Thanks for your patience, folks. At last, we are pleased to announce that we have completed our translations of the lyrics to all the songs on No. 0. The kanji, romaji, translations, and notes for "Guernica no Yoru" and "Tainai Kaiki" are now up over on This is NOT Greatest Site, so go on over and give them a read. You have our express permission to cry. We won't lie - one reason why it took us so long to get this last pair of songs done is because it took us a while to work ourselves up to it emotionally. Back when Atom Miraihai No. 9 came out, we thought "Ai no Souretsu" was a lot to deal with, but true to their words, Buck-Tick have outdone themselves with No. 0, and "Guernica no Yoru" makes "Ai no Souretsu" look like a happy dance at the goth club by comparison.
"Guernica" is also notable among Buck-Tick's work for how candidly Sakurai and Imai discussed the process by which they wrote the song. Buck-Tick often keep their creative process fairly secretive, but they definitely wanted us to know about this one, and discussed it at length in several magazines. Imai selected "Guernica" as the working title, saying that he'd tried to write lyrics for the song but realized that Sakurai could do a better job, so he offered the "Guernica" working title to Sakurai as a sort of writing prompt, figuring that Sakurai would pick up and run with the theme - which just goes to show how much those two trust each other, and how much on the same wavelength they are after thirty years of
marriage thoroughly platonic manly brodude business partnership (Sakurai has most definitely never held Imai's long hair out of his face while he puked because he drank too much booze. Never.)
Anyway, we already mentioned it in our trailer article for No. 0, but "Guernica," for those of you who don't already know, is the title of one of Pablo Picasso's most famous paintings, a massive black-and-white mural depicting the suffering of people and animals in a town struck by a bomb. In fact, Guernica was a Basque town in northern Spain which was bombed by Nazi and Italian Fascist warplanes in April 1937 at request of the Spanish Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War in the lead-up to World War II. Picasso's painting was exhibited widely around the world, and the money collected from the exhibitions was sent to war relief efforts (a good example of the sort of anti-war action that can be undertaken by an artist, which is a theme in this song as well).
Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937)
Sakurai said that when he received the demo of the song from Imai, he considered whether to run with the Guernica theme or write about something different, but ultimately decided to interweave the Guernica theme with one of his own indelible childhood memories. In this interview in Ongaku to Hito magazine, he explains: "The first movie I ever saw in the theater with my older brother was 'Benji,' which is a film about a dog. There was only one movie theater in Fujioka [Fujioka, Gunma prefecture, is Buck-Tick's hometown], and they played double features. The second film was called 'The Clocks Were Alive,' and it was about the bombing of Maebashi [one of Gunma's two major cities]. The impression it made on me never left me. I'll never forget it... For this song, I decided to imagine how the world of 'Guernica' would unfold for me, and I thought of the time I went to the movies with my brother... I ask myself honestly, 'Do you have a right to lecture others? Aren't you living in comfortable complacency yourself?' That's another place where I told myself, 'I have to say it straight.' Of course, I have no answer, so I keep going around and around. But I decided I'd write about it. When you get to be my age, you have things to protect. Partly, this song is my own thoughts on our current era."
In keeping with this backstory, the band's live performance of this song on the No. 0 Tour featured an artist's rendering of a small boy who looks very much like Sakurai did when he was a child, dressed in the same white hat and kindergarten school uniform Sakurai wore as a child (childhood photos of the Buck-Tick members were published in Love Me, among other books).
Sakurai and his brother as children (dawww aren't they cute?)
Young Master Sakurai with Mean Old Mister Sakurai (Those of you who've been to/are going to see the tour, note the white hat!)
Also, for those of you who don't know - Sakurai was raised in an abusive household, where his violent alcoholic father beat his mother, and his beloved older brother, in imitation, beat him. Whether or not they were too poor to afford sweets at the movie theater, that line about the stick of gum isn't in there for no reason. In addition, Sakurai's mother died when he was in his early twenties, an event which scarred him for life, and inspired him to write numerous songs in her memory, most notably "Jupiter," "Sakura," and "Long Distance Call." Sakurai has always spoken openly and candidly about his grief for his mother's death, so in that context, the final stanza of this song is not as comforting as it might first appear.
I also see significant similarities between this song and The Mortal's "Sayonara Waltz." Imai claims he just came up with the waltz tempo completely at random, but since he's the same guy who claimed that the album Mona Lisa Overdrive had nothing to do with the novel of the same name by William Gibson, I'm not sure we should believe him on that score. I tend to think there was some desperate jealousy at Jake, some booze, and some vindictive self-pleasure involved. But maybe I'm reading too much in.
Somewhere I'm sure I'm not reading too much in is Sakurai's use of the line "carrying away all the ones you love" - that's definitely a direct reference to "Ai no Souretsu." In my review of Atom Miraiha No. 9, I discussed how "Ai no Souretsu" is the dark mirror of "Love Parade," but [SPOILER ALERT] the live performance of "Guernica" does that one better - when Buck-Tick performed "Guernica" on the No. 0 tour, the graphics on the backdrop during this section of the song depicted the silhouetted ladies and gentlemen of the celebratory 30th anniversary parade graphics as a line of refugees, fleeing the fiery destruction of the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Big Ben. The first time the band performed this song live, the crowd were left speechless. When the song ended, no one cheered or shrieked or called out the names of the band members - but they did clap, and loudly.
We won't spoil any more at this time than we already have, but Buck-Tick's live performance of "Guernica no Yoru" is like nothing we've ever seen, from Buck-Tick or from any other band, with the sole exception of Kraftwerk's performance of "Radioactivity" (and sadly we only ever got to see that one on video). If you're one of those people who doesn't like it when musicians you like get political, we encourage you to read the lyrics to "Guernica" once more, carefully and thoroughly, and then seriously reconsider your stance. If you consider yourself a fangirl of Mr. Sakurai, but you disagree with his politics - we encourage you ask you why you're a fan of him, and why you're a fan of Buck-Tick. Is it just because he's pretty? And if so, what does that make you? Because Sakurai is asking a real, difficult question here. The reporter in Ongaku to Hito glossed over it, but she shouldn't have. It's a question that each and every one of us should be asking ourselves, every single day. Think it's not your problem? I think I see some Syrian refugees at your door. Children are being murdered every single day.
Japan is the only nation on earth that has actually suffered a nuclear attack, and yet these days, the political establishment tries to hush and shush the people who speak out against war, militarization, and nuclear technology. There's a strong feeling throughout the country that artists should not be political - but what, exactly, is the job of an artist, if not to hold a mirror up to the world? If the people who look in that mirror don't like what they see, whose fault is that? Buck-Tick have mostly toed the line and kept fairly quiet, even though their political grumblings invariably slip out at times (see "Rakuen," "Sid Vicious on the Beach," "Kyokutou Yori Ai wo Komete," "Elise no Tame ni," etc.) Now, however, after thirty years of success, they've clearly realized that, like Imai's idols Sakamoto Ryuichi and Endo Michirou, they've earned the right to speak out. This stuff isn't new. They've always wanted to say it, it's just that now, they can say it fully (Endo Michirou never needed permission to be outspoken, but Buck-Tick's circumspection has built a larger global platform for them to speak from).
Now, at last, they've taken a unequivocal stand, and the sight is glorious. Because that's something that you, too, can do: refuse to be silent. Don't ignore injustice and hate when you see it, even if it's just something small, like someone tossing around racist language. Speak up! Positive change only happens when we force it to happen. Don't shrug your shoulders and tell yourself it's okay if you say nothing because "that's just the way things are." As Ophelia said, "we know what we are, but we know not what we may be."
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