Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Music Tomato Japan

"Chart Topping Videos Being Air-played on the Superficial Adventure"

While writing about Dip In the Pool several weeks ago, I promised a focused article about late 80s/early 90s Japanese video-countdown show Music Tomato Japan. There seems to be little information about the show online, in English or Japanese. There are a few pages like this one, which collect videos recorded from the show, and dozens and dozens of videos on Youtube. Aside from this primary source material, I cannot find any historical information about the show.

In the promo bumper at the top of this post, the enigmatic host/narrator identifies himself as Michael Tamayuko (sp?), and references "Music Communication" as perhaps the parent or benefactor of "MTJ" and clarifies the "domestic music" focus of the show, which is the key feature that makes the program interesting to me, as it currently serves as a deep source for an era of music in Japan which is still woefully undocumented beyond the YMO and Idol galaxies.

This clip features the only original content aside from the narration I can find, a sort-of interview segment with the legendary RC Succession, featuring the band mugging and noisemaking, before introducing the "paradise track with satisfaction guaranteed" Michael T promises. "I Like You" Is a pretty phenomenal track, and the animated bits are fantastic. RC Succession are a unique group for MTJ, having a catalog and longevity rare in Japanese pop music. This video represents the very end of the band's run, as they split in 1991. Founding member Kiyoshiro Imawano deserves his own post, as a singular and endearing figure in the Japanese popular music scene, who sadly passed away just last year after a long battle with cancer.

Michael T's strange, perfectly enunciated yet stilted English is what really makes the presentation vital, with lines like "Chart-topping video selections, being air-played, on the superficial adventure", which he says at the intro to this Kawamura Kaori video. Kawamura also died in '09 from cancer, as it turns out.

While there are many many MTJ videos on Youtube, only a small number of the songs are very interesting. Predictably, most of the videos are from interchangeable Idol singers plugging into the specific tropes of broad genres (hair metal, acoustic rock, bubblegum etc.), although some of the weaker songs still have fine videos. The following clips are the best I've seen, as songs and as music videos.

Up first is this SOV clip from ZIG ZAG, 限界恋心 or Love Limits. My friend Carrie sent me this video a few months ago, and it's still my favorite. ZIG ZAG's other material doesn't live up to this bittersweet New Wave jam. The song, the sublime quality of the video--as in video tape--and Mike's enthusiastic narration at the start really hyped me to find out more about MTJ. There's a heart-warming emphasis on public service in Michael's plaintive, apologetic declaration of "If you haven't found any of your type, let us know right away!" The video itself, with its primitive digital effects, blown-out color palette, creepy-yet-playful voyeurism narrative and ambiguous conclusion, deserves its own focused post.

Here's another one with great video effects from Jadoes, a Tatsuro Yamashita-esque funky jam called "Friday Night". "Here are the Jadoes... Friday Night!"

"Sayonara, So Long" from D-Project is an austere, "high rise living" neon jam in the vein of mainstream American New Wave. Written for the 1992 CLAMP anime Tokyo Babylon, "Sayonara, So Long" is the type of song and video I wish available MTJ materials featured more of.

Finally, here's a really strange video from Nakagawa Katsuhiko, popular actor and musician (and father of contemporary Idol Shoko Nakagawa) whose name remains stamped in the middle of the screen for the duration, obscurring the abstract imagery of the video, which is mostly center-frame behind the NK brand.

"I have to leave now with today's final, hope you found the music you like, and always be aware of the latest from Music Tomato Japan. Closing out with Nakagawa Katsuhiko, 'Please Understand.'"

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