oday I received a package of my things sent from home. I had asked for a few CDs—mixed ones I’d made, and couldn’t repurchase or download. Instead, I was given a slew of J-Pop albums I’d once found at a bus stop. Now, knowing me, and that I’m “into” J-Pop, I can see why the sender included these. But for the most part, they weren’t nearly my taste. Utada Hikaru, Ken Hirai, Chemistry, and Orange Range: disappointing. Then I remembered, there was one song on that Orange Range disc (Musiq) that I liked. It’s called “City Boy,” and apart from the silly, pleasurable song itself, I enjoyed it because the vocalists seem to chant the line “gay disco / Oh-oh-oh-ohh / Gay disco.” Not to mention the accent on “city” sounds kinda like “shitty”…
After “City Boy” wrapped up, well, the CD continued playing (as they’ve been known to do). Next on deck was an almost 60’s rock-reminiscent confection titled “Sha Sha.” It was easy on the ears, and had a funky Beach Boys-style echoing interlude. Can you guess where this is going? That’s right, I kept listening. And I kept digging it. The songs that elevated Musiq from fairly good novelty junk to something worth importing to iTunes were plentiful; and the inevitable crappier tracks were few and far between. Vibrating guitars, bongos, and tribal utterances populate the two-minute long “Padibonmahe,” which is probably the most arresting (in a good way) moment. “Matsuri Danshaku” is a rock n’ roll samurai anthem (think late Tomoyasu Hotei)—you can just imagine a fan-made DragonBall-Z video playing over it. The album’s closer, “Jumping 2 Jumping,” is an epic-sounding (but only three minute-long) opera of crunchy lyric-free distortion, melded with the lovely plucking of traditional Asian instruments. Even the very brief intro/opening warm up, “Karisuma” (Charisma) is ridiculously enduring.
Somewhere during my ongoing quest to find decent music from Japan, I overlooked this barely-legal, all male sextet from Okinawa known as Orange Range. Now, that’s no civilization-crumbling revelation. But the music is fun enough that I do feel mildly cheated, thinking about how long that CD sat around, unplayed. Especially since I was long under the impression that all good pop from Japan is made by females, all guy-groups are rock (usually of the visual kei variety), and those that aren’t, are either half-baked hip-hop, or ballad-centric. These guys—while likely to be no more than a tiny blip on the music radar in ten years—proved me wrong.
Some googling, YouTubing, and Wikipediaing later—I’ve gleaned that Orange Range has a rather large following (mostly teens), is known for great concert performances, and have fallen victim to some minor plagiarism accusations (mostly fueled by their own interviews, in which they talk about how they like to “rip off” other music). I think I can also safely say, they have an overabundance of humor, attitude, and cash. I don’t know how good their other albums are, or how long they’ll be around to laugh at me rather than with me, as I unabashedly proclaim them to be one of current pop’s better offerings. But, you know what? I really like music, and I really like Musiq. That’s all that matters.
By: Teresa Nieman
Published on: 2006-08-24