Japan Soul: call it dance music with a conscience, intelligent pop, whatever you like, their new album “Plastic Utopia” is a fantastic slice of intellectual soul. To reflect my eighties predilections, it’s like a mash-up of the attitude of The Clash with the music and lyricism of Heaven 17 (and even China Crisis) it is something sorely missing from contemporary music: strong messages with a great beat.
The opening track, “War” is a heady, poptastic and extremely catchy song with an insistent beat and rousing riff, yet with lyrics that speak of the subjugation of the masses through propaganda
They say defeated, we don’t believe it, war
It features the vocals of Kent Odessa who we recently wrote about. It is an ear worm worth the purchase of the album alone.
“Plastic Utopia” is pure soul – a rolling bass, funky guitar and a cool beat. “Something’s Going On” has a beat reminiscent of Madonna at her finest (Holiday) and with a heavenly, expansive bridge that is transcendent.
“Lalalaland” is both about the deception of war and the oppression of women, sung over a smooth soul sound that exhorts us to “shake off” our chains. “Fight With Love” – also featuring Kent Odessa – is an uplifting and optimistic anthem that is rousing even to an embittered old cynic like myself.
A more personal theme flavours the lyrics in “Hey Ya Hey”, charting perhaps the development of the band or time spent in hiatus:
We spent a year dreamin up ways we could dislocate
“One More Night” moves into a much more synth pop territory.
This album is a revelation: it is appealing even to an indie guitar band devotee such as myself. It soulful, funky and danceable yet has an innocent charm with a political stance that is devoid of any grandstanding or naivety and yet is ultimately optimistic. The vocals are sublime – ranging from deepest baritone to the highest falsetto, and the instrumentation is beguiling, creating a lot of space and room despite many layers.
Listen to the whole album here:
Japan Soul will be launching this album in New York on 20 June at the very cool The Bitter End, 147 Bleecker Street (between Thompson and LaGuardia).
Japan Soul describes itself as a musical collective. Its members are Jason Paul (vocals, guitars, bass and programming), David Rozner (percussion, arrangements and guitars) and DaVe Lipp (saxxaphones, guitars, bass and ‘eclectic’ instruments).