The Third Parade

A little bit late for Buck-Tick's 30th anniversary, but still exciting: Buck-Tick have announced the release of their third tribute album, Parade III, which will also come out on January 29th, 2020, the same day as Datenshi. The jacket art features an original drawing by nationally famous psychedelic artist Uno Aquirax, who is a personal friend of Imai's, and already well known in Buck-Tickistan as the creator of the jacket art and tour goods designs for Razzle Dazzle. While not quite as involved as the Razzle Dazzle album cover, this one's still plenty cute. Could that accordion-playing crocodile be a shoutout to the original Gustave the Nile Crocodile? What's that eye ball doing all by itself? How does that turtle feel about having a frog on its back? Is the androgynous creature in the pirate hat the shade of Pete Burns? And check out the way that camel is, hehe, humping Buck-Tick! There are so many questions here, it will tie up y'all art nerds for weeks! Go nuts!

This new tribute album is notable because it contains tracks by many artists who have closely collaborated with Buck-Tick over the years, including indie artists with followings too small to prop up a joint tour with Buck-Tick, like the joint tours that happened with the previous two Parade albums (Der Zibet, Cube Juice, and Kokushoku Sumire fall into this category). Parade III also contains the highest number of female vocalists of any of the Parade tribute albums to date - Shiina Ringo, Margaret Hiroi of 88 Kasho Junrei, two-bit former idol Fujikawa Chiai, and Sakamoto Miu (daughter of YMO keyboardist, anti-nuke crusader and bona-fide legend Sakamoto Ryuichi and strange folksy musical faerie Yano Akiko). (Oh wait, did you say that Yuka from Kokushoku Sumire is also a vocalist? We must have missed it! Sorry, fans!) The lineup for this new tribute album also contains many younger artists, in addition to relative contemporaries of Buck-Tick. It's unclear how all these artists were selected to participate in this album, but perhaps some of the younger artists represent a younger generation who were influenced by Buck-Tick - and if so, Buck-Tick should be proud, at least of their cultural power, if not the musical ability of their admirers... but I get ahead of myself.

The list of songs has already been announced, so let's take a look at the various artists, their song choices, and their connections to B-T.


First on the list are Der Zibet, with "Ai no Souretsu," and it's too bad they're at the top of the list, because this is almost certainly going to be the best track on the album (though we've got hopeful eyes on a few others, too.)

Der Zibet have been well known to most Buck-Tick fans since the beginning, mainly because of Der Zibet vocalist Issay's close (and most decidedly, definitely, by no means homo-erotic"friendship" friendship with Mr. Sakurai. Der Zibet came on the scene in 1984, when Buck-Tick were still in their infancy as a band, and were an inspiration to Sakurai in his early days in Tokyo, before Buck-Tick made it big. Issay and Sakurai later became close friends, recorded songs together, and made guest appearances on each other's tours. Sakurai appeared as a guest vocalist on the song "Masquerade," for Der Zibet's album 1991 Shishunki II -Downer Side-, and Imai appeared as a guest guitarist on "4D Vision no Rasen Kaidan," for the same album. Issay and Hikaru (Der Zibet's guitarist and main songwriter) stated that they composed "Masquerade" in Sakurai's image. The lyrics to "4D Vision" also contain a veiled reference to Imai's curlicue red guitar. Sakurai and Imai both appeared as guests on some of Der Zibet's tour stops to promote the album, with Sakurai and Issay giving an infamously decidedly not homo-erotic performance that was filmed but never released publicly, probably because the venue staff at the Kudan Kaikan (where the show took place) didn't want to repeat the experience of having to spend an entire week mopping sour fangirl bodily effluvia off the floor. 

Sakurai later appeared as a guest vocalist on the track "Koi no Hallelujah" for Issay's 1994 solo cover album Flowers. Issay stated that he had Sakurai sing the higher harmony line for this song deliberately, despite the fact that Sakurai's vocal range is lower, because he thought the role reversal "would be very interesting." This choice surely had absolutely zero homo-erotic meanings regarding the nature of the relationship between the two.

In 1995, Issay appeared as a guest vocalist on "Itoshi no Rock Star" for Buck-Tick's album Six/Nine, and appeared as a guest at several of the live performances as well, for another filmed-but-not-released reprise of the fabled on-stage makeout scene of 1991. The interesting thing about "Itsohi no Rock Star" is that despite the fact that while Sakurai and Issay have very different voices when singing separately, when singing together, and on this track in particular, they sound nearly indistinguishable from one another. If you never noticed there are two vocalists on "Itoshi no Rock Star," don't kick yourself - it's hard to tell.

