Sounds from Osaka: Exploring Punk, Indie, and Alternative Music from Osaka, Japan (Framtid, Kung-Fu Girl, Junky58%)

Sounds from Osaka is our first article in a series highlighting local scenes in multiple ‘postcard length’ album reviews. We’re looking to do more of these scene focused articles in the future! Go to our contact page and let us know about your local scene and we may just cover it. Till then, consider this article ‘postmarked’ March 27th, 2022!

That said, is this list looking a little incomplete? Because we’re sure it is. There may be more pivotal bands in the Osaka scene, but we’ve decided to go with what stuck out to us via Bandcamp, recommendations, and liner note skimming, so Skate Punk bands like The Skippers or Manchester School (M.A. School) won’t be on this list. Consider this a small round up of Punk, Indie and Alternative bands from Osaka, Japan.

Diskover – The End Has No End (2018)

Noisy and nasally Pop Punk, The End Has No End is a lilting and lo-fi record worth a listen. The 3-track EP by Diskover has all the melancholic emotional weight one could hope for from Pop Punk and Power Pop. There isn’t much readily known about them, but they’ve had one release since: a self-titled 7” EP available through nearly a dozen smaller record outlets. You can also find it through the Punk & Destroy record shop and distro, located in Osaka.

Argue Damnation – The Situation In Society Is Worse Than Before, It Is Getting Worse. Direct Action Now Demo (2021)

The medium is the message- and so too, in this case, is the album title. Not ones’ to waste space, Argue Damnation’s ‘The Situation…’ is a collection of demos for what was their third and final album Direct Action Now, recorded and released in 2000. Tracks like Direct Action Now, Number People, and 反新安保 (‘Anti-New Security’) break out of the tight mold of D-Beat and Crust for something more expressive than many of their contemporaries, while Up The Punx gets as close to ‘punk anthem’ material as possible without getting too corny.

Argue Damnation were active from 1994 to 2003, but their music still resonates.

Shonen Knife – Pop Tune (2012)

While I never promised a comprehensive list, I would feel remiss for not including Shonen Knife. Take it from their Bandcamp artist-bio:

“Shonen Knife was formed in 1981 by Naoko Yamano, her friend Michie and sister Atsuko. 35 Years, 19 albums and well over 1000 gigs later the band is as strong, fun and original as ever…”

For this list I’m pulling their 2012 album Pop Tune, whose titular track is so satisfyingly bubbly and fun. People more in tune with the D-Beat and Crust bands on this list may roll their eyes, but Shonen Knife’s Phil Spector and Ramones inspired Alternative Rock’n’Roll sound is a delightful and uplifting force in the cross-cultural milieu of our ever increasingly interconnected lives.

Junky58% – おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー (2020)

おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー, or Don’t Milk, I Want to Alcohol (Google translated to ‘Hey, Give Me Sake, Not Milk.’) is a pumped up Pop Punk EP by Osaka’s Junky58%. Their early Green Day influence might be most noticeable on midway track Junky Band, but flows through the album’s joyous celebration of alcoholic shenanigans (and chocolate cookies?); a high-spirited step away from some of their more melancholy-tinted peers. As someone generally uninterested with alcohol-centric Punk and Rock music, I still found ‘Don’t Milk,…’ a worthwhile and fun record, going near the top of my wishlist.

OXZ – Along Ago: 1981-1989 (2020)

OXZ (pronounced ‘awk-zed’) are in a Post-Punk vein of their own creation, but could be roughly triangulated with bands like Suburban Lawns, Ausgang, and The Passions. OXZ weren’t afraid to include big spacial synthesizers on otherwise dry recordings. This makes for a rare listening experience, especially in the midst of the slog of ‘Post-Punk’ and ‘Goth’ worship bands coming out of the Anglosphere currently.

The compilation, released by the NYC independent label Captured Tracks, shows OXZ’s artistic progression across the band’s 3 EPs and single released during their band’s original run. It’s incredibly satisfying hearing where they took things as their song writing grew stronger and stronger. Personal favorite tracks from Along Ago: 1981-1989 include Vivian, Boy Boy, and Is Life.

Framtid – Under The Ashes (2002)

Crust is universal, so it seems. So I’m not surprised to find heavy hitters Framtid among the crowd. The band’s 2002 release Under The Ashes features members Makino (vocals), Takayama (drums), Ryota “Jacky” Watanabe (guitar), Ina (bass) and Chuma on bass for tracks 12-21. Under The Ashes is unrelenting. With each track fading into the next one, the chaos never stops. I definitely recommend Framtid to fans of Crucifix and Napalm Death.

Kung-Fu Girl – Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 (2021)

Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 is a single release by the lo-fi Pop Punk band Kung-Fu Girl. A-side Rabuka might be my favorite, as it stood out to me immediately with its melancholic bubbliness. It’s absolutely something for fans of Full of Fancy or Bluffing. But b-side Ghost Girlfriend incorporates Power Pop sensibilities with raw Punk energy. It’s incredible, and a fun break from more D-Beat oriented bands.

Potato Headz – Potato Headz (2018)

Seeing “POTATO HEADZ” in a varsity font on a black and white concert pic, I wouldn’t have expected something so sonically interesting. Through and through, it’s your ‘classic hXc’ style beatdown Hardcore, but with just enough off-kilter weirdness and goofball energy to make it an incredibly fun album.

The riffs: chunky. The drums: hunky.

I’m all into it.

The Harriets – The Harriets 1st Demo (2019)

The laid back Indie jams of The Harriets’ 2019 self-titled first demo are easy on the ears, but don’t take that to mean ‘light listening’. The Harriets are made up of members Milk (guitar), Nana (drums), and Fumi (bass) with all 3 members contributing vocals. This relax-adaisical demo single features the a-side track Last Night backed with the fuzzed out I Don’t Care.

There’s an element to The Harriets that might make them an easy shoe-in for fans of bands like Slant 6 or Apocalypse Meow. The songs are minimal and well written, invoking an easy going feeling while keeping sonic vitality.

I would like to note The Harriets and the American band Frankie Cosmos as an ‘ideal’ double-billing for a tour. Seriously, can we make that happen?

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo (2004) [compilation]

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a compilation released by Centralscum in 2004 celebrating the marriage of WonWons bassist Mami and Haruo Ishihara (owner of Lost Frog Productions, “the oldest Japanese netlabel in existence”).

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a short but stylistically mixed bag. The lo-fi indie jam and titular track Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo by Morino Jun (Moaco) is a fun and sloppy melancholic song in the style of Magnetic Fields. The album is balanced out with off-kilter Indie Electronic in a style similar to the UK group The Sons of Silence.

But by far, Loggins Alive by Izumi Headache of UltraFuckers is an immediate favorite. Thumping drum machines pound away under the clatter of metallic guitar noise and pitched and processed vocals that sound like the Max Headroom Incident. It’s a hair too wacky to be considered a Big Black tribute, but likely ‘just right’ for Men’s Recovery Project fans.

Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming +Brief Thoughts article with a follow up to Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo as well as Shock Rock in Japan and the USA.

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