K-On!! television series has been a remarkable anime. Not only did the antics/pranks pulled among the five girls portrayed the light-heartedness of school/youth, the series also introduced lots of remarkable songs. Songs that are commercial successes (constantly appearing on top 5 of Oricon charts on release) and songs that are memorable. The second ending theme song of the second season, "No, Thank You!", is especially memorable. Played in a rockable manner, this anguish-filled song celebrate the present and youth appropriately to the theme of the anime.
Apart from the paracetomol derivatives and histamine blockers (like promethazine - key ingredient in Procodin cough syrup), there are no drugs more widely used than alcohol and nicotine. Yet unlike the other drugs, alcohol and nicotine are rarely seen as a remedy for ailments. Rather they are misused much like any 'party drugs', to derive temporary pleasure and to act as acceptable ingredients in many social events.
Alcohol in particular, which have been associated to social behaviour and human history for thousands of years (starting with mead, which was first described in a hymn of the Verdic religion dated around 1700 to 1100BC), is an essential part of our culture. Yet instead of perceiving alcohol as one of the most harmful drug afflicting human society today, the alcohol consumption is seen as a legitimate drinkin' culture, as reflected in movies, stories and music.
I am especially interested in music related with the drinkin' culture. Even though these music usually perceive the drinkin' culture as legitimate and probably widespread, they usually make fun of drinking as a problem at same time. For instance, in a superbly written comedic song "Bruce's Philosopher Song" by Eric Idle, the Monty Python links famous philosophers with drinking and alter some famous lines like Rene Descrates' "I drink therefore I am" as a pun. Here is the Philosophers' Song during their Hollywood Bowl performance.
In less sophisticated songs, drinking culture can be seen as a quick fix or remedies for psychological troubles for people. The next two songs below, Jimmy Buffett's "Magaritaville" and Mighty Mighty Bosstone's "Another Drinkin' Song", illustrate how quickly people turn to alcohol, even being totally aware of it as just an escape, knowing fully the ill-effects of drinking.
"Wastin away again in margaritaville Searching for my lost shaker of salt Some people claim that theres a woman to blame But I know its my own damn fault Yes and some people claim that theres a woman to blame And I know its my own damn fault"
In a totally different style, ska, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones came out with probably the best song in recent collection describing a person with a drinking problem. Just listen to the reason a person who is addicted to drinking may saying (as in the chorus of the song):
"Countin' on a remedy I've counted on before. Goin' with a cure that's never failed me. What you call the disease, I call the remedy. What you're callin' the cause, I call the cure."
But the lines that I really got me laughing out loud everytime I hear this upbeat and improbable ska music are:
"Just a devotion to a potion. Please, no applause. A dedication to a medication. A crutch, a cure, a cause. What I've counted on to pick me up has knocked me to my knees. Before I hit the floor once more I'll call it the disease"
Yes, a devotion. Alcohol might just probably be a diety to some. Heh.
I used to have a slight drinking problem as well, but I have stopped way before it took a serious grip on my life. There are many who are not as fortunate however, and alcoholism really did become a disease that affected their normal functioning in life.
In his famous tune "The Piano Man", the great Bily Joel detailed how alcoholism asserted enormous grip on people's lives, denying them the chance to seek for something greater or better in their lives.
The whole song is littered with examples of people showing remorse for drinking, and yet still continued to drink their lives away, like in the lyrics,
"He says, bill, I believe this is killing me. As the smile ran away from his face Well Im sure that I could be a movie star If I could get out of this place"
Unfortunately, music talking about vices or misdeeds, usually stop at remorse and never really go on to talk about the journey to bounce back or to move to the other step of repentance. In a rare recent example, Mike Portney from Dream Theater wrote an interesting series of music, detailing his journey through Alcohol Anonymous, in his attempt to bounce back from an alcohol problem. In Dream Theater's last album, Chaos Motion, the song Repentance was wrote exactly to explore the mindset of the
Here's a fast version of Dream Theater's Repetence. It would have been better to listen to the song at the standard speed, as the spoken words totally lost the impact in this song. However, without better alternatives, I guess we just have to make do then.
Hello Mirror, so glad to see you my friend it's been a while...
Staring at the empty page before me All the years of wreckage running through my head Patterns of my life I thought adorned me Revealing hurtful shame and deep lament
Overwhelming sorrow now absorbs me As the pen begins to trace my darkest past Signs throughout my life that should have warned me Of all the wrongs I've done for which I must repent
I once thought it better to regret Things that I have done than haven't Sometimes you've got to be wrong And learn the hard way Sometimes you've got to be strong When you think it's too late
Staring at the finished page before me All the damage now so clear and evident Thinking about the dreaded task in store for me A bitter fear at the thought of my amends
Hoping that the step will help restore me To face my past and ask for forgiveness Cleaning up my dirty side of this unswept street Could this be the beginning of the end?
I once thought it better to regret Things that I have done than haven't Sometimes you've got to be wrong And learn the hard way Just when you're through hanging on You're saved
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
You're only as sick as your secrets, but the truth shall set you free...
The truth is the truth, so all you can do is live with it."
