Sorry for the wait, but in our old age, we like to take our time with these translations, knowing that y'all will wait patiently for us on the strength of our massive internet fame (that was a joke, we know the Internet waits for no man, woman, or non-corporeal genderless entity such as ourselves). In any case, the kanji, romaji, and translations for "Datenshi" and "Luna Park" are now up over at This is NOT Greatest Site, so feel free to go check them out, and leave your thoughts on the songs in the comments section below.
As depicted in the jacket photos, "Datenshi" is a song dealing with duality/non-duality. For those of you not familiar with the concept of non-duality - non-duality is the metaphysical understanding that every binary is in fact a whole, two opposite poles of the same energy, each incapable of existing without the other. In a space with no light, no shadows can be cast. Without shadow, how would we define light? Male and female exist to merge and recombine with one another - that is the entire purpose of sexual reproduction, so how could one exist without the other, or be superior to the other? Positive/negative, up/down, black/white, thing/nothing - all are relative, all are one. Buck-Tick have been exploring this theme for a long, long time, most notably on Six/Nine, which is easily described as a concept album about rinne, the Buddhist soul cycle of death and rebirth, but which is also a concept album about non-duality - turn over the six and you've got a nine, and vice-versa. The band expressed this theme visually in the series of largely black-and-white music videos which accompanied the songs, occasionally accented with splashes of red, representing the raw passions of the heart and the blood we spill on account of them, as well as the flowering of love from the heart and the fire of life kindled by this love (see the notes on "Rozen Kreuzer" for more on that).
Buck-Tick returned to this visual theme in the music videos for "Keijijou Ryuusei" and then "New World," representing the way in which our actual experience of life is an eternal instant, every new moment we experience a whole new world of being - sometimes you see, sometimes you don't, and if it's all just like shadows on the walls of Plato's cave, all you can do is feel your way through with your heart to guide you.
Now, with Datenshi, they have returned to the same theme yet again - on the back of the single, the band members are seen embracing white cutouts against a white background, while in the booklet, they are seen embracing the same cutouts, only this time they're black on a black background. Other self, other half, higher self, inner woman, shadow self - the symbolism of these images is deep. We are the sum of all our emotional experiences, positive and negative. Sakurai wears a jacket made up of white and black panels as if to illustrate that fact, with a flowered tie over his heart - there's that flowering of love again. In the music video, the band swirl through a darkened studio in front of a wall-sized projection screen flashing phantasmagoric yet quotidian images of Tokyo - views from train windows, closeups on cars and graffiti and trash, Shibuya's Scramble Crossing, green summer trees, a blurry split-second wink of hardcore porn on that smutty line about "Oh baby thrusting You & Me."
Buck-Tick have long asked the question, what is reality? Is it as physical and material as self-styled "hard-headed modern scientists" would have us believe? Or is it a projection of consciousness out of the larger conscious Universe, more like a dream or a role-playing game, more subject to our feelings and desires, projections and fantasies than we've been allowed to believe? If we took a drink for every lyric Sakurai has ever written about life being a dream, we'd be too drunk to keep blogging, so we'll put our money on him coming down on the metaphysical side of this debate (remember how they made a whole album called Dreaming Universe?) The "Datenshi" PV exemplifies this subjective view of reality as individual experience in typically elegant, simple Buck-Tick style - they're in the same studio the whole time, wearing the same costumes - it's just the backdrop that changes.
As in the music video for "Detarame Yarou" (off Six/Nine), Sakurai's wearing red lipstick, copiously smudged, as if he's fresh from a wild makeout session or vicious devouring of raw, fresh-killed prey, evoking all his many previous exhortations to devour life and feast on love. However, for all that he called "Datenshi" a nihilistic song, we found it quite sensual and romantic - just look at the first stanza. Love's a magic spell, love is joy, he sings. It's like he's frustrated to be here, amid so much hurt and chaos, when he knows that the higher self, the one casting the shadows on the cave walls, is more like an angel of love than a carnivorous beast. From our earlier post on "Datenshi":
Nearly all religious and spiritual traditions tell of the existence of an immortal spirit or soul which survives physical death. Death is seen as a gateway, a transition, or a return to a higher plane of consciousness, which is often described as the angelic realm. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, souls reincarnate many times in order to hone love, wisdom and compassion against the pain of the three-dimensional physical world. In each life, the soul must temporarily lose its memories of its previous lifetimes and realms beyond, in order to make a fresh start and get the most out of each new life of experience. Buddhism is not a mono-theistic religion - anyone who attains a high enough level of spiritual enlightenment becomes a Buddha, and it is believed that the process of seeking this enlightenment takes many lifetimes. From this perspective, the idea of the fallen angel could be seen as an allegory for the human condition.
