Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Music Selection: Japan's Masterful Psychedelic Band, The Mops



With the ongoing horrific crisis in Japan, that nation has been on my mind quite a bit lately. And as I've tried to steer my thoughts toward a less-depressing topic, I got to thinking about Japan's amazing popular music scene, which has long been virtually (and unfairly) ignored in the West.

As we Americans never tire of reminding ourselves, the U.S. has the world's dominant culture, in everything from cinema to music to literature. We export "culture" to every corner of the earth.

It's a shame, though, that it's not a two-way exchange with the rest of the world. By and large, Americans remain completely ignorant about the cultures of other nations. In fact, when it comes to popular music, Americans these days are completely clueless about music outside of the U.S. (Indeed, the only other country that we've ever paid any attention to, pop music-wise, is Britain).

This is a shame. Not only does this state of affairs leave Americans hopelessly ignorant about the rest of the world, we're also missing out on some incredible music.

Japan's popular music scene is, for my money, one of the most interesting and dynamic on earth. Maybe not necessarily the J-Pop teenybopper music, which clogs up the charts there. In Japan, as is the case with other nations, the really interesting stuff is what's going on underground.

The brilliant British musician and author, Julian Cope has been one of the very few Westerners to document this music scene and bring it to the attention of the West. His 2009 book, Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock 'n' Roll conclusively demonstrated (at least for me) that Japan is easily the equal of the U.S. and Britain when it comes to popular music creativity.

The artists Cope writes about may be unfamiliar to many in the West, but they are well worth checking out. They include the heavy early 70s rockers, Flower Travellin' Band, the trippy and mystical Far East Family Band and the legendary Taj Mahal Travellers. For my money, the greatest of them all is the mysterious and radical Les Rallizes Denudes, whose scorching and defiantly anti-commercial sound makes the Velvet Underground seem tame by comparison.

But since I'm bummed out these days by Japan's terrible tragedy, I thought I'd serve up a uplifting tune by The Mops, one of Japan's best 1960s psychedelic bands. These guys are definitely one of the great garage bands---they equal the likes of Stateside groups like the 13th Floor Elevators. Their song, "I Am Just a Mops" (sic) was, as a YouTube commenter noted, "the reason the fuzz pedals were invented."


Jack Jodell said...

Thanks for sharing, Marc! I had never heard of this group, but man, was that ever 1960s! From the fuzz tone guitar to the bass on one side and the drums on the other, that was pure 1960s!

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Jack, thanks for your comment.
Ah, the 60s....probably the best decade ever for cinema, TV, music, literature, and culture in general. There was a lot of great music in the 50s and the 70s, but the 60s was the peak.
I listen to a lot of new music. And I enjoy some of it. But I'm convinced that there is virtually nothing being made today that will stand the test of time.
Overrated, third-rate artists like Lady F*cking Gaga won't be remembered in 40 years. By contrast, The Beatles sell more records today than they did when they were still in existence.

Jack Jodell said...

I share your feeling completely about 1960s culture. It was a golden era to be sure!

Jack Jodell said...

BTW: I have moved THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST over to Its new address is Thanks for your continued patronage, and I hope too see you there again real soon! :-)

jan rogozinski said...

The French Revolution was not started by the peasants. In fact, many peasants oppossed it and had to be put down with great brutality (approaching genocide in Brittany) by the revolutionary government.

It was a middle-class and upper-class rebellion. It started because the government was bankrupt, and the national debt was too large. It's goals became more radical over time. But the peasants and (small in number in 1789) never had any share in power.

Thus Karl Marx and his followers considered it to be the finally coming to power of the bourgeoisie or upper middle class. Marx expected and wanted ANOTHER revolution to bring the worker's party to power.

Why does this matter? Your error seems trivial. But the problem is this. Although I agree with you when you're talking about current events, I'm no expert on the facts Upon which your opinions are based. So I have to take much of what you say on faith.

However, I am an expert on French history. Hence, when you are very wrong about something I know about, I wonder if I should agree with you so much when you talk about something I don't know about. It's precisely like your tax accountant misspelling your name. You naturally wonder if the numbers also are wrong.

I have the same problem with Thom Hartman, who also knows nothing about any history other than American. I wonder why you and he have no interest in non-US history? Nothing that happens in the US has ever been unique.

To take one example, the Civil War took place at the same time as other wars (in Germany and Italy and other places)to centralize power in a national government. Knowing about the other wars helps to understand the Civil War.

What I am saying is your analyses will be more accurate if you never refer to anything that has happened outside the USA or that happened before 1900.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Jan,
Thanks for your note.

>>The French Revolution was not
>>started by the peasants.

Actually, this isn't what I said.

I wrote:
"After all, history has shown time and time again what happens when the rich gorge themselves while the peasants starve."

While the causes of the French Revolution were complex, I think it's clear that at least part of the reason for it was that many poor people were starving and couldn't afford bread, while the royalty gorged themselves and lived in outrageous luxury.

re: "approaching genocide"

Actually, from what I've read, there is a lot of debate over this issue and historians are far from agreement.

>>It's precisely like your tax
>>accountant misspelling your
>>name. You naturally wonder if
>>the numbers also are wrong.

I find it ironic that you use this as an example. Your post is full of misspellings. You even attack Thom Hartmann (while managing to misspell his name).