Tuesday, April 5, 2011


After the Punk movement reduced popular music to its essential building blocks, bands were free to design their new sounds from scratch.  They could be post-punk, new wave, new Romantic, whatever, as long as they weren't Prog (of course).  

One of the bands ahead of that curve was Japan.  They were already glamming it up during the Punk explosion, so they were not initially successful, except in, well, Japan!  Luckily, they stuck with it until everyone else caught up with them.  It didn’t hurt that the band was full of musical geniuses.  The lovely David Sylvian stole the show, looking like a wax mannequin of Warhol, and sounding like Bowie with seasonal allergies.  But one cannot possibly speak of Japan without acknowledging the fluid and idiosyncratic fretless bass work of Mick Karn.  Karn was a self-taught bassoon player who actually won an audition to a symphony orchestra without knowing how to read music. He made his own fretless bass in the 1970’s simply by removing the frets.

Here’s the band performing The Art of Parties (the groove here is absolutely wicked, and it’s live!):

From the same concert, Still Life In Mobile Homes:

Sadly, Karn lost a battle with cancer in January of this year at the age of 53, having only been diagnosed about six months earlier.  Safe journeys, Mick.