Cultural trends experience 20-year cycles, which means the decadent 80s are ripe for rebirth in 2002. Kawase Tomoko, the label-described “coquettish” singer of the Brilliant Green, knows this.
Under the moniker Tommy february6 — February 6 is her birthdate — Kawase has crafted a saccharine album totally steeped in nostalgia.
In slavishly recreating a New Wave sound, Tommy february6 makes listeners remember the good, the bad and the ugly about Reagan era music.
In some ways, Japanese pop music never really got over the 80s. Kuraki Mai, for one, sounds like she writes on the synthesizers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam used during Janet Jackson’s Control sessions.
Tommy february6 seems to have borrowed her gear from Nick Rhodes, Martin Fry and the three singers from the Human League. No track on Tommy february6’s self-titled album has a live musician, and all the keyboards used on the songs sound analog.
The results can be incredibly tuneful and insanely catchy.
“*Kiss* One More Time” has a bass line John Taylor could have written. “Tommy Februatte Macaron” might have been an old outtake from an Exposé recording session. (You know — “Point of No Return”?) And “Bloomin’!” could have been convincingly belted by old J-pop stars Iijima Mari and Miyasato Kumi.
Tommy february6 also indulges in the pseudo-60s resurgence that made 80s music more trivial than it already was.
The wheezy organ in “Hey Bad Boy” screams bad anime song. “I’ll Be Your Angel” conjures up terrible memories of Madonna’s True Blue era, and the farty, square-wave synthetic horns on Tommy’s cover of “Can’t take my eyes off of you” are definitely cringe-worthy.
The rest of the album is little more than a game of “Guess Who I’m Referencing”. “‘Where Are You?’ My Hero” — Devo. “Koiwa Nemuranai” — “Cherish”-era Madonna. “Walk Away from You My Babe” — Jam and Lewis.
Music fans who grew up in the 80s would be reaching their 30s about now, and in an era where metal is “nu” and Creed can stay at the top of the charts for weeks on end, Tommy february6 could have been a nice souvenir from a derided but cherished era.
Instead, it’s a documentary, a bit of history that’s undergone no creative license to revise it. Artistically, that’s gutsy, but thirtysomethings looking for a bit of indulgence aren’t going to be coddled.
Tommy february6 is definitely a trip down Memory Lane with a few detours through Amnesia Street along the way.