This certainly does seem to be the theme of the song after all, summed up in the repeating phrases "tell me who you are" and "tell me who am I." Love lies at the center of these lyrics as it lies at the center of existence, the red rose amid all the black and white. Stories abound across space and time of amnesic, reincarnated or destined lovers who have forgotten the beloved's face and identity, yet still gravitate toward one another, pulled by the force of the love itself, which transcends space, time, and memory, and therefore cannot be forgotten.
But how to trust your feelings, when you have nothing concrete to rely on? Ancient peoples believed fully in unseen worlds, but our modern society is obsessed with visible material reality to an unprecedented degree - can't see carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or acidifying oceans, guess that means they don't exist, huh? Can't see viruses, guess that means we don't need vaccines, eh? Show me the money! This capitalistic and unhealthily over-masculine world view demonizes the feminine energy of intuition and emotion (by the way, for those of y'all still hung up on little things like pronouns, masculine and feminine are qualities of being which every person of every gender inhabits and expresses to varying degrees. They are polarities of energy and they have nothing to do with chromosomes or genitalia, so please be kind to and love yourselves and your bodies). We're taught not to trust our feelings and intuitions, not to express our emotions, and it's even worse for men than for women.
So here's Sakurai, an increasingly openly gender-queer man in lipstick and nail polish, singing in the first stanza of the chorus, "love's an illusion." It's abundantly clear from all his previous work, and even from the rest of this song, that he doesn't actually believe that. The universality of love, the primacy of love, the inherent meaning, value, and importance of love - if Buck-Tick's work has one over-arching theme, that's it (look at the lyrics to "Cosmos," "Yumemiru Uchuu," and just about every other Buck-Tick song ever.) The question is, am I allowed to believe in this love? Am I allowed to feel this love? Am I strong enough to overcome the pain of this hell I've fallen into, and express this love? Will I deny everything and kill myself by punishing myself for everything I feel I've done wrong? Or will I open myself to forgiveness, forgive others, forgive myself, let myself be healed? The concept of non-duality recognizes that we are all connected, and that just as any hurt you inflict on me is also a hurt you inflict on yourself, to forgive yourself is to forgive me (and vice versa).
In the second stanza of the chorus, he takes a stand:
This is love yeah You & Me
Oh baby thrusting You & Me
Pressing my lips all over you
Tell me who am I
He admits it - the love is real. He tastes it physically. He realizes that through our love for each other, we define each other. The love is his true identity, it can show him who he is.
On a more metaphysical level, these lyrics and this kind of story can also represent the re-integration of suppressed or fragmented elements of one's own soul, self, consciousness, logos or whatever term you prefer (because words are always subjective) - in Jungian terms, re-integration of the shadow self (re-acknowledgement and acceptance of repressed, despised aspects of oneself), or in New Age spiritual lightworker terms, re-integration with the higher self (tuning in to the layer of your own consciousness which resides in higher dimensional vibrations of reality outside three-dimensional physical incarnation and transcending three-dimensional life and death).
If you found all that very abstract and metaphysical, well, welcome to Buck-Tickistan. Lots of Japanese Buck-Tick fans admitted that they didn't even know the word "keijijou" ("metaphysics") until Buck-Tick released "Keijijou Ryuusei" ("Metaphysical Meteor") in 2014. The meaning of life, death and love are the Piscean deep ocean waters in which Buck-Tick swim. We encourage all of you to go ahead and ponder these questions more, and probe the ways in which they relate to your own feelings and experience. Don't be afraid to feel. Don't be afraid to be guided by your heart and your intuition. Don't be too shy to get your feet wet. Life should be about diving in deep. The deeper you go, the more precious the treasure you find sunken at the bottom.
