Japan Tin Drum Review

Album. Released 1981.  

BBC Review

Tin Drum has no flashy waste or needless bombast, just evocative skill that remains...

Chris Jones 2008

Despite taking its title from a German novel ('twas ever thus with the literary references for singer, David Sylvian), Tin Drum remains Japan's most Eastern-influenced album. It's all there in the song titles of course. This, their final effort, showed the band really becoming what they'd always wanted to be all through their career: An art-rock band, with aspirations towards the musicianly end of what pop could aspire to (and, aptly, a huge fanbase in their spiritual home of the Orient). Ironically as the band disintegrated (mainly due to Sylvian's urge to strike out alone) following this release,they finally shook off the sub-Roxy Music/glam goth associations that had hampered them in earlier years.

One of the reasons that Tin Drum broke the band out of their image straightjacket (for which they were in no small part responsible, due to their propensity for make up and fey tailoring) was the departure of guitarist, Rob Dean, after the previous album, Gentlemen Take Polaroids. Moving away from the rockist trappings of six-strings, and hanging out with The Yellow Magic Orchestra's Ryuichi Sakamoto had shown the band the light. With Richard Barbieri's spectral keyboards taking the high ground, aided by the almost fusionist tones of Mick Karn's fretless bass and Steve Jansen's masterfully polyrhythmic drums, Tin Drum is, in places wonderfully minimalist and exotically esoteric.

On top of this Sylvian's voice had matured beyond the aforementioned Ferry-lite comparisons. His mournful deep-throated trills suited songs that explored lost love (Ghosts) and the fascination with all things Eastern (the amazingly deft Visions Of China, Canton and Cantonese Boy). As with fellow so-called new romantics, Duran Duran, these boys almost straddled the line marked 'muso', yet avoided crassness with the simple application of taste. Tin Drum has no flashy waste or needless bombast, just evocative skill that remains fresh to this day.

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