In 2010, Sakurai rejoined Der Zibet to record a re-worked version of "Masquerade" for the band's self-cover album Nostalgic Future. Then, in 2012, Der Zibet performed at Yagami Toll's 50th birthday show, It's a Now! (live report here), at which they performed "Masquerade" again with a surprise guest appearance from Sakurai. Madeouts were made, and filmed. But not released. Because Buck-Tick's management made a good decision for once and decided the internet was already soggy enough with fangirl juices to last several aeons into the future. Sorry, fans.

Anyhow, given the close relationship between the two bands, it's a bit surprising that Der Zibet didn't appear on one of the previous tribute albums. We can only suspect it's because, following their initial 1996 break-up and subsequent 13 year hiatus, they lost touch with most of their fan following, and returned to the music scene in 2009 as a small-scale indie act, despite the fact that in their earlier career they regularly mounted national tours and sold out large venues. Indie they still are, and (scuttlebutt alert!) possessed of one of the most ill-mannered fan followings in all of Japan (after Buck-Tick's, that is), but their influence on Japanese rock should not be overlooked. Arguably the earliest precursor to visual kei, Der Zibet were the first Japanese band to fully unite dark, goth rock and post punk sounds with sparkling new wave and glam rock, releasing consistently original work in a unique fusion of genres, and challenging simplistic rock-n-roll musical structures with exceedingly complex variations, made possible by the high level of technical skill and musicianship possessed by each band member. 

As for their choice of song... though Der Zibet's music has taken a much darker, more gothic turn in recent years, "Ai no Souretsu" is very dark, even for them. However, it's easy to see why the enka-style melody appealed to Issay's retro-cabaret sensibilities. Also, given that Sakurai made no secret of the fact that "Ai no Souretsu" was his favorite song on Atom Miraiha No. 9, the choice may be a bit of a favor or tribute to the 100% certified platonic, heterosexual, manly, bro-dude, no-homo friendship between the two.

Next, we have Dir en grey with "National Media Boys." This particular collaboration amuses us greatly on a personal level, because back in 2006 when we started NGS, we were avid fans of Dir en grey as well as Buck-Tick, but the two bands were not friends with each other at the time, and back then, we figured they never would be friends, because they'd probably never get along. And now look at them! The Dir en grey members (especially guitarist Die and drummer Shinya) can be spotted at Buck-Tick shows every year. In fact, once yours truly actually ended up seated directly behind Die at a Buck-Tick show. Early in Dir en grey's career, vocalist Kyo also stated that it was a picture of Mr. Sakurai on a middle school classmate's desk that inspired him to become a rock musician, though vocals-wise, he's made no secret that his greatest influence is Kiyoharu.

Dir en grey have very different attitudes and aesthetics to Buck-Tick. Once poster children for the visual kei movement, Dir en grey doffed that mantle after inadvertently spawning a huge crop of imitator bands with small blond vocalists and sexy-grotesque looks (most notably Nightmare and the Gazette. Sorry, fans.) Determined to make it big in America, Dir en grey drastically toned down their visual image and pushed their songwriting into solidly progressive metal territory, making friends with various American metal bands, and touring widely in America and Europe. After more than a decade of international struggle, Dir en grey achieved what they'd always wanted: relatively mainstream acceptance in the pantheon of Western metal, without being slapped as "anime" or other racist labels typically given to Japanese bands daring to try to make a break in the West. Though Dir en grey's early work displays a great range of tongue-in-cheek horror humor, their metal-era work has been decidedly serious. At times, their music reaches soaring heights of gentle melodic beauty, like sun breaking through storm clouds, but the predominant emotions are anger, sadness, and regret, and the dour attitude the band members display in interviews reflects these themes... which is why we never thought they'd become friends with the giggly, socially awkward peace-and-love living cat memes who are the B-T members. But if the B-T members are coaxing some laughs out of the Dir en grey dudes behind closed doors, so much the better.

As far as their song choice goes, "National Media Boys" may seem surprising at first glance - after all, it's major-key pop, far from Buck-Tick's most metal song, and you might think that Dir en grey would choose to cover a song that matches their hardcore sound. However, this is probably a song that holds sentimental value for the Dir en grey members, because it came out when they were still in school. Beyond that, the toxicity of mass media has been a very important theme in Dir en grey's work, explored in songs like "Gyakujou Tannou Keloid Milk" and "Mr. Newsman" (the latter containing one of Cayce's favorite Dir en grey lyrics of all time, "In my head a blue fish has just died/Good night"). As typical of Japanese bands, Dir en grey have not stooped to naming names in their political disgruntlement, but the disgruntlement is obvious all the same. Choosing to cover a song that amounts to a rejection of fascism at this moment in history is obviously a political choice, and one that fits in perfectly with Buck-Tick's mission.


