Oliver_White3, on july 16, 2014 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Jacks "Vacant World" is the debut released in 1968 and one of the only two official albums released by the Japanese group. The group started off in 1966 as a folk trio and later had the addition of jazz drummer Takasuke Kida. It has so many different elements of softer and more laid back music in an elegant form. This was the only album from the band that enjoyed success in their home country but was censored and banned from airplay. It remains to be one of the greatest albums in Japanese rock history and quite pioneering although it has a more retro sound, the dark undertones that emerge throughout the album and screaming vocals that deliver such sad and cynical emotion. There is a strong garage rock and psychedelic outlook here and a lot of uncompromising and straightforward moods of the sorrow that underlies everything. The album has an eerie mood to it even when it renders slightly upbeat tracks they always carry that flavor and you know you're hearing Jacks. The group had a dark introspective sound with an exploratory, improvisational edge and sometimes headed into moody instrumental excursions. // 10
Lyrics: The album remains short and only thirty-seven minutes long but can still evoke such profound feeling and gloomy atmospheres that are just so unheard of at this time besides The Doors but this group has it's own style and gets harder with fuzzed out and distorted proto-punk guitar. The songs are folk rock and contain soft ballads with depressive and psych undercurrents there, in a melancholic and shockingly ominous vibe throughout. "Marianne" gives such a raging energy that just throbs with emotion when the heart wrenching screaming takes hold... An intense impact or shock can come just from the beginning - the first track "Marianne," that can knock violently us down with by eccentrically whacked out drums & percussion technique by Takasuke, a psychedelic fuzzy guitar solo by Haruo, a simple but heavily deep bass creation by Hitoshi in free form jazz style, and especially Yoshio's screaming lead vocal. By this tune only, we can realize the reason why they must be referred to as an underground rock band... over 40 years ago.
Basically the eccentric music attitude of Jacks might be constructed by the frontman Yoshio Hayakawa and his sticky stony stormy garagey voices could pollute (very cheap and cheesy) late-'60s Japanese rock world I guess - naturally they could not get any adaptation anyway. The soft and dismal balladry of a track like "Stop the Clock" for example would shatter all of the fake music of simplicity and monotone at the time (not all bands were I was referring to standard mainstream pop in all its mundane splendor) groups with such realness, the jacks were too real for anyone to handle. Indeed there are mildly resemblance of pop but still gives off it's own flair with heavy distorted and descending guitar chords in "Love Generation," but let me say Yoshio's critically mind-expanding voices and their lethal lyrics should continually possess psychoneurosis. Twin perverse guitar sounds by Yoshio and Haruo can remind me Eiji Kikuchi's sharp-edged vibrant guitar in Apryl Fool (another Japanese rock group who would release an album the next year). "Vacant World" captures the feel of a vacant world as a very impressive track featuring Takasuke's floating flowering flute, eerie guitar solos by two guitarists, and Yoshio's near-death voices. Hitoshi's production "Bara - Manji" can be characterized by a loud guitar solo and haunting voices - pester stickily, very doggedly. In the last "500 Miles From the Sky" Yoshio's narration (depressive too) and Takasuke's quiet keyboard sounds can take us into another sky - the heaven.
The album offers full out intensity and it can really stand on its own for the whole era it was made in. "Where" is the only track that has a more energetic and less eclipsing dark edge to it and is still sang in Japanese as only the titles for the tracks are written in English and shows more bass skills as jazz bass is used and more endemic in the album except on other tracks with electric, the usage of both adds different flavors and always good bottom to whatever track they may be doing. The vibraphone usage adds more jazz measure and reminding me of Art Tatum, Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich's trio album but of course different, just in the sense that it brings mild hints of jazz and soothing calm to give an equanimous sound. // 9
Overall Impression: Les Rallizes Denudes "'67-'69 Studio Et Live" is the only closest album I could think of in proto-punk edge with softer ballads, but far into the avant-garde with their near twenty minute "Smokin' Cigarette Blues" but also softer and melodious tracks of pop rock fashion, never singing in English and differing from a lot of J-pop bands before that time who mainly tried to imitate a more western sound the Jacks somehow remain in their own right a purely Japanese band with fuzz rock and punk vocalizations and fuzzy screeching guitar that wasn't really intentionally imitating anything western, all the sets here are original and group composed and lead somewhat in a subtle jazz region. They do have seem a bit like The Doors but mainly in the fact that they have a darker theme to their lyrics and their music while remaining mellow and sedative and there lyrics were so dark and deep that they were banned in Japan, unfortunately you need to understand Japanese to get why but just the way the vocals are given in ominous and moody melodies gives one an idea.
There are a few J-rock bands that came in the sixties so it's really ignorant to say that J-rock didn't exist until the '70s, this album itself proves it and their is a pre-Flower Travellin' Band album (with most of the latter group members) called "Challenge!" released in 1969 by Yuya Uchida and The Flowers along with The Helpful Soul's debut "First Album" released the same year. Those however like Blues Creation's debut are more blues and hard rock efforts that are great but more of an imitative psychedelia, Jacks were just so out of place. As I was saying, they have a cutting edge that is their own, like Les Rallizes Denudes being Japanese and making music without any care of whatever was happening and just doing their own thing which explains the range of moods throughout and track differences. Jacks were just so against everything, you can really feel the rebellion that is so forthcoming here and the group was just so adamant that they quit after their next album "Super Session" was released to remain true to themselves and I definitely admire them for that, never being able to sell-out and become mainstream at all. I'm amazed at this album's freshness, never discoloured even over 40 years after. Jacks could not live long in the end of 1960s and we can understand easily - they had kept their policy and originality not to accommodate themselves to commercialism or popularity (on the contrary their policy itself might disband them in the following year in my humble opinion). // 10