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Tom Smith on the forefathers of visual kei: BUCK-TICK

BUCK TICKFrom forming in 1983 with no prior music experience (or skill!), to filling the massive Tokyo Dome with 50,000 people in 1989, BUCK-TICK’s journey through the Japanese music system is amongst the country’s most exciting stories. They refused to let any record label dictate their sound, their image or their line-up, and the risk paid off, and in doing so, they led a whole new musical movement in the country. And they’re still making music today.

The second box set of Shiki is lucky enough to contain not one, but two new songs from the band. The first half continues the opening theme set out in opening DVD collection; ‘Kuchizuke – SERIAL THRILL KISSER’. The song was specifically crafted for use in the series, with the band being force-fed the anime and the manga until they had a good enough taste of what it was all about. The only direction they had from the production team was ‘make it up-tempo’. See if you think it fits in with the supernatural nature of Shiki below;

Kuchizuke – BUCK-TICK
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The latter half of this box set also introduces Shiki’s second ending theme, ‘Gekka Reijin’ from the same group (which can be translated as ‘the beauty under the moon’ or ‘the moonlit lady’, or something of that ilk – oh the ambiguity of kanji). This BUCK-TICK track wasn’t released as a single like the opener, leading to fans creating their own music videos for it online. The one I’ve linked you to at the start of this paragraph captures the band’s image styles, using a number of clips through the decades, though mostly choosing those when the visual kei movement was all about big hair, shoulder pads and plenty more clichés from what we’d come to call the new romantic era in the west.

Similarly, the above song also demonstrates that the ‘unique’ Japanese genre of visual kei actually has a lot more in common with British new wave, punk and rock of the 70s and 80s than that of Japanese music. Listen closely; those moody, haunting guitars licks sound awfully similar to those found in tracks by The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the electrifying and aggressive guitar solos and harder parts fall somewhere between the grittiness of the Sex Pistols and the craftsmanship of Led Zeppelin, if you ask me.

The comparisons aren’t unwarranted. BUCK-TICK were, and still are, open about their love for the UK and its music scene. Their fourth album Taboo is particularly influenced from the darker side of British music, something the band found lacking in Japan’s often optimistic and positive music scene. Coincidently, the album was also recorded in London and the band made sure to fit in a sneaky live show whilst over here.

Fitting in with the dark and melancholic theme, BUCK-TICK also found a place in Manga Entertainment’s spooky XXXHOLiC: Part Two, where their track ‘Kagerou’ was used as the ending theme.

Shiki: Part 2, featuring themes by BUCK-TICK, is out 31 December on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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