Next, we have Brahman, with "Iconoclasm." Perhaps it's not surprising, given how this song holds such an, erm, iconic place in Buck-Tick's discography, but "Iconoclasm" is probably Buck-Tick's most-covered song of all time, appearing on all three Parade albums (J covered it on Parade I, while D'erlanger covered it on Parade II). We could lament the lack of originality in song choice, but for the fact that, as an Asian-flavored hardcore punk band, Brahman have more claim to the song on the basis of musical style. Brahman aren't a band we follow, but they have a solid following in Japan and have, like Dir en grey, succeeded in numerous international tours on their own merits, avoiding racist labels. For whatever reason, it seems that the international punk and metal scenes are more willing to embrace bands from a variety of different countries, and all we can say to that is, way to go guys, keep setting a good example for everyone else.

Another interesting thing about Brahman is that they openly state that their music is inspired by traditional Japanese and Indian music and mythology, as well as Western-derived punk influences. The connection between Brahman and B-T remains obscure for the moment, but one thing the two bands have in common is this overtly Asian influence, which can be heard in both lyrics and music across Buck-Tick's discography (see "Oriental Love Story," "Kalavinka," "Kagerou," "Yumeji," "Adult Children," etc.) - incidentally, something Dir en grey also share. For those of you interested, check out a digest of Brahman's live performances here. Note how lead singer Toshi-Low is wearing a t-shirt that reads "Hansen," the Japanese word for "No War," while the bassist is wearing a t-shirt that reads "Destroy Fascism." These are punk sentiments, through and through, but we know B-T share them. Already, this newest tribute album is looking a teeny weeny little bit political (and we don't think that's a bad thing).


Fourth on the list is Shiina Ringo, with "Uta." After the smashing success of Ringo's joint performance with Mr. Sakurai on the TV program Music Station, this collaboration is no surprise. Based on the reports we heard, Shiina Ringo fans and Music Station viewers across the internet were wowed by Sakurai's performance of "Elopers," filling up Twitter with comments like, "Who is this guy? He's too pretty to be real!" Shiina Ringo's career is burning hot - she's just released an all-time best album, Newton's Ringo, and her participation in Parade III is bound to bring in still more crossover fans... we hold Ringo entirely responsible for the fact that the tickets to this year's Day in Question were almost impossible to get, so fans, be ready to bid farewell to your chances of ever seeing Buck-Tick live again without resorting to blackmail, extortion, and prostitution. We already wrote about Shiina Ringo in this post, so read it if you're interested.

As far as her song choice goes, it will be interesting to see how she handles "Uta." This song is harder and more industrial than most of Ringo's work (with the notable exception of "Elopers"), and the melody doesn't necessarily seem the most obviously suited to Ringo's voice or typical style. However, the dark and existential theme of the song fits in very well with the themes she worked with on her most recent album, Sandokushi. The lyrics to "Uta" are also notable for their explicitly male viewpoint on sexuality, so it will be interesting to see if Ringo sings the song through with the original lyrics, or tweaks it to fit a woman's perspective - plenty of Ringo's songs are sexually explicit, but as a woman, she writes from a very different perspective than Sakurai. Ringo is nothing if not versatile, so it's possible she'll come out with something entirely different to the original song, and we hope she does. The whole point of a cover album is experimenting with new interpretations of old songs.


Fifth up are GARI, with "Aku no Hana." For those of you new to Buck-Tickistan, GARI frontman Yow-Row (pronounced "Yoichiro," not that you'd know it from that ridiculous affected spelling) is a longtime Buck-Tick collaborator. GARI's first credit in Buck-Tick's universe was for their industrial rock arrangement of the Japanese translation of Edith Piaf's classic anthem "Ai no Sanka" ("Hymne l'Amour") for Sakurai's first solo project in 2004. This track appeared on Sakurai's solo EP Wakusei -Rebirth-, and if y'all haven't heard it, by all means go check it out - it's dark and angry and sexy as hell, and about as far as you can get from the original version of the song, while still maintaining all the pathos.

Much later, in 2016, Yow-Row returned to Buck-Tickistan as the vocalist of the new Schaft, in lieu of Raymond Watts, who wasn't available at the time. Yow-Row can be heard singing lead vocals on Schaft 2016's album Ultra and EP Deeper and Down. Though he doubtless did his best trying to fill Ray's big shoes, Yow-Row didn't quite manage to carry the weight of Schaft, choosing instead to try and make himself inconspicuous so that Imai and Fujii Maki could shine. In our opinion, this was a grave error - he ought to have known that Fujii Maki never shines. Fujii Maki is the bottomless pit of Tartarus. He's a supermassive black hole. He never smiles and he certainly never stoops to acting like he's performing a rock show. He simply cannot be allowed the responsibility of fronting a band. Consequently, Schaft 2016 ended up being the Imai Hisashi show, and might have been more fun had Imai just grabbed the bull by the horns wholesale and done the vocals himself. But we know the very idea of singing while playing guitar made him too nervous to continue. For more on the Schaft 2016 tour, read our live report here.