And after that punch-packing three minutes and thirty-three seconds (Was this deliberate, guys? Imai, are you back to smoking caterpillar hookahs again? Real talk: who else here sees repeating number sequences all the time? Please discuss.) Anyway yeah, after that punch-packing three minutes and thirty-three seconds of minimal electro-punk, we get three minutes and forty-four seconds (jeez Hide are you smoking caterpillar hookahs too?) of shimmering sugar-synth shoegaze dance-pop: the long-awaited "Luna Park." This is every bit as simple and beautiful as we expect a Hide ballad to be, evoking shades of "Mugen," "Love Parade," and "Ophelia" like wisps of memories while still being entirely its own new thing, every bit as minimalist as "Datenshi" and true to Imai's promise that the new post-No. 0 Buck-Tick will return to the electronics, but also pare back the layers to focus on negative space. No. 0 was a major achievement for Buck-Tick and certainly one of their most mature and well-developed albums of all time (though Thousand-Armed Kannon knows they set a very, very high bar), but if it had one flaw musically, it was that the mixes were so crammed with noise and buzz that at times, the main thrust of the melodies could recede too far into the background, or end up too dry.
Heading back into a more minimalist direction corrects for this, and if there's one thing "Luna Park" is not, it's dry. The whole song glitters with a gentleness like morning dew or tears of joy, floating and shimmering like the bubble in the lyrics over a deep, grounding, propulsive bass line. Sakurai is free to let loose the full expressive power of his voice as he likes without fear of being drowned out by too many guitar effects, which can only be the right choice, because what would Buck-Tick be without that voice? Free, too, is Cube Juice, whose use of bell and sugar synth tones evokes both recent popular trends in soft electro-lounge music and also ultra-retro 70's and 80's analog sounds, creating a layered, pastel-colored, modern-yet-nostalgic cotton candy musical dreamscape through which you can practically smell the caramel apples and cinnamon donuts, taste the wine, blink back tears against the brightness of the colored lights.
True to his word in the latest FT interview, Sakurai was clearly heavily inspired by the works of Marc Chagall, who painted just as many circus scenes as he painted flying blue lovers. But the circus and the parade have long been one of Buck-Tick's other central themes. If love is the rose at the center of the Universe, the circus is the way we should all be living our lives - in the moment, tasting, drinking, dancing, flying, feeling joy, not fearing what-ifs and worst-case-scenarios. Bubbles burst, but does that mean they're not worth enjoying while they last? This is an old, even ancient, Japanese literary theme, and personally, we think this may be one of Sakurai's greatest lifelong accomplishments as an artist - taking ancient Japanese literary themes and images and reworking them, in all their beautiful simplicity, into his own personal, heartfelt, immediately-experienced symbolic lexicon for the modern era, taking timelessness and making it timely., then timeless again.
The subtlety of these lyrics is as lyrical as Chagall's paintings. The song opens with a line about a flying teacup - surrealist, gentle and fragile as bone china, evoking the fanciful shapes of amusement park rides. Sakurai uses irregular kanji for "tobu" (containing the radical for feathered wings) and "odokeru" (meaning "tawamureru," to play or joke in a carefree manner - no cruel japes here). In the second verse, the kanji in "yume yume" is repeated in full twice, rather than using the doubling character 々 as is common, as if he'd like to underscore that each lover is fully present, a fully realized dream himself/herself, or perhaps that he'd like to re-live this dream again. The line "we close our eyes," which he's so often used as a gentle expression for death, here evokes the freedom to dream and imagine. "Hold your girl in both your hands," he sings - "te" can mean both arms and hands, so this is much less of a passionate grab and more of a gentle, reverent reaching out, as one might to a dream come true, something beautiful beyond imagining, mindful to take care not to break it, just like the teacup. And then there's the line about the wine glass - like the glasses at one of the Jewish weddings which Chagall loved painting, drained and then broken underfoot, so the happiness of the wedding toast might never be tainted. Too often, Sakurai uses "oyasumi" ("good night") to mean death, but here, we can't help but feel he's encouraging everyone to dream that dream, or maybe even just to take time to space out and rest, as he reports doing last summer. The negative spaces in between things are what makes the things themselves pop.
And now, let's take votes on which of these Chagall paintings y'all think Sakurai has on the walls of his house. Leave your vote in the comments below.
"Lovers over the Town," one of the paintings Sakurai refers to in the first line of "Luna Park."
"Over the Town," one of Chagall's most famous works.
"Blue Lovers," another one of Chagall's early famous works.
