The Japanese Popstars
The Japanese Popstars are ravenous. Since they first tasted success in 2006 with their first two releases on a small indie dance label, their career has been one smooth, upward curve. But now that line is about to take a sharp rise vertically. Three lads from Northern Ireland who have spent the last two years racking up the air miles as they’ve taken their coruscating live show to all four corners of the globe… and still found time to make the record of their lives with their second album, ‘Controlling Your Allegiance’.
The Japanese Popstars – Gary Curran, Declan ‘Decky Hedrock’ McLaughlin and Gareth Donoghue – may have been together for just four years, but they’ve carved out a reputation to rival the biggest names in dance music as a must-see live act and purveyor of raucous, foot-stomping, energetic electronic dance music. In the two years since their debut album ‘We Just Are’ dropped on Gung-Ho!, they’ve gone on long tours of the States, played in Australia, across Europe and, of course Japan – a place that’s especially taken them to their hearts. No surprises there, then.
Decky from the Japstars had the idea of enlisting The Cure’s Robert Smith for one of the rough edits. “We sent Robert an email and heard nothing for six months,” explains Decky. “Then randomly we got an email to say that it had gone into his spam folder.”. Fortunately, Robert went onto the band’s MySpace site, loved what he heard and said he wanted to work with the boys. The result is ‘Take Forever’, which, with its chiming guitar riff, low-slung bass and feint air of melancholia, is a quantum leap from anything that was on ‘We Just Are’. It’s the sound of The Cure had they been born in 2011.
Other names to get the special Japstars treatment include Mercury Prize-nominated Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan on the uplifting, melodic house of ‘Song For Lisa’ and Chicago house legend Green Velvet who asked The Japanese Popstars to work with him after the lads had DJed with him several times. That led to ‘Let Go’, a storming, tumultuous, twisted, electro barrage. Earlier in the year they had remixed the Editors. The boys then drafted in the bands lead singer Tom Smith, recording his icy vocals for ‘Joshua‘ in Dean Street Studios. James Vincent McMorrow, the man described as Ireland’s answer to Bon Iver, the American psych folk singer, contributes his unique falsetto to ‘Shells Of Silver’. At 100bpm, it shows The Japstars have a milder side.
Perhaps their favourite track of all, ‘Fight The Night’, features Morgan Kibby, the American vocalist with ethereal French nugazers-cum-seventies revivalists, M83. As huge M83 fans, the lads were especially made up to have secured Morgan’s services. “Her voice is so otherworldly,” says Gareth. “When she sent her vocals back it was a jaw-dropping moment. It was then we realised this was such a move on from the first album.” And that it most definitely is. Too many bands crumble as egos clash and gobs mouth off. That won’t happen with The Japanese Popstars. The sound they make might be brash, loud and in yer face, but that doesn’t extend to the personalities themselves.
As one message from an American fan on their Twitter feed points out, there’s some irony to their name as they are neither Japanese nor popstars. Well, they’ll never be the former. But popstars? On the evidence of ‘Controlling Your Allegiance’, you wouldn’t want to bet against that now.
- Take Forever (Original)
- Take Forever (Robert Smith’s RS@Home Remix)
- Take Forever (Raw Man remix)
- Take Forever (Attaque Remix)
- Take Forever (The Deadstock 33’s remix)