Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Jacks - Vacant World (1968)

Sometimes in the world of music there are bands that just exude cool without even trying, they simply are just beyond what might be deemed cool and be pioneers of what they do... Japan's The Jacks are one such group.

Recently I have been totally obsessed with Japanese music and culture, I have been getting heavily into the 'Group Sounds' scene which came out of Japan during the mid to late 60s.

There was a number of groups who were really fantastic which came forth from the typically Anglo influence of popular culture, however for me The Jacks were the most interesting band from this scene who remained totally Japanese in their songs and personality as a band.

Their debut long-player 'Vacant World' arrived on my doorstep on the weekend and has been continuously getting spun on my record player, it's just a far out album which is totally blowing my mind even though I can't understand a word which is sung, the album powerfully gives off the vibe that the cats who recorded the album were fed-up, frustrated and moody guys.

The band were -

Yoshio Hayakawa - Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Haruo Mizuhashi - Lead Guitar/Vocals
Hiroshi Tanino - Electric and Upright Bass
Takasuke Kida - Drums, Flute and Percussion.

'Vacant World' is a cult classic album, although ignored totally by the rest of the world, it is considered one of the great albums of the 6os in Japan, the album was highly political and the band themselves were true outcasts of their society and were nothing like their contemporaries in the "Group Sounds' scene.

The band were totally non conformist, they were totally true to their music and themselves, they hardly engaged in the social spectre of the times by doing interviews and not playing shows which they ultimately had a great deal of control over. They played their own original songs and didn't play any covers which all the other Group Sounds band's did and the band also wrote highly political songs, the title track off 'Vacant World' was banned in Japan for overly critical lyrics towards the Japanese culture, the main insult being the song was so goddamn nihilistic that it offended the system.

The album as a whole has a real nihilistic vibe to it, it is scary doom-laden folk rock throughout.

In the various times the ultra hip ray-banned figure of Jack's leader Yoshio Hayakawa gave interviews, what he'd have to say was often controversial and snotty -

"We are not Underground, that's just an idea created by the media. We became outsiders from the folk jamboree as we don't have the goal to be famous, so it's difficult for people to understand and define us.. it's a dirty world, you gotta go in there yourself and find out" ..... Taken from Julian Cope's book Japrocksampler.

Saying such a thing back in 1968 was a really big thing to do.... to openly turn your back on such a thing was criminal.... you'd never have seen people like The Troggs or even The Beatles say such things in public, yet a real hip Japanese guy in the coolest group in the world was screaming it, yet his group was not known as much as they should have been.... Imagine if they did sing in English, what a war they would have created, I actually feel had they sung this album in English it would be more known to the whole world, it pisses on a great deal of other psychedelic albums of the time.... Lyrically too it is considered to be way out there and pointing out the darkness in the world, once again not many bands were doing this in 1968.... The Jacks however were telling it straight!!!

Even in it's native Japanese this album is killer and for me it makes it that bit more potent and real, I suggest anyone who consider's themselves a fan of 60s psychedelic music to go and buy this album immediately.... it's a real moody killer LP.

Youtube doesn't have much Jacks on it, but here are a couple of tracks to become acquainted...

Their free-jazz styled folk rock freak out Marianne, is a piece of crazy psychedelic madness about a strange female creature who comes from the storm ridden seas to consume the protagonist.

It's a mad fuzzy punk track.

I also love the moodiness in this following song 'In The Broken Mirror'....I love the mad moody vibe, I'm not gonna lie I really dig the savagery in this song, in fact the whole album is erratic and downtrodden, it's such a great album. The vocals are desperate and you can hear that Yoshio Hayakawa means every word he is singing.



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