n this series, clicks’n’cuts dilettante Francis Henville describes his descent into the netherworld of Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean commercial pop. Track by track, he navigates deeper into the genre, searching for ever-more-toothsome morsels with which to satiate his jaded appetite…
This is it! This is the band I was looking for when I began this series. A band that goes beyond every other kind of music. Outside classification, so bizarre that their tunes sound alien rather than simply foriegn. A band with no reliable Western analogue at all, although they are obviously familiar with countless Western and non-Western genres. Oh—and now they are broken up.... but that doesn't really matter.
I actually came across the name of this band in the Gothic and Lolita Bible that I keep plugging. It was just their name, I thought. I saw their name, and another band, Psycho le Cemu. From their appearance, I thought Malice Mizer were just gonna be another goth band—because they are totally dolled up and effeminate dandies with bizarre makeup and pointy guitars.
How very, very wrong I was. That's why I've enjoyed writing this column—it has taught me how wrong I often am. (Not just the comments section, either.)
No, the closest reference I can find for Malice Mizer is the Doors' album Soft Parade. Malice Mizer jump from rock to pop to jazz to Weimar Republic polkas without it ever feeling forced. And that's just in this song alone!
It's extremely hard for me to describe this music but the most useful information I can give you is, although they look really cool in their gothic outfits, don't expect them to play gothic music. It would be like if Radiohead dressed like cowboys and rode horses on stage and still played the same kind of music they usually play. Everyone would be really damn confused.
I hesitate to say that Malice Mizer are as innovative and original as Radiohead because I can feel the wrath of the Internet stirring as I type this. But the depth and variety of their music makes it hard for me to compare them to anyone but Radiohead, or the Doors, as I said.
It was also hard for me to choose this song to review. For the last week I have been listening to Malice Mizer's entire catalogue, and I started thinking I could write a whole column on them, track by track, although no one would wanna read that except me. So I picked this song almost at random. It starts with synthetic wind, piano, cello, synth pads (whodathunkit?).... after a single wash of tonal color, an eighties-sounding synth and a subdued drum machine set up an extremely emotive vocal...... (I tried to find out which of MM's many vocalists this was but couldn't. I think it's Gackt. Just one of the many amazing facts about MM is that they've changed vocalists a few times but they've all been good.)
The track continues with psychedelic guitar lines, thundering taiko-like percussion, more unexpected pauses, and a tender lullaby of a bridge which leads into a mathematical, hard rocking chorus....
WTF OMG did I just say that I liked something hard rocking? Yes, I did! Malice Mizer, you taught me to love rock again. I don't know how, but you found a way.
I have no space to give you the amount of background you need on Malice Mizer's history or the cornucopia of side projects they have now split into. Let's just say that their impact on mainstream Japanese music has been immeasurable, with second lead singer Gackt leading the packt. And their impact on me has also been incalcuable, turning me from an overweight Roman absinthe-addled fop into a slim 15-year-old Japanese goth girl.
By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2004-10-07