Value). However, the burst of activity ended together with the euphoria created by the end of the Communist bloc: Kiseki No Hito, out in 1992, proved out to be Stalin's last studio full-length, although there was also the EP Shinda Mono Hodo Aishite Yaru Sa (1995), as well as abundant compilations and reissues. ~ Alexey Eremenko