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Japanese alternative rockers release their newest album.
One of Japan’s most popular alternative rock bands, Asian Kung-Fu Generation is finally hitting U.S. shores with a proper domestic album. Fans will no longer have to scour the internet for expensive Japanese imports. The album, Sol-fa, was released on October 18th through independent Tofu Records. Asian Kung-Fu Generation are Masafumi Gotoh (vocals and guitar), Kensuke Kita (guitar and vocals), Takahiro Yamada (bass and vocals), and Kiyoshi Ijichi (drums). They met at a college music club meeting in 1996, and formed the band shortly thereafter. Their first songs were all written using English lyrics, but they soon transitioned over to Japanese. They played the club circuit around Japan and slowly expanded their domestic fan base in the process.
In November 2002, they released their first album Houkai Amplifier (Destruction Amplifier), which soon ascended to the top of the independent charts and was re-released with wider distribution on Sony Music Japan’s Ki/oon Records in April of 2003. The same year, the band released their sophomore effort, Kimi Tsunagi Five M. These releases were rounded out and promoted by bigger live performances, including Japan’s Mount Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic festivals. The group even organized their own “Nano-Mugen” festival for up-and-coming bands at Japan's historic Budokan venue. In the United States, Sol-fa is their first proper release after already gaining Japanese success and two weeks of chart-topping action when it was first released in Japan.
Asian Kung-Fu Generation has had other means of access to American audiences, however. In 2004, their songs were broadcasted through the anime shows Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist, which both aired on Cartoon Network. These appearances have generated positive reaction from fans of anime and Japanese rock, and helped pave the way for Sol-fa to be released.
Sol-fa is 46 minutes of alternative rock in its purest form. Without knowing where the band is from or what their name is, a listener might think it is an American band with unintelligible singing; their songs are that integrated into the standard indie-pop and rock style. The album delves into a slight “emo/indie” sound, but at the end, the guitar hooks and riffs in the songs are pure rock 'n' roll. Masafumi Gotoh’s vocals alternate between softer, melodic singing, and harder, harsher, yelling. The whole album has a very polished and produced sound as even the distorted guitar lines sound clean. All the lyrics are in Japanese, but there are English translations available; the Tofu Records website has a convenient link with all the lyrics in English.
As of now, there are no plans for Asian Kung-Fu Generation to tour the United States. Which is really too bad; apparently, it was their impressive live shows that gained them much-needed support when they first formed in Japan. Hopefully Tofu Records will be able to mobilize the resources for tour support of the album. With their music style similar to anything on current U.S. modern rock radio, the right marketing and exposure could gain the band greater exposure out of the niche market of just anime and Japanese pop culture fans. Asian Kung-Fu Generation have the potential to fight their way into a decent indie-rock or power-pop following.
Date Posted: 11/3/2005