I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Solid State Survivor (album)

Yup, this is one of the Rosetta Stones when it comes to techno albums. "Solid State Survivor", the 2nd album of YMO, was released in September 1979 and never looked back. It was only at the No. 1 position for 2 weeks in July 1980 but its popularity guaranteed it as the 2nd-most successful album of that year and Best Album honours at the Japan Record Awards. The album sold 2 million amazing feat. Interestingly enough, though, YMO never appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1980. Not sure what the story was, although I could imagine that even if the band had been asked, they probably would've politely declined.

Along with "Rydeen", "Technopolis"is one of YMO's representative songs. It was released as a single a month after the album had come out, and reached No. 9 on the Oricon weeklies. Created by Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), it's a love letter to the Techno Mecca of Tokyo, and the highlight is vocoder-inflected Sakamoto droning "TOKIO, TOKIO, T-E-C-H-N-O-P-O-L-I-S, TOKIO". The Professor even pops up in the official video as some sleepy-eyed alien with a crosshatch for a nose. According to J-Wiki, Sakamoto's repeated mantra was based on train station announcements.

"Behind the Mask" is another composition by the Professor that has gotten even more cachet overseas. It's been covered by artists as varied as Eric Clapton and The Human League, but the singer that got the most attention for it was the late Michael Jackson when it finally got onto his posthumous "Michael" in 2011. The lyrics were written by Chris Mosdell who collaborated on a number of the band's songs.  Mosdell envisaged a Noh mask and thought that it represented a technologically advanced but socially inert society.

Again, as can be seen in the performance video, Sakamoto is providing the vocals while his then-wife, Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)is shimmying at the second bank of synths. Love the suits!

Also, take a look at jari's more detailed look at "Behind The Mask".

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