Paddy Punk in Japanese Rustic Stomp Scene
After being exposed to the Japanese Paddy-Punk band, THE CHERRY COKES by a fellow Shite’n’Onions contributor, I decided to investigate further into Japan’s Paddy-Punk scene to see if there were more bands like this, with an appreciation for the Celtic folk-punk music, and a flair for the execution of it with such infectious zeal. I found a number of bands with some really good material and I began to aurally gobble this stuff up, collecting whatever I could get my hands on.
Development, Styles, and Practitioners
Japan has long been known for its embrace of western customs, styles and tastes, and then putting a twist on it to make it all their own. This has held true with music as well. In the field folk-punk music, however, that ‘twist’ falls under the larger umbrella term of “Rustic Stomp.”
The term “Rustic Stomp” was allegedly coined by the band, The Tokyo Skunx, (often written “The Tok¥o $kunx,”) back in the early ‘90s, and seems to be characterized by mixing the more folk-style music instruments along with the typical rock instruments. In almost all of the bands that I have looked into, certain instruments are always present: electric guitar and a drum kit are invariably accompanied by a bass fiddle, (AKA “double bass”, “stand-up bass”, or according to many liner notes, the “wood bass,”) an accordion and a banjo. Various other assorted instruments are to be found as well, including tin whistle, trumpet, mandolin, saxophone, bouzouki, fiddle and/or bagpipes. It is a safe guess that it is the instrumentation falls under the “rustic” portion of the moniker, while the “stomp” is quite blatantly the music. Punk rock tempos and structures are mixed with elements of rockabilly, ska, cowpunk, bluegrass, country/western or seemingly any other passing influence, tossed into a giant blender, set for purée, and served at dizzying speeds. Some of the big names in the style, (aside from THE TOKYO SKUNX,) are DOG’GIE DOGG, THE CABALLERO POLKERS, and THE FUJIYAMA KINGS. (Bear in mind, that this is by no means a comprehensive list as my knowledge of these bands is quite limited.)
Among the assortment of western-influenced styles and combination of styles, is our own Celtic folk-punk. And the Japanese bands that have chosen this have continued with the manic, explosively hyperactive and energetic treatment as their fellow “Stompers.”
As some bands cross lines and can include ska, reggae, bluegrass, or a number of influencing sounds (or combinations of sounds,) on a single release, their are some bands that could be considered “Paddy-Punk” without an exclusive commitment to Celtic-influence material. A good example of such a band is THE CLASSIC CHIMES. Referred to as “The Japanese POGUES,” to me their sound is less in the Irish/Celtic style than in a some country/rockabilly with some Irish as well as “spaghetti-western” sounds stirred in. THE CHERRY COKES are another band who blur the lines between their influences so smoothly that sounds bleed into each other without the confines of definition.
Rustic Stomp in Celtic-Styled Bands
Those bands who are entrenched and committed to the Irish/Celtic side of Rustic, seem to advertise this intent in any of a number of ways. Although through the music is the most obvious way; cover/traditional songs and or jigs, reels and hornpipes, for those bands with more original material, a band name says a lot. Much like many bands in west, an Irish-styled rustic stomp band is often identifiable through their name: THE CLOVERS, THE ROYAL SHAMROCK, THE CROAGH PATRICK and MT. PAIOT’S, (formerly “MT. PAIOT’S OIRISH ORCHESTRA.”) You hear these names and you can guess what to expect. JUNIOR, on the other hand, have chosen to wear their hearts on the sleeves, or kilts, as it were, and tip their musical hand through wardrobe. Every photo of the band, JUNIOR, that I have seen, the members were proudly bedecked in various tartans. Also fairly indicative as to the music.
Comparisons and Recommendations
If pressed for recommendations from this arena, I would have more than a single candidate to suggest. If one were looking for a very western sounding, paddy-punk-style band, I might steer the listener towards MT. PAIOT’S ‘Northland Stomp’ CD due to its high ratio of English lyrics, (or at least in the song titles and liner notes,) and familiar phrasings borrowed from bands like FLOGGING MOLLY, (“Dirty Town” samples fairly blatantly a piece from “Devil’s Dance Floor”,) THE POGUES, (a version of “Repeal of The Licensing Laws” that is almost note for note!), or just some of the mood akin to those of bands like MUTINY, (“Devil’s Waltz”,) or THE GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS, (‘Wakari-Sake’.)
If however, the listener wanted to experience the origins of Rustic Stomp despite the influencing styles, THE TOKYO SKUNX are among the bands that really pioneered the movement in Japan, (as well as reputedly coined the term!) and have a sound with more “spaghetti-western”/cowpunk/psychobilly flavors at work than anything Celtic. This band also has a very large catalog to choose from.