Yow-Row has also worked directly with Buck-Tick on their albums Arui wa Anarchy and No. 0, providing keyboards and electronic sound manipulation for "Melancholia -Electria" (for the Keijijou Ryuusei single), "Uchuu Circus" and "Melancholia" (for Arui wa Anarchy), and "Gustave," "Salome -Femme Fatale-" and "Babel" (for No. 0). Here, he was more in his element, if a bit of a show-off at times. GARI's sound hovers somewhere between industrial, screamo, and dubstep, and Yow-Row made effective use of dubstep grooves to spice up both "Melancholia" and "Gustave" into club-ready dance tracks. Though his treatment of "Salome" came across as a bit of a desperate bid for attention, there's no denying that the keyboard solo at the end is cool, and the electro-scapes behind "Babel" and "Uchuu Circus" do a lot to make the songs pop.

Given this close history and familiarity with Buck-Tick, when we read that GARI's choice of cover song is "Aku no Hana," we can only ask, dear God, why??? This is the most basic bitch to ever bitch the BiTch of basic BiTch Buck-Tick covers. (Fun fact, Imai was a BiTch before he was a BesTia.) It has already been done to death, appearing, like Iconoclasm, on the previous two Parade albums, first in the hands of Rally (a Buck-Tick fanboy super-group led by GLAY's very own mini-Hisashi), and then in the hands of solidarifically politically disgruntled ero-guro retro visual kei band Merry, who, in our opinion, should have been allowed the last word on this song after their electrifying live performances of it on tour and festival in 2012. Dear Yow-Row, Buck-Tick have nearly 300 songs to their name. You are their friend, collaborator, and drinking buddy. It's clear your a closet tryhard and desperately want them to think you're cool. What made you think "Aku no Hana" was a good choice? We sincerely want to know the answer.

Actually, on second thought, no we don't. And the instant we hear a whiff of your heavy-handed use of Auto-Tune on the vocal tracks, we're skipping to the next track and never going back. Tryhards should try harder.


Next on the list are minus, featuring Fujikawa Chiai, with "Keijijou Ryuusei." For those of you who don't know, minus is the dark-electro unit founded some years ago by Fujii Maki and Morioka Ken, formerly of Japanese new wave sensation Soft Ballet. Soft Ballet were scouted by Sawaki Kazuo of Taiyou Records, the eccentric who scouted Buck-Tick and declared they would make it big based on their numerology charts. After Soft Ballet made it big, too, word was that Sawaki got himself an attitude, but unfortunately failed to scout any further big-hit bands. However, we'd say that scouting Buck-Tick and Soft Ballet alone is more than enough to brag about for the rest of your career.

Soft Ballet were close with Buck-Tick, and even toured together with Buck-Tick and Luna Sea in the suggestively-named 1994 LSB Tour. Morioka also played keyboards on Buck-Tick's album Seventh Heaven in 1988, and then again in 2014 on "Sekai wa Yami de Michiteiru," for Arui wa Anarchy. Fujii Maki, meanwhile, worked with Imai off and on as Schaft, starting in 1991 with a track, "Nicht-Titel," for the dark-alt omnibus album Dance2Noise 001. Schaft then released a full-length album in 1994, adding Raymond Watts of British industrial unit Pig as a vocalist, along with a large roster of guest musicians. As we discussed in the section on GARI, Schaft resumed activities in 2016 at the urging of Fujii, with a new lineup including GARI vocalist Yow-Row, L'arc en Ciel drummer Awaji Yukihiro, and AA= bassist Ueda Takeshi.

Basically, the Buck-Tick members have been friends with Fujii and Morioka for more than two decades. Buck-Tick even performed with minus at the 2015 Lunatic Festival (live report here). However, Morioka passed away suddenly in 2016, right as minus was gearing up for a national tour, so Fujii was left to carry on with the band alone... which is doubtless why he kept on adding more and more and more drummers to the mix. We confess that after Morioka's passing, we stopped following the band. Fujii may be an accomplished mixer of electronic music, but he's just about the least engaging live performer we've ever seen (sorry, fans). Morioka was the one who carried the stage shows, with his flamboyant personality, sexy costumes, and energetic dancing. For us, this was the point, and once the point had ascended back into the seventh dimension, there was no more point down here on earth. So we really have no idea what happened to minus after 2016, aside from the fact that they have kept up their activities and people still attend their shows.

When Morioka was still around, he usually performed most of the vocals himself (he may have been lip-synching part of it, but that's because it's very hard to sing and dance at the same time. You get out of breath). With Morioka gone... well, we have no idea. If anyone here does, please let us know. It's telling that all the videos on the minus YouTube channel date from a time when Morioka was still shuffling along the mortal coil with the rest of us poor suckers instead of cartwheeling through the Milky Way with other beautiful glitter aliens. Guest vocalists? Disembodied vocal backtracks? Fujii Maki actually singing?

