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Straightener may not really seem like a group, but sort of an overall in-house project of the Japanese rock scene, having ties with a huge number of important rock bands of the country. Hinata Hidekazu, the bassist who joined in 2003, played in one of the better Japanese U2 followers, Art-School, and worked with the quirky Zazen Boys until 2007; drummer Shinpei Nakayama has a side project, the Predators, with the vocalist of the Pillows and bassist of Glay; lead singer and guitarist Horie Atsushi, together with Hinata, has a parallel band, Fullarmor, active since 2002; and that's not mentioning the fact that Straightener are core members of the Nano-Mugen Music Festival -- an irregular but popular punk/alt-rock event organized by the indie rock powerhouse Asian Kung-Fu Generation. However, reducing the group to a sum of its friends would be unfair, since Straightener are also a proficient and successful entity capable of standing on their own without any name-dropping. The band released its first EP, Straighten It Up, in 2000, gaining instant recognition with its punk-infused alt-rock sound, even if it didn't break the group into the first ranks of the J-music scene. In 2002 Straightener started their own label, Ghost Records, releasing a maxi-disc, Silver Record, soon afterwards. That "indie" sold well enough to earn them a place in the ranks of a major label (Toshiba EMI signed Straightener in 2003) -- an utterly crucial moment for any J-band's career. Since then, the group has been working at full speed: the Rock End Roll LP in 2004, Title in 2005, and Dear Deadman in 2006 -- the latter being an especially successful release, followed by a big tour and a short stream of singles. The band churned out two big releases in 2007 -- Linear in March and the EP-sized Immortal in November. The full-length Nexus followed in 2009. ~ Alexey Eremenko
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