"Green Lovers," a similar painting with a similar theme but different color scheme.
"Couple Over the Town" - look, this one has some sexy boobs!
"Aleko and Zemphira," a study for one of the sumptuous ballet backdrops Chagall painted. Note the recurring red rooster motif - no matter how magical the night, the dawn will always come (but not before the cock crows ehehe).
"Lovers in the Sky of Nice." With a full moon, bass-playing horse, and another red cock. Nice.
"Lovers with Half Moon." The cock is blue here and the only sign of other colors are in that lovely bouquet. The lovers look conspiratorial here - the dude is definitely making an Acchan-chan-approved "you don't know half the sexual tacos I'm thinking about eating right now" face. The half-moon is a fish, the new moon a dark circle. This one's sexy. Is it this one?
"The Lovers" - here the horse is pulling a saucy yellow cock in a sleigh but the lovers are dancing ballet. Is that a circus below? This is a nice one! Maybe it's this one!
"Arabian Nights" - is it this one? Arabian Nights is the first phrase in the lyrics to "Goblin." Horse and cock still there, but the only non-blue color is the light of the moon. Or is it the sun? Did y'all know Mr. Sakurai is born in the year of the horse?
"L'air Bleu" - Oh now these saucy non-conformist lovers are dressed in red, on a bed of lilacs, symbolizing first love. The cock is playing the fiddle while the city sleeps. Instead of the horse, there's a goat, symbolizing animal desires. Mm-hm. Somehow we don't think it's this one, but this is a good one anyway.
"Lovers" - One red, one blue, very No. 0 or Japanese bathroom sign colors. (Women are represented with red in Asia because Periods are Power). Many other people appear to be floating in the sky with the lovers. Perhaps they are other dreamers or dreaming couples. The fiddler's on the ground this time. It's always nice to make out to music, eh?
"Newlyweds with Paris in the Background." They're not even floating anymore, they're just chilling with some nice red flowers, the moon, the Eiffel Tower... this is the best of life. Kids, never marry unless you feel this good about your partner. Your partnership shouldn't be a prison of mediocrity. Never settle for less than passion. Chagall and his wife were madly in love till she died.
And now, some circus paintings! First, "Le Cirque." Tell me that hoop isn't just a teeny bit Arui wa Anarchy.
Next, "The Blue Circus." Horse ogles sexy lady in red dress on trapeze while moon looks on, cock plays drums and fish tries to cop a feel. This is definitely something Acchan-chan would hang on the wall of his boudoir.
We're not sure about the title of this one, but that girl is definitely feeling up that lute-playing clown's tights-clad thigh as if she's a crazed fangirl at a Buck-Tick concert.
"The Grand Circus." Buck-Tick saw this one and started the Parade Festival, for sure. There's even a 13kai ballerina! Lovely use of rainbow colors, disembodied hands. This was probably also an influence on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine film.
And last but not least, "The Concert." The lovers are in the center and the musicians are playing for them under a full moon! The cock-fiddler is now some kind of yellow canary fairy! And the lovers are in a canoe that looks suspiciously like the cover of Yumemiru Uchuu. We bet Acchan-chan has this one on his wall, for sure. That band on the left are probably Buck-Tick.
Now, if you're not sick of us yet, as a bonus, some fab photos of Luna Parks, new and old. First, the original Coney Island Luna Park (now long gone).
Luna Park Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, complete with moon-surmounted gate and "Japanese Theater."
Luna Park, Sydney, Australia (still operating).
The surreally beautiful Volare ride at Luna Park Sydney.
Luna Park Sydney with the iconic Sydney Opera House in the background (in fact the opera house was Photoshopped in. This is actually a photo of Buck-Tickistan.)
Luna Park Palavas-les-Flots (this is an actual photo of the inside of Imai Hisashi's brain).
Photos of the defunct Festival Gate amusement park, built more or less on the remains of Osaka's own Shinsekai ("New World") Luna Park and surmounted by Tsutenkaku Tower, taken personally by Cayce circa 2009. If you're in Osaka and you like fried food, for sure head to Shinsekai to eat some kushi-katsu (deep-fried skewers of just about anything). If you need to stay overnight in Osaka on a budget because you spent all your money on Buck-Tickets, you can stay over in Spa World, an indoor hot spring theme park resting on the ashes of Luna Park. Don't ever stop dreaming.