It's true that minus have worked with a number of guest vocalists, including Kent from Lilies and Remains, and Kate from u crack irigaru. Who's Fujikawa Chiai then, you ask? Don't feel bad, we asked the same question. Answer: she is a former idol turned "singer" who was born approximately five minutes ago, so don't feel embarrassed if you've never heard of her. Why is she doing vocals for minus on Buck-Tick's tribute album? We have no idea about that one either. None of the other vocalists minus worked with (at least till Morioka's passing) came from the land of mainstream idol-pop, and they each had distinctive voices well suited to the band's eerie, dark, atmospheric sound. Fujikawa, while perfectly competent and unobjectionable as a singer, sounds (and looks) exactly like every other j-pop girl out there, which is pretty much the requirement if you want to be an idol. After all, who wants an idol who doesn't look the same as all the other ones? It defeats the purpose!

While the choice of "Keijijou Ryuusei" fits well with the dark and down-tempo aspect of the minus sound, we harbor deep doubts about Fujikawa's ability to pull off a song this intense and existential. The ultralite quality of her vocals would lend themselves far better to Buck-Tick's early work, such as "Sissy Boy" or "Telephone Murder." (No joke, we would actually love to hear minus plus Fujikawa cover "Telephone Murder"). But they probably didn't choose her for her voice, so much as her potential to get younger people (or idol-loving mouthbreathers?) to buy the album. And make the rest of us suffer.


If you've made it this far, you get a reward: Cube Juice, with "Love Me." Down-tempo electro artist Cube Juice is another long-time Buck-Tick collaborator. In addition to contributing the music for "Fantasy" and "Tensei" to Sakurai's Ai no Wakusei solo project in 2004, and performing live at the tour as Mr. Sakurai's own personal keyboard-playing "free hugs" bitch boy, he was also a member of Hoshino Hidehiko's electro-chill side project dropz, along with former Sneaker Pimps vocalist Kelli Ali. Since then, Cube Juice has done keyboards and manipulation for tracks on just about every Buck-Tick album, mainly for songs written by Hoshino, though he made a notable contribution to Imai's "Hikari no Teikoku" on No. 0. Pale-faced and petit, Cube Juice looks like he could easily be the pixy from "Pixy" (one of the Buck-Tick songs he worked on), and his sound matches his appearance - gentle, dreamy, sweet without being saccharine. His albums III and In the Eye of a Wili-Wili have been on our chill-out music rotation for more than a decade.

For that reason, it's no surprise he picked "Love Me." More recent live versions of the song have had an up-tempo, rock-n-roll vibe, but the original Aku no Hana mix was about as close to the calm, soft Cube Juice sound as anything Buck-Tick have released. In general, Cube Juice doesn't do much with vocals beyond breathy, heavily distorted samples, but a few of his earliest tracks featured him singing full lead vocal lines, so we know he can do it if he has a mind to. We're really looking forward to this one.


Next up, Kokushoku Sumire with "Lullaby III." Kokushoku Sumire, much as it pains us to say so, are also long-time Buck-Tick collaborators, a calamity for which Imai Hisashi is solely responsible (more on that here, if you care). Imai first picked up this goth-loli violin Tim Burton claymation "band" for Buck-Tick's second re-working of "Victims of Love," which appeared as the second b-side on the Keijijou Ryuusei single in 2014. The Kokushoku Sumire members then made deeply regrettable guest appearances on a few stops of the Arui wa Anarchy hall tour, performing the new version of "Victims of Love" with Buck-Tick, as well as "Doll" and "Diabolo." Imai then performed as a guest guitarist on Kokushoku Sumire's album Cosmopolitan, which we confess we never listened to (but we hear it includes 10 Great Tips on How to Use Squeaky Violins in the Bedroom that are Sure to Drive Him Wild!) Kokushoku Sumire also worked with Buck-Tick on their most recent single, providing violin and accordion on "Rondo," a far more successful collaboration than the disappointingly ill-fated "Victims of Love."

As for the song, we would have thought that "Doll" would have been the obvious choice, since it's Buck-Tick's most goth-loli song to date, and on the Anarchy tour it offered vocalist Yuka a chance to pretend to play a toy piano. Music-wise, "Lullaby III" fits better with the group's sound than many of the other song choices on Parade III fit their cover-ers, but do Kokushoku Sumire really have the balls to sing about razor blades, murderers, and, horror of horrors, kissing? (Ewwwww!!! Boys have cooties!!!) Also, how the fuck can you cover "Lullaby III" without a bass player? Then again, though Kokushoku Sumire may be talentless and unlistenable, at least they are bona-fide underground musicians, not idol hand-me-downs. Sheesh, we never thought we'd have to say such a thing on this blog. What is the world coming to?


