100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #91 Japan – Quiet Life

Released : 1979

As the trickle of synth pop bands at the end of the decade became a wave, there came with them a phenomenon which journalist Simon Reynolds would much later define as a dynamic shift from rock to pop, from the masculinity of the former to the gender fluidity of the latter. This flip relied on the newly available cheap technology as much as anything, but the sibilant heroes of this modernist ouevre – of which Japan unexpectedly became ones – were mostly refugees from an adolescence spent in dejected grim.

Formed in 1974, they were forced to endure half a decade of being misunderstood, derided and accused of all things related to A) Sounding like Roxy and/or B) Wanting to sound like Roxy. Singer David Sylvian had committed the cardinal sin of naming himself after one of the New York Dolls and well..it just sort’ve spiraled from there.

By Quiet Life – the album and the single – Sylvian and his cohorts had evolved however into something to be taken seriously. True, they still courted arthouse aesthetics and played to a generally underwhelmed Studio 54 audience as if to emphasise their elitist reputation, but the sinew of Mick Karn’s bass gave them a dirty funk undertow which the likes of Spandau Ballet and Simple Minds soon would mop up. As the 80’s new dawn came it was champagne cocktails and triumph all round for Japan – and the rest of the decade’s ugly ducklings.


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