Culture

5 Japanese Bands Influenced by British Rock

Expand your musical horizons with these rock bands that looked to England for inspiration.

By 5 min read

You might not know it, but there’s more to Japanese music than just idol groups and anime songs. We’ve talked about some obscure genres of music in Japan before, but a style that’s a bit more contemporary is J-rock.

This is admittedly a broad genre, so today, we’re going to talk about bands that have been influenced by bands from England, particularly shoegaze, dream pop and other effects-heavy styles. Some of these bands are still around, while others have sadly broken up.

Here are five of our favorite Japanese bands that made waves influenced by British rock.

1. Supercar

Let’s start with Supercar, probably the most famous band on this list. Forming in Aomori in 1995, the band blazed a bright trail over the next 10 years. Along the way, they laid down the blueprint for 21st century Japanese rock, one that many modern bands are still following.

Following a few singles, the band kicked things off with their debut album, Three Out Change, in 1998. The album combined elements of noisy shoegaze bands like Ride and Swervedriver with a homegrown Japanese sensibility—and it is deliriously good.

However, they soon augmented the traditional rock foundation of guitar/bass/drums with synthesizers and dance rhythms, picking up elements of Happy Mondays-style Madchester and even some Brit Rock along the way. Futurama from 2000 may be their masterpiece in that it deftly combines guitars with electronics into something uniquely their own.

If you’re into British bands, from shoegaze to Brit-pop to electronica, Supercar is bound to be your new favorite band.

Songs to add to your Spotify playlist:

2. Kinoko Teikoku

Kinoko Teikoku debuted with the album Uzu Ni Naru in 2012. They were a dream-pop band skirting the edge of success throughout their 12-year run, though sadly without ever attaining it.

Kinoko Teikoku’s songs are a lovely mix of melodic, effects-heavy guitars and Chiaki Sato’s melancholic vocals, which recall singer Salyu on the All About Lily Chou-Chou soundtrack. Although the band sometimes veered into cleaner tones and indie-pop territory, a la the C86 sound of bands like early Primal Scream (Scottish, I know) and The Primitives, as on the album Neko To Allergie and their last record, Time Lapse, they were at their best when they explored the contrast between Chiaki’s vocals and noisy guitars.

The band broke up in 2019, unfortunately, but their strong body of work remains for anyone looking for a hit of catchy and melodic indie rock.

Songs to add to your Spotify playlist:

3. Boris

If some of the other bands on this list seem too, well, wimpy, Boris is for you. Formed in 1992, they have released more than 20 metal-infused studio albums—some as collaborations with artists like Sun O))), Japanese noise merchant Merzbow and psychedelic guitarist Michio Kurihara.

Although there are strong influences from classic British metal like Black Sabbath throughout their discography, they sound a little different on every album, from psychedelic to doom to full-on noise. Where you choose to drop in will likely be determined by your genre of choice. Pink, the band’s 2005 worldwide breakthrough, takes British and Irish-influenced shoegaze as its jumping-off point.

New Album (2011) is their most accessible, and some of the tracks wouldn’t even sound out of place as edgy anime theme songs.

Boris is still active and recently released the pandemic lockdown-created album, W. Crank up the amplifiers, strap on a pair of headphones, and let Boris pummel you into submission.

Songs to add to your Spotify playlist:

4. Cruyff in The Bedroom

Since the debut of Supercar, many J-rock bands have flirted with shoegaze for inspiration. However, Cruyff in The Bedroom could never be accused of being arubaito (part-time) shoegazers. For them, it’s a full-time profession.

The band was formed in 1998, taking the name of Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff. Soccer fans, their first two EPs, both had football-themed covers. Their first release, Top Of The World, came out in 2001, followed by the full-length album, Perfect Silence. With their walls of distortion inspired by early ‘90s English bands like Curve, hypnotic melodies and crashing drums, these two releases positioned them as contenders for the Japanese shoegaze king crown. More than 20 years later, they’ve now released seven full-lengths, all expanding on the shoegaze sound.

Cruyff in the bedroom has been remarkably consistent in quality throughout their two-decade career. Their most recent album, 2017’s Hate Me, expands their style with blistering indie rock distortion, with the title track almost veering into classic British punk territory. It’s a good place for new listeners to start, although you could drop in at any point in their career and still be blown away.

Songs to add to your Spotify playlist:

5. My Dead Girlfriend

When punk broke in England, it opened the door to a raw new kind of music. It was directly followed by post-punk, a genre that much more varied in its approach, encompassing everything from Joy Division-style gloom to the sonic experimentation of Public Image Ltd. and This Heat. My Dead Girlfriend, a long-running band from Saitama, has embraced the anything goes post-punk ethos, using it to infuse their songs with an exciting mixture of experimentation and pop melodies.

Their first release, Ixtab, announced their attentions: intertwining male and female vocals, unusual guitar textures and prog rock-like song and album titles. Their magnum opus is the spectacularly named Hades (the Nine Stages of Change at the Deceased Remains), a tour de force of angular guitars and gorgeous vocals.

My Dead Girlfriend isn’t nearly as prolific as the other bands on this list, with only a handful of records to show for their 17 years of existence—but don’t confuse a lack of releases with a lack of quality. Their most recent release is 2020’s Shaman’s Daughter, an EP that shows the group is still experimenting with sonics, song structure, and post-punk style.

Songs to add to your Spotify playlist:

We didn’t mention many more bands, like Mono, The Novembers, Hartfield and Tokyo Shoegazer. So what are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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