Next up, GranRodeo, with "Tenshi wa Dare da." GranRodeo are one of those names we've seen floating around for years, without ever having a real sense of who it belongs to. Researching this article, we discovered that they are a duo founded by an anime voice actor, Kishow, and unsurprisingly given their lineage, have made a lot of anime soundtrack songs. Sound-wise... well, they sound like anime songs, the way anime songs sound these days - hyper pumped-up positive major key, and completely interchangeable. Their session bassist also plays bass for Nishikawa Takanori's band Abingdon Boys' School, so this may be the secret to how they ended up on Buck-Tick's tribute album, since we all know how much Takanori adores Acchan-chan! However, GranRodeo also doubtless wanted in on this album precisely so they could cover a song as hyper pumped-up positive minor key annoying and repetitive as "Tenshi wa Dare da," a song we never used to hate till Buck-Tick played it 5,235,280,981,321,321 times live (make it stoooooooop!). We can't say yea or nay to their music, but this video is worth watching, if for no other reason than that Imai is surely murderously jealous of Kishow's jacket.


Next come Sid, with "Jupiter." And all we have to say to this is, is there some kind of arcane rule of the Parade tribute albums that states that whiny former visual kei bands are required to cover "Jupiter"? Mucc's rendition of "Jupiter" for Parade II was probably the worst version of the song we've ever heard, including all those drunken out-of-tune karaoke performances we sat through back in our tear-up-the-town younger years. We're not even going to apologize to Mucc fans for that statement, because we also heard it live at the Parade Fest 2012, and it was so bad we almost drowned ourselves in our beer glass before Buck-Tick ever came on stage.

The good thing is, it's unlikely Sid could possibly do as bad a job on this song as Mucc did. But if, somehow, they manage to actually do worse, we will give them a prize. Because that's how we roll.

Oh yeah, who are Sid and why are they on a B-T tribute album? Sid are a former decora kei band (like visual kei but with gay catboys covered in conversation hearts). Now, we gather, they are a Daiso Halloween level "dark-ish" mostly-mainstream but still slightly visual kei band, who are capable of selling out the Budoukan. As to why they are on Buck-Tick's tribute album, we can only assume this is a bid for Kurumi's hand in marriage. Too bad Kurumi is already married to Acchan.


Now, we have one of the most interesting and surprising participants and song choices: Hachijuu-Hachi Kasho Junrei, with "Ao no Sekai." This band's very long and difficult name means "Pilgrimage to 88 Places," which fits with the band's use of traditional Japanese imagery and mythology, and lots and lots of difficult kanji and obscure religious references. Aside from the fact that they got their start in 2006, little is known about their history - not even the band's website offers much to go on. Still signed to an indie label, it appears that the band languished in obscurity for some years before getting popular enough to mount oneman tours more recently. One of the distinctive elements of this band is that they're fronted by a woman, Margaret Hiroi, who is also the bassist and main lyricist. If y'all are as sick of wimpy j-pop girls as we are, 88 Kasho Junrei are like a screaming freight train of angry fresh air, slamming down hard-rock, punk and metal riffs in spastic, humorous, acid-trip music videos, while criticizing the government. How they came to be on Buck-Tick's tribute album is anyone's guess, but more than many of the bands in the lineup this time, 88 Kasho Junrei have the right level of weirdness and iconoclastic spirit to feel like they've actually earned their spot, and they fit with the anti-fascist undercurrent.

And what a song choice! "Ao no Sekai" is one of our favorite Buck-Tick songs, but we'd hazard a guess that the likes of Yow-Row has never even listened to it once (because once you hear a song like "Ao no Sekai," how can you cover "Aku no Hana"?) It's one of Buck-Tick's more musically complex numbers, and it requires powerhouse vocals, but it appears that unlike many of the other vocalists on this album, Margaret Hiroi's vocals pack enough punch to do it justice. However, we think it's likely she selected the song because of that sexy slap bass line, and we can't blame her. If we were a bassist, we'd slap the fuck out of that line. We'd make love to that line. That line is kinky roleplay incarnate.


Next up, we have Fujimaki Ryota with "Just One More Kiss." Former frontman of chart-topping soft-rock band Remioromen, Fujimaki (not to be confused with Fujii Maki) launched a solo career in 2012, following Remioromen's announcement of indefinite hiatus. His solo music style is that folksy, drippy, anthem-pop meets singer-songwriter sound that the top of the Japanese pop charts can't get enough of these days, and while it's not a style that's ever held much appeal to us, what can be said for Fujimaki is that he has a lovely voice and he's an accomplished guitar player. "Just One More Kiss" is another obvious, "been done" song choice, but at the same time, it suits Fujimaki's style so well, we wouldn't be surprised if he pulled off a cover version that's better than the original. (Objective fact: "Just One More Kiss" is one of Buck-Tick's stupidest songs. Why else do you think it's the song that made them famous? We could do with a better version that gives it all the schlock pop cheese it deserves. Fight me, fangirls. Fight me.) We just hope he makes sure to include those lines in the middle, "I'm sinking a bow choo. You ah my won and only lavass."


