J-Pop Will Eat Itself
Three Little Letters (Part One)

in 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…

Duvet (acoustic version)

A mystery has been weighing on my head. "Boa" was the name of a band that I'd heard mentioned by various fans of anime and J-pop, so i plugged those three little letters into my file-sharing service and was rewarded with a crapload of mp3s. I planned to review this band for this column, and spent many enjoyable weeks listening to "Boa" on my computer, reading the obscure Japanese fashion mag "Gothic and Lolita Bible", composing music on my gameboy and contemplating the impending death that awaits us all. As I do.

But the fateful day came when I finally plugged those three little letters into Google for a bit of Ye Olde Background Research for another J-poppin' article. It took a lot of searching and a lot of puzzling on behalf of my decadence-addled brain before I finally realized that those three little letters were claimed as identifiers by not one but two entirely different musical acts.

The first, I present here today. Confusingly, I will refer to them as "The English Boa"—or bôa, as they prefer to spell their name.

bôa formed originally in England, but the main reason I include them in this column is that they appear to have achieved much more success in Japan. Their big breakthrough was the original rock version of this song, “Duvet”, which was the theme music for an intensely popular anime series Serial Experiments' Lain. Despite tours and recording dates in England, Japan has remained the primary outlet for bôa's music.

“Duvet” is perhaps my favorite song in this series so far—its closest contender is DOI's “Buranko”. The acoustic version of “Duvet” begins with brittle acoustic guitars, a synth pad (apparently the one sound that seems to reappear in almost all J-pop) and a restrained hand percussion rhythm. When the voice of Jasmine Rodgers (who looks like she may have Asian ancestry, only adding to my confusion on this issue) drops in, Melody declares that it has won in the first round by a technical knockout. The English lyrics are particularly touching:

And you don't seem to understand
A shame you seemed an honest man
And all the fears you hold so dear
Will turn to whisper in your ear
And you know what they say might hurt you
And you know that it means so much
And you don't even feel a thing

Without the melody, it's hard to really do them justice, but when I first heard this song I couldn't help wondering how great it'd be if the Postal Service covered it. It sounds very Postal Service to me. Dr. Tamborello, if you're listening, please call (519) 555-9653 and someone will connect you.

The chord structure of this song is surprisingly simple—the chorus and verse are almost identical—but it never gets boring. This acoustic version differs from the original in that it's a little slower, and feels more comfortably plaintive. Percussion is simply an appetizer—tom-toms and tambourines for the most part. After the chorus, you can choose from either fingerpicked minor arabesques or Hendrix-style mellow hammer-ons. For dessert, we have egg shakers, plaintive obbligatoes and conga slaps.

I am falling, I am fading, I am drowning,
Help me to breathe
I am hurting, I have lost it all
I am losing
Help me to breathe

By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2004-09-23
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