I only briefly touched on four of the songs I enjoyed, touching on various aspects of the theme. I'm pretty sure that are lots more alcohol and drinkin' song out there. Do let me know if you have come across some interesting ones that I may not have hear before.
I hate to admit this, but I am a bass junkie. Not in the sense of the bad bass you often heard from the overcompensated booming bass from a badly mixed live events or the outrageously vague and booming bass coming out from the aged speakers in CDs shop. I like clear and crisp bass, either in adding the impact of the song or in adding life to an otherwise flat song. And although I love most bass-type instruments, I am biased towards electric bass guitar.
And for the reason alone, I really adore Japanese Rock music, especially the following three songs.
It guess you really can't consider L'arc en Ciel as a J-Rock band, since their subsequent fame with their mainstream pop-ish image way outstrip their indies root. However, it is easy to forget also that they have been in the business for a long time, and their music is really not that bad. Whichever way you look at L'arc, this is a given. Tetsu is one hell of a bassist.
Blurry eyes is one of the best work by Tetsu back in 1994. It was also their first ever single, which explains with the goofy PV. Remember, L'arc was in the same league as シャ乱Q (Sharam Q), B'z and The Yellow Monkey. They have not been seen as showy or visual-kei like from the start. So it is kind of understandable for the commercial B-grade PV at that point.
Beyond the horrific visual though, Blurry eyes is a great song. From the start, Tetsu starts to play a wild bass line which work the song clearly in an opposite direction to the guitar played theme. This continue, even when Hyde comes in with his vocal. Don't get me wrong. The lines may be wild and the moments which Tetsu come back to the songs are short (e.g. right at the end of the intro, during the interlude and at the ending), but the way Tetsu managed to go wild with the song and giving life to an otherwise ordinary song is amazing. Seriously, if anyone were to ask what the role of a bass is in a song, show them this song. Ask them to imagine how boring the song will be if the bass is missing, or if the bass is just barely playing root notes and little variation within the chords in conjunction with the guitar.
Dir en Grey is probably one of the few bands in Japan that are just as famous out of Japan, in Europe and America. Originally associated with the visual kei movement, especially with their early association with Yoshiki from X-Japan, for their first five singles. They have since moved on to more progressive and metal music, and choosing to dress in much less flamboyant style on stage in this century.
The 1999 single Cage was done when Dir en Grey was part of the visual-kei movement. As seen in the PV, one of the notable feature of visual-kei is the visual elements, usually with large amount of make-up applied and clothes that probably only cosplay performers will dress in.
Honestly, bass have not been a big feature in this band, and few people will find the bassist Toshiya memorable. So it really came as a big surprise when this single did not feature a typical guitar solo after the musical interlude. Instead, it was a bass solo, which kicks in at 3 min 20 seconds into the song.
Kuroyume is not a band much mentioned for many reasons. Their heavy metal music in their earlier days solidify them as a solid band to niche metal-lovers. And even though they are inspirations for future groups in the visual-kei explosion in the mid to late 90s, including bands like Dir en Grey and Laputa, their musical direction variate quite a bit (from black metal to more melodic rock) and are often overshadowed by the wildly popular X-Japan and LUNA SEA during the era. Kuroyume cease their activities indefinitely from 1999, citing the ill-health of the bassist Hitoki. Kiyoharu went on to form another band SADS, which folded in 2003 after four albums, and procceed on to with his solo career.
Being fronted by two man, Kiyoharu (vo) and Hitoki (ba), it is not surprising to see a bit of bass featured in this band, and this was featured quite prominently in their single Like@Angel. Like@Angel is one of Kuroyume more successful single from their wildly popular Fake Star album in 1996.
Just like how Tetsu work his wild bassline in counterstyle to the other musicians in the song Blurry eyes, Hitoki plays a growling boomy bassline (as compared to Tetsu clear and agile basslines) that variate wildly from the base chords, working in counterstyle at times. Unlike Tetsu's play, Hitoki wild bassline do not oppress the band and is always kept in complete control, in line with the guitar and drums through the song.
2 min 39secs into the song, a very unique musical interlude was introduced. Unlike most J-rock which include a guitar solo usually in these segments, Like@Angel feature a highlight for the bass, with the guitar playing the chords and the bass plays a nice variation as a sort of semi-solo for the song.
It is not a full bass solo, like Dir en Grey's Cage. See, the trouble with bass solo is not so much what is being played. Bass is a quieter and less attention grabbing instrument by design, as listeners would usually gravitate towards overpowering sounds, that are more easily attained with a higher treble instruments. So in order to incorporate a bass solo, the song would usually have to quiet down, so that the bass can grab all the attention and not overpowered by another instrument at that point. This was also audibly present in Dir en Grey's Cage, where no other instruments played during the few seconds bass solo segment, only to join in near the end.
The semi-solo in Like@Angel is special in that the song was not purposely designed to add a bass segment. The interlude basically stayed in the same tune to the song, with both guitar and bass playing prominent tunes. It is special in this sense, as a battle between the two instrument ensues, with the variation in bass lines managed to appear as overpowering the guitar, especially with the last few lines.
So there you have it. Three J-Rock songs from the 90s with wild bass lines. I'm sure there are lots of other examples of wild bass lines in other J-Rock bands as well.