Finally, last, and (maybe not, but probably) least, we have Sakamoto Miu, with "Miu." As we mentioned up top, Sakamoto Miu is the daughter of musical superhero Sakamoto Ryuichi and his former wife, Yano Akiko, a well-known musician in her own right. You'd think that with parents this talented, Miu would be a talented firecracker herself, but... well... she's not her dad. While she obviously chose to cover "Miu" because she and the song share the same name, we wonder if she actually listened to the song before signing on to sing it. "Miu" might superficially sound light and gentle, like Sakamoto Miu's music, but the story it tells, of suicidal longing for perfect union with a mysterious, unrequited dream-love, goes abyssal-zone deep into the dark interior psychology Sakurai loves so much. Even if it's full of flowers and butterflies, this isn't just a song about flowers and butterflies, and though Sakurai sings it in a light, gentle voice to suit the melody, he still makes sure to convey all the wistfulness, pain and longing in the lyrics.

Does Sakamoto Miu have any chance of even coming close to pulling this off? We don't know, but her strangely emotionless cover of "The Never Ending Story" doesn't do much to inspire hope. She seems to be having genuine difficulty singing the melody, which interferes with her ability to give the song any sort of personality or interpretation, and unlike YMO's vocals, Miu's deadpan vocals don't appear to be deliberate in service of some kind of artistic end. So why's she on Buck-Tick's tribute album? Well, maybe it's because Shiina Ringo went on her radio show and talked up how cool Acchan-chan is. Or maybe, it's because Imai wanted a hit of whatever the fuck she's doing in this music video. (We think it's the second one).


So that concludes our not-so-short summary of this Parade album's list of artists. All in all, we can probably expect about one third thumbs-up, one-third meh, and one-third unlistenable travesty from this album, which is maybe better than Parade II, though certainly not as good as Parade I. We sort of hate to sound like a hater, but if you're willing to appear on a Buck-Tick tribute album, that means you're willing to be judged against Buck-Tick, and that's a challenge not for the faint of heart.

The fact is, Buck-Tick songs are hard to cover. They may be fairly technically simple, but the Buck-Tick members have such strong musical personalities that it's a rare artist who can really make their songs come alive. We've seen it a few times, but not many. What do y'all think? What track are you most looking forward to on this album? What tracks were your favorites on the previous Parade albums? What artist who isn't on here do you think should be on here, and what song do you think they should cover? Have you found any quality Buck-Tick covers on YouTube or elsewhere that you think are worth sharing?  Please share in the comments section, and help Blog-Tick live again (we're undead, undead, undead!)



Fallen Angels

Hi, folks. This is Cayce. Remember us? It's been a long time, we know. And we're sorry. Last year, we never would have guessed how long our health troubles would drag on, or how painful and draining it would be. It's been a hard lesson in how healing can't be rushed, and how sometimes, the only remedy is rest. We'd like to thank all of you who sent well-wishes and words of support (not to mention Ko-fi!) We were very sorry to let you all down, so thanks for not holding it against us. We'll try to get back to a more regular blogging schedule, but updates might be fewer till we're fully recovered. We have to see how it goes.

But oh, how it goes! The goings-on in Buck-Tickistan are multiplying just like dollies or those sci-fi monsters in "Madman Blues"! New single!? New tribute album!!!? New Uno Aquirax artwork!!!!? UFO sightings!!!!!??? After a quiet and leisurely summer, in Buck-Tickistan, things are heating up just as the weather cools down.


Fallen Angels

On the night of the golden glowing full moon, Fish Tank announced that Buck-Tick will be releasing their 38th single, entitled Datenshi ("Fallen Angels"), on January 29th, 2020. The single will contain two new songs: "Datenshi," with lyrics by Sakurai Atsushi and music by Imai Hisashi, "Luna Park," with lyrics by Sakurai Atsushi and music by Hoshino Hidehiko (please send him a letter of congratulations on asserting himself enough to make it onto a single!) The limited edition of the single will contain a bonus live track from the Day in Question 2019, as well as a DVD/BluRay with the music video for "Datenshi." The prices are as follows:

Limited Edition A (with BluRay) - 2618 yen including tax
Limited Edition B (with DVD) - 2068 yen including tax
Regular Edition - 1100 yen including tax

