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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Makoto Matsushita -- The Pressures and the Pleasures (Follow-Up)

Jun Bungaku(純文学).

Pure literature. That's how DJ and businessman Takayuki Fujisawa(藤沢隆行)described Makoto Matsushita's(松下誠)2nd album from April 1982, "The Pressures and the Pleasures" in his review in "Japanese City Pop". Fujisawa was probably referring to the four songs/stories contained within this Matsushita magnum opus. Yup, there are eight tracks in "The Pressures and the Pleasures" but according to the singer-songwriter himself in the liner notes, those eight make up four large songs. To clarify from the back of the album:

1. The Pressures and the Pleasures (10:13)

2. Pretender and the Truth
    a) Business Man, Part 1 (3:46)
    b) The Bridge (3:21)
    c) Business Man, Part 2 (3:06)

3. Night Visions
    a) The Garden of Walls (7:33)
    b) Carnaval (5:21)

4. The Dawn
    a) The Quiet Storm (2:06)
    b) Morning Blue (6:15)

Now, I gave my first article on "The Pressures and the Pleasures" back in 2016. There, I wrote about Song 2, "Pretender and the Truth" which has most of the City Pop section of that most intrepid businessperson strutting across Tokyo with a much-needed break time in the lounge via "The Bridge". Although at the time, I didn't know but it turns out that middle section in "Pretender and the Truth" was not only performed by Clara but it was also written by her and Lilika, who I believe are two of the sisters in the vocal group EVE. Matsushita himself provided the music for all of the songs, and wrote the lyrics for both parts of "Business Man".

I've listened to the album twice now since finally acquiring it last week. And true to what Fujisawa was saying, I think that there is literature in there in the form of a day in the life of a fellow separated into different times of those 24 hours plus.

What I've found out is that the whole "Business Man" opus consists of the only really uptempo tracks in "The Pressures and the Pleasures". Almost all of the other tracks are fairly to very introspective. Take that first song, for example, the title track itself. If "Pretender and the Truth" is the protagonist's search for business in broad daylight, that first song could be the dream getting ready to kick start him out of bed. According to the album's liner notes, Matsushita is a huge fan of progressive rock band King Crimson and that's how he tried to create that title track with lyricist Chris Mosdell's help. It's definitely not City Pop in sound (there are parts that even have a nightmarish quality), and the lyrics bring together all sorts of opposing concepts, perhaps to prepare the hero for another day of life in the megalopolis.

Song 3, "Night Visions" starts off with the mysterious and sultry opener "The Garden of Walls". Mosdell also provided the lyrics here and they are all very esoteric. Apparently, Matsushita had been inspired by Miles Davis' live performances to create this song of emotional instability and cries from the heart, punctuated by wailing and screeching guitars. My interpretation of "The Garden of Walls" is that the businessman may be in a bar or nomiya drowning another day's worth of stress in copious drink until he reaches his happy place.

The ender is "Carnaval". Maybe the businessman has gotten his second wind all on his own or his drinking buddies have come by to pick him up for some more carousing out on the town. I think that this would be the one other City Pop tune in the album. The opening verse has some suspense with a boppy bass but then as "Carnaval" progresses, a bright optimistic keyboard enters the fray before the key changes into something happier as if the alcohol is finally kicking in. Then, the guys finally hit the true carnival with that infusion of Latin rhythm and chanting when the good times are at their peak. Mimi Yokosuka provided the lyrics here.

And finally, we come to Song 4 "The Dawn" which starts with the shorter piece by Matsushita in this tandem, "The Quiet Storm". With a dreaminess and Matsushita's echoing vocals along with some uncertainty in the tones, perhaps the businessman is going through some deleterious effects from the night before. Regrets and tee-totaling may be sludging through his thoughts right now.

The longer piece in "The Dawn" is "Morning Blue". Again, a collaboration between Matsushita and Yokosuka, the entire six minutes and change are dedicated to the coming of a new morning in sound and image as the businessman groggily gets up, hopefully wiser and more sober, and perhaps on a morning that is the beginning of a day off for him.

Compared to his debut album "First Light" the previous year which was Matsushita's tribute to American urban contemporary and AOR through folks like Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, "The Pressures and the Pleasures" is an even more ambitious venture involving the every man doing his everyday in sights and sounds. He goes through some good and some bad, but he keeps on plugging away, and to quote directly from the lyrics, "....always does his best".

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