The Soft Appeal, Con't


I just viewed the “crazy” rock band Sambomaster‘s video for “世界はそれを愛と呼ぶんだぜ” (“The world calls that love”), which begins with a middle-aged boss telling a uniformed OL that she has failed to do an adequate job on her assignment. She then heads to the roof and emotes by listening to Sambomaster’s single in her headphones (not an iPod, by the way).

Again, we see a young rock band trying to connect with possible consumers through demonstrating a direct empathy with bland-looking, white-collar, middle-class clerical workers. Soon Japanese grime heavies will use their song lyrics to provide test-taking strategies for college-entrance exams, and Osaka noise bands will yearn to create DVDs for comforting seven year-old surburban kids on their failure to get into prestigious elementary schools. By next year, all popular music will explicitly reinforce the capitalist cog lifestyle. Welcome to the future.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
August 23, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

8 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    I still haven’t heard Sambomaster myself yet, but I have read an incredibly long review/article/thing that mentions them almost as frequently as Tokyo Disney World.

    My gut is that, praise for The System is not out of the ordinary in the larger scheme of music cultures, though it is outside of the rock mainstream. People want to believe that they’re living a decent life, not that they have to give up their Louis Vuitton bags and keep it real. That American music is anti-social is probably just a historical quirk based on its roots in Black culture and the relative recentness of the American Revolution and pioneer period meaning that Americans like to think of themselves as Rebels.

  2. marxy Says:

    You’re absolutely right: I think Americans want to feel like rebels, even when they’re part of the system. Think about Bush – the fricking president – still referring to himself as if he were a “Washington outsider.”

    I’m not sure rebellion needs to be fundamental to popular music (think about that stunningly amazing period between rock’n’roll and the Beatles), but even in Japan, most artists have at least tried to present an air of “difference” – whether that be an outsider attitude, garishness, or exclusivity. These new bands look like guys who work at an office and write songs about working at an office and then try to sell the songs to kids who work at an office. Asian Kung-Fu Generation have the charm and personality of four accountants.

  3. r. Says:

    an accountant is charming to the degree that he has your financial nuts in a sling and does you well by him. thus AKFG seem pretty damn charming at the moment.

  4. dzima Says:

    r. hasn’t dated a female accountant yet, that’s fer sure.

  5. Brad Says:

    I like Sambomaster in the sense that they’re kind of like Tenacious D, except they are totally serious. I give major points to any band who says, before the guitar solo, “I don’t have the words to say this so I’m going to let my guitar speak for me! Uh!”

  6. marxy Says:

    I’m being unfair to Sambomaster by claiming their OL-reachout progarm is marketing-driven. It’s probably not. After reading that “Large Prime Numbers” article, above, they seem to be dead serious about “saving” everybody in Japan. I need to do some serious soul-searching to figure out why I automatically think such idealism is “lame.”

  7. MigitAs Says:

    I think sambomaster rocks! with songs like Sayonara Baby, Utsukushiki ningen no hibi, Yoru ga aketara, and others they are really the coolest new band i’ve seen

  8. tim Says:

    Hello. I wrote that Large Prime Numbers article AHEM just checking my links. It’s fun.

    Anyway, yeah. After the writing of that article, I eventually met Takashi Yamaguchi and his Sambo Masters, and determined several things — that he bites his fingernails, that he is no taller than four-foot-ten, and that he really, really is dead serious about saving the world with rock and roll music.

    He’s like Andrew WK minus the muscles, plus Wesley Willis minus the black and fat, plus Aretha Franklin minus the woman, plus Steve McQueen minus everything except the sideburns.

    I have, for a long time, been confused when prompted to form an opinion of another man’s sincerity. I didn’t know what to think about Sambo Master at first.

    Their new song is kind of light in the lyrical department. And he’s really starting to show his OCD by repeating the same phrases (悲しみに花が咲くものか really made me feel not-good), which is weird, because some of his phrases has mortified the living hell out of me (貴方が人を殺すなら僕もこの場で殺して欲しいのよ — “should you ever kill a man, i wish to be killed right here on the spot”) really fucking freaked me out, for example. I don’t get that with other music. so i guess i appreciate it.

    and you know, i met the asian kung-fu generation bassist before the band got big. i mean, before they did the naruto song.

    he worked in a company, indeed.

    and not just any company — an E-LEARNING company.

    he had, on the day i met him, just attended a seminar on HOW TO USE GOOGLE!!

    you can’t make this shit up!