There's no further info about the single as yet, so now's the time to sit tight and make wild predictions about the cover art and vibe of the songs. Fallen angels is a theme Buck-Tick have worked with extensively, which runs very deep in its metaphysical meanings and ties to the rest of the band's work. Imai has explored the character of Lucifer as a fallen angel in a number of songs, including "Tenshi wa Dare da" and Lucy's "Lucifer a Go Go" (for those of you who don't know this one, check it out, it's a goodie.) He tends to paint Lucifer in a positive light, as an independent thinker and seeker of freedom, wanting to experience the sensuality of physical life to the full. This is a big theme throughout Imai's lyrics - in "Dokudanjou Beauty" he encourages everyone to indulge in the sensual world "like God's not watching." As we have discussed previously, while Buck-Tick do not actually espouse Satanism as a religion, their work does align with certain positive Satanist values, such as embracing one's physical, animal nature, and freely indulging in the senses without shame or guilt.

Sakurai has also worked with these themes, such as in "Bi Neo Universe," but often, in his lyrics, the fallen angel image grows a shade darker in his hands, a lament for a forgotten connection with spiritual oneness, the so-called "Fall from Eden," into a world rife with violence, cruelty, and suffering. We can see this in songs like "Devil's Wings," "Rakuen," and "Cain." The question of why people hurt one another has become an increasingly important one in Sakurai's work over the years, and especially on No. 0. But on a more existential level, Sakurai has used the fallen angel image to explore the nature of physical existence. Who are we, really, and how did we get here, and where do we go when we die, he asks. 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.

Another common association with the fallen angel image is the biblical Nephilim, a group of angels who descended from heaven to breed with human women, and were thus banned from returning to heaven. The story of the Nephilim appears to go back long before Christianity, and is widely beloved in the goth subculture, not least because it ties in with myths from ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Sumeria, and the purported lost civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, about visitors from the stars or higher planes of reality who visited Earth to share their highly advanced knowledge, spiritual wisdom, mathematics and technology with the human race. Buck-Tick have never made reference to the Nephilim, but this same ancient esoteric knowledge is also associated with Medieval alchemy (for more on alchemy and B-T, see this article) and the secrets of the Order of the Rosy Cross (for more on the Rosicrucians and B-T, see the translation notes for Rozen Kreuzer), so there's at least a vague, tangential connection.

All in all, given the fact that Buck-Tick's recent work has been exploding exponentially into previously unplumbed depths of layered symbolism, this single is sure to offer us a lot to chew on.

As for the b-side, "Luna Park," this is another image that has appeared in B-T's work before, specifically, the lyrics to "Steppers -Parade-". From our translation notes on the song:

"Luna Park is a now-defunct international amusement park chain.  A Luna Park opened in Tokyo in 1910, but burned down a year later under suspicious circumstances and was reconstructed in the Shinsekai district of Osaka, where it operated between 1912 and 1923.  The only remainder of the park that still stands today is the Tsutenkaku Tower, still a major Osaka landmark."

To us, the Luna Park idea conjures an image of an amusement park at night - something secret, mysterious, Alice in Wonderland trippy, maybe something not entirely of this reality, like Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, or a place into which only those who know the secrets of the place may enter. Sakurai loves carnival, masquerade and amusement park imagery (see "Shanikusai -Carnival-," "masQue," and "Rasenchuu," to name a few), and has spoken at length in recent interviews about the image of the circus and how he feels it fits his life as a traveling performer, putting on shows and creating fantasy worlds for his audiences. 

The moon is one of the strongest images in Sakurai's work, representing the Yin in the Yin-Yang - the dark, the mysterious, the secret, the unknown/unknowable, the unconscious, inner journeys, magic, and the Divine Feminine. For a band made up of five dudes, Buck-Tick are massively into the Divine Feminine... after all, this is the band who would win the "Most Visual Allegories for Giant Vaginas Used as Stage Sets" award, if there were such an award (noobs to Buck-Tickistan, check out "Devil'n Angel" from the Arui wa Anarchy hall tour, "El Dorado" from the Atom Miraiha hall tour, and Sakurai's performance of "Yokan" at the Ai no Wakusei Explosion tour to see what we mean). We feel certain that both aspects of the title's symbolism - both the circus and the moon - will surface in this song in some way.

Anyway, that was far too much information about a single whose cover art hasn't been released yet, and we were going to write about Parade III in this post, too, but realized it's far too much material to cover all in one night. So we'll leave you for now with this lovely Luna Park flying saucer image, dredged up from the dreamworld of the internet by one of our lovely readers. Just make sure to not be that guy (you know which one). Or you might end up a fallen angel.

Why no Luna Park music video? We demand spooky amusement parks and we won't take no for an answer.


Also: anyone interested in ordering Datenshi, Locus Solus, or the Fish Tanker's Only 2018 DVD through us, feel free to contact us anytime. If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying us a Ko-Fi. Months of illness has done a number on our finances and every little bit helps.