s you can clearly see, J-Pop Will Eat Itself is back. Francis Henville (the original author), however, is not. That would be where I come in.
Like my predecessor, I turned to the confectionary tunes of the East (not to mention their films), after growing bored with what most English-speaking musicians had to offer. As far as I can tell, I also more or less share Henville’s objective: shining a small spotlight onto the J-Pop scene, with hopes of acquainting the unacquainted.
Glay is an ultra-famous “Visual Kei” band who have been rocking since the very early 90s. If you can put aside the fact that much, if not nearly all, of their music is lackluster—they’re really quite amazing. A rock band that’s been together and selling out stadium shows for over a decade, with no one committing suicide or huffing off citing “creative differences”? That’s gotta count for something.
Confession-that-I-don’t-really-feel-bad-about-confessing: I don’t know much about Glay. The four members (Takuro, Teru, Hisashi, and Jiro) appear to be ageless, real-life renderings of anime (think Final Fantasy) characters designed to, of course, drive young female fans bat-shit insane. If it weren’t for their massive (and impressive, sales-wise) discography and aforementioned long-term cred, I’d pass them off as a boy band in dramatic makeup. The music Glay produces is rock, sure, but it’s the kind of rock that’s as much guitars as it is ripped jeans. I’ve immersed myself in as much of their work as I possibly could handle—and I’m still not feeling it.
However, there is that one song. One of those “Hey, this is actually pretty good!” treasures, found amongst an otherwise throwaway album. One that makes you listen… fast-forward a bit… listen some more, then hit repeat. The Holy Grail of Glay songs, if you will. That song is “Heavy Gauge.”
In Japanese, “Heavy Gauge” is a term used for grave news or events. Devastating, life-shattering, near-apocalyptic scale badness. The track is, remarkably, the perfect audio embodiment of that very idea. It’s a glorified “It’s all over now” power ballad, soaked to its core in operatic mournfulness—whether you understand the lyrics or not. The song is bigger than Glay. It’s a track that almost—if they hadn’t pulled it off so masterfully—deserves better than Glay.
Mediocre musicians having one or two great songs isn’t necessarily an unheard of phenomenon. Although, said phenomenon should not be confused with one-hit-wonders, which are common as dirt (and about as noteworthy). Finding a track you love, by someone who’s been around for ages, whom you’ve never had an affinity for? Pricel—er, Special. On that note, I suppose I should finally give Glay some real, un-backhanded credit. This song didn’t write itself. I can’t imagine anyone doing it better; or anyone else doing it at all.
There is a certain mold for those mildly gothy J-Rock songs: They’ve got to be tragic, yet sexy. Catchy, yet meaningful. Something the distracted, and ever-elusive troubled youth market can bond with. An anthem for the ages. “Heavy Gauge,” fills the mold and then breaks it. There’s crying (and at times screeching) violins, a piercingly romantic atmosphere, and emotive vocals poured meticulously over the near-seven (!) minute duration. If Glay never made another album again, I’d be the last person to complain. If they made another “Heavy Gauge”? I’d just die.
By: Teresa Nieman
Published on: 2006-05-11