THE CHERRY COKES, (a name recognized by most S’n’O-ers,) provides a good mix of both the Celtic and non-Celtic Stomp, delivered primarily at the typical amped up pace that this style’s sound is so frequently associated with. The availability of these guys’ material makes them very attractive for checking out as well.
The CDs by bands with the strongest thematic ties to the Celtic influence, but with a delivery firmly entrenched in the identifying exuberance of the Rustic Stomp scene, are 2003’s ‘Rights’ by the band JUNIOR, or 2007’s ‘Hell’s Jig’ by THE CROAGH PATRICK, (see the S’n’O review by ahem your humble author!) Both blast through track after track with the speed and dizzying precision of a scalded cat! And both provide a very accurate portrayal of this facet of the scene’s potential.
My own personal favorite, (at least as of this writing,) has to be 2004’s ‘Greenfield Rumble’ by THE CLOVERS. This CD spends as much energy on creating a unique mood for each track as it does for for any other aspect involved. Each song stands apart from each other yet retains that “family resemblance,” creating a disc that remains fresh and interesting all the way through. I was also quite pleased to hear, (finally,) a song by a Japanese band that incorporated some Japanese-influenced sounds, (albeit created by the banjo,) and segued into a song that bridged that gap so smoothly, that if any tune could be nominated to represent the Paddy-Punk end of Japan’s Rustic Stomp, this one would walk away with it. The Shite’n’Onions site doesn’t handle the Japanese characters well enough for me to write the name of the song, but it is the second-to-last on the CD, just before it wraps up with a slow bagpipe tune that just gushes with touching, mournful emotion.
Or, if you are the type to sample as many flavors off of a buffet as you can fit on one plate, then 2007’s various artists’ CD, ‘Green Anthem,’ contains 14 appetizers from across the Japanese Rustic-Stomp steam table, including MT. PAIOT’S, THE CROAGH PATRICK, THE CLOVERS, as well as bands named NANCY WHISKEY, THE MERRY DRUNKARD BAND, and PRINCE ALBERT.
One of the biggest hurdles that I found in acquiring some of the mentioned material has been the language barrier. Most of these bands have names in English so a web search is easy enough, but once a site that sells them is found, it is usually completely in Japanese. Fortunately, the ever growing influence of English has been recognized in Japan and many vendors’ sites are now available with a built in translation. http://www.Amazon.co.jp has an “In English” button in the upper right corner of the page, as well as Amazon.com’s “Used & New” feature for a bit of a reduction in price! http://www.HMV.co.jp also has an “English” feature. http://www.jpophelp.com is an American site devoted to Japanese media so it is fairly easy to navigate. That ease of navigation comes at a price, though, as this site, with its massive selection and English fonts was the most expensive vendor by far, even factoring shipping and handling charges, (the second biggest hurdle!).
Fortunately for the linguistically limited like myself, the majority of these bands, I have found, have their MySpace pages written in English. This is quite helpful when it comes to ordering their releases as they more often than not will list who is carrying their material. MySpace is also great for hearing a track or two to see if a band catches your ear. So to assist in this, I put together a MySpace list of a few bands:
THE CHERRY COKES: http://www.myspace.com/thecherrycokes
MT. PAIOT’S: http://www.myspace.com/mtpaiots
THE ROYAL SHAMROCK: http://www.myspace.com/royalshamrock
THE CROAGH PATRICK: http://www.myspace.com/thecroaghpatrick
THE MOONSTOMPERS: http://www.myspace.com/moonstompersyasu
PRINCE ALBERT: http://www.myspace.com/princealbertcountry
THE CABALLEROS POLKERS: http://www.myspace.com/caballeropolkers
DOG’GIE DOGG: http://www.myspace.com/cowtrash
PING-PONG DASH: http://www.myspace.com/pingpongdash8969
TURTLE ISLAND: http://www.myspace.com/turtleislandpunktribeorchestra
THE RADIOTS: http://www.myspace.com/radiots
For me, discovering the world of Japanese Rustic Stomp was like being a child again and finding a hidden room full of toys in the attic. There is a thriving scene in Japan of the exact style of music that Shite‘n’Onions was built on and I am just scratching the surface. The song ‘Ace of Clover’ off of MT. PAIOT’S ‘Northland Stomp’ CD has a line that, (through it’s broken English,) reads, “We met the Irish and they’re great guys. Its our own music!” I love that. The Japanese have taken this music and embraced it as their own and created some great material for this genre.
Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel