Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

Album of the Week 11-2018: Buck-Tick – No. 0


With Buck-Tick on a surprisingly high second career peak from their 2005 masterpiece ‘Jusankai Wa Gekkou’ onward, a new album is always something to look forward to. Especially considering how good 2016’s ‘Atom Miraiha No. 9’ was. And while ‘No. 0’ isn’t quite as good as its predecessor was, there are a couple of new winners in Buck-Tick’s oeuvre to be heard here. The gothic-tinged first single ‘Babel’ is one of them, but ‘No. 0’ is anything but a return to the dark goth sound of ‘Jusankai Wa Gekkou’. Instead, it feels either like a logical continuation or an update of ‘Atom Miraiha No. 9’.

Compared to ‘Atom Miraiha No. 9’, the electronics and samples are a little more pronounced on ‘No. 0’. They are nowhere near as prominent as they were on Buck-Tick’s nineties albums, on which they tend to dominate the productions, but those looking for more of the live sound that could be heard on albums like ‘Tenshi No Revolver’ or ‘Memento Mori’ may scratch their heads in bewilderment. These days, the electronics are a part of the songwriting process rather than the production process and as a result, they hardly ever become overbearing. The electronic rocker ‘Gustave’ and the ballad ‘Moon Sayonara Wo Oshiete’ are borderline though.

‘No. 0’ has a couple of notable peaks. First of all, there is the triptych of the exciting electrorocker ‘Salome -femme fatale-‘, the beautifully dramatic ‘Ophelia’ and the driving “live Buck-Tick meets electronic Buck-Tick” of ‘Hikari No Teikoku’. The latter has a wonderful chorus opening up the climax of the track, while ‘Ophelia’ really profits from its supreme dynamics and Atsushi Sakurai’s unique emotional vocals. The album ends on a high note as well: the aforementioned ‘Babel’ is a sublime catchy gothic rock song, ‘Guernica No Yoru’ a gorgeous minimalistic ballad that leaves Sakurai plenty of space to excel and ‘Tainai Kaiki’ rounds off the album in an upbeat atmosphere.

Before, after and between those songs, Buck-Tick explores the possibilities of their sound. Guitarist and electronic enthusiast Hisashi Imai first and foremost. The aggressive cyberpunk sound of ‘Igniter’ is an obvious Imai contribution, while ‘Nostalgia -Vita Mechanicalis-‘ and opener ‘Reishiki 13 Gata Ai’ have a menacing vibe that is the trademark of the guitarist. ‘Bisshu Love’ features the type of defiant eroticism that Buck-Tick has become known for through the years. By contrast, the songs that guitarist Hidehiko Hoshino wrote are generally more traditional rock songs, though the synth-driven electronic rocker ‘Barairo Jujidan -Rosen Kreuzer-‘ is atypical for him.

Though Imai’s fascination with noise and electronics gives ‘No. 0’ a slightly more electronic edge than its predecessors, it is another typical Buck-Tick album compositionally. The songs may come across a little more chaotic than usual initially, but they feature some tight writing and some excellent hooks for Sakurai to work with. I will be the first to admit that his deep, heartfelt voice is one of the main reasons why Buck-Tick appeals to me, but they have been releasing great albums for quite some time now and ‘No. 0’ certainly fits that pattern. Highly recommended to open-minded fans of visual kei, J-rock, gothic rock and nineties U2.

Recommended tracks: ‘Babel’, ‘Ophelia’, ‘Salome -femme fatale-‘

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Pushing Paper: Ramita Navai – ‘City Of Lies’


Pushing books is one of the last things I want to do here, but it’s been a long time since I’ve finished a substantial book in less than a day the way I did today with ‘City Of Lies’ by British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai. She was promoting her book in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart two weeks ago and I was captivated. And not for the usual reasons when a woman as beautiful as Navai appears on television. She had just published a book containing eight profiles of people living in the Iranian capital Tehran and their constant struggle of separating their public and private lives, through the titular lies and intrigue that are apparently needed to keep your head above water in Tehran.

First of all, what makes this book such a page turner is that it reads like fiction, even though everything that’s told in the book is deeply rooted in true stories, ironic as that may seem given its title. Navai has a very descriptive style that is almost novel-like in nature. Journalists usually don’t have this much feeling for character and story development. And I’m speaking as a writing journalist here. The idea behind the book may give the impression that we’re dealing with a bunch of interviews here, but Navai tells every story from the viewpoint of the person covered in the profiles and you really feel what they are experiencing. Rather than interview snapshots, the reader is part of the emotional interior of the people Navai introduces.

Ideally, ‘City Of Lies’ paints a more nuanced image of life in and around Vali Asr street than even the most left-wing news media will give you. And despite what the title of the book may suggest, that image may be more positive than you may think based on what the news gives us. Despite the strict religious background of Iran – or maybe even because of it – the people portrayed in ‘City Of Lies’ are relatable characters who find themselves torn between a multitude of difficulties with family, friends, alcohol, drugs, love and all kinds of sexual shenanigans like all of us do. The oppressive atmosphere of a fundamentalist regime and even moreso a traditional family and social circle is never far away, but Navai succeeds in giving this people a face and maybe even a voice.

To fully understand the subject matter, reading is absolutely obligated. Trust me, you won’t regret sacrificing a bit of your time for this fantastic book. It’s one of the most successful attempts at writing something that its both informative and exciting to read. All thanks to Navai’s pleasant writing style, sharp observations and her seemingly endless knowledge of the subject matter, which she shares almost effortlessly between paragraphs. A truly captivating book that should be read by anyone.

For those of you looking for more background information, I urge you to check out the interview Jon Stewart had with Navai in The Daily Show right here. Stewart is at his best and Navai is selling her book without even trying to sell it; you can see both of them are very interested in the subject.

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