It’s been a good few months for weird music videos, hasn’t it? With BABYMETAL, Avril Lavigne, and Die Antwoord all confusing us in good and/or bad ways (seriously, Avril?), it might seem like there’s no room for crazy music left in your head. But you’d be wrong, because today we have for you the most recent offering of the electro-pop-rock band Urbangarde. And the video isn’t just visually striking–the music is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for the next couple of days! It’s a problem we haven’t figured out to solve yet.
Though, we have to admit that we’re not trying very hard.
This is the first of hopefully many editions of J-Tunes, RocketNews24’s in-house guide to music from Japan that we think deserves your attention and might just get your toes a-tappin’ and heads a-noddin’. Stay tuned for more!
Urbangarde may not be a name you’re especially familiar with yet, but that’s all about to change! The group currently consists of four very stylish members: Yoko Hamasaki, also known by fans as Yoko-tan, is in charge of vocals, sequencing, and killer bangs. Tenma Matsunaga, also called Temma, is in charge of additional vocals, not-so-killer bangs, and giant hipster glasses. Shin Zeze, nicknamed Shinsama, is the guitarist who also helps out with sequencing while wearing a scruffy Mad Hatter-style top hat. And finally, Kyoichi ‘Kyou-chan’ Gagiyama, who handles drums while looking rather fetching in a bowler hat. Fans of the group will note that until recently, they had a fifth member on keyboards.
▼Some things were never meant to be explained.
The group formed in the 2000s as an avante garde, underground techno-pop group, with live performances including poetry readings as well as music. They’ve grown significantly since then and in 2011 they were signed by the Universal Music group, helping bring their distinct brand of madness to larger audiences.
Take, for example, their most recent music video “Sakuramemento,” a portmanteau of “sacrament” and “memento mori,” which combines elements of traditional Japanese music with dubstep-like electronica and pop rock. The video is also guaranteed to entertain with images of death, sakura, laughter, suicide, and school uniforms.
▼Oh yeah, and an enormous, sword-wielding Kewpie mayonnaise doll.
As you’ve probably guessed from the imagery of the video alone, Hamasaki and company tend to focus on dark and disturbing imagery with a healthy dose of sly puns thrown in to keep everything from getting too emo. For example, their upcoming album is titled 鬱くしい国 or Utsukushii Kuni. Those of you who’ve been swatting up at Minecraft Japanese class will probably recognize the difficult-to-write kanji as “utsu,” which means depression, which also has the same reading as the kanji in “beautiful” (美しい utsukushii). If you only heard the title read aloud, you would think it means “Beautiful Country,” but a glance at the kanji tell us that this is all cheeky wordplay and the son’s title is in fact “Depressing Country.”
Okay, enough puns! Now it’s time for more music. Here’s one of the coolest/funniest live performance videos you’ll probably see this week. Titled “Se-ra- fuku wo nuganai de,” or “Don’t Take Off Your School Girl Outfit,” the song is a poppy number featuring a live, bloody battle with a giant Kewpie doll.
In case you’re wondering, yes, Hamasaki has a thing for school girl outfits; here’s their 2013 music video “Tokai no Arisu” featuring a classroom of dancing school girls in the desert, with the band members standing in as teachers.
Finally, we have one more video for you, showing off the hard-rocking side of Urbangarde. Titled “Sayonara Sabukarucha-” or “Good-bye, Subculture,” the video depicts the funeral, burial, and epic action-movie-style explosion of Hamasaki as “subculture.”
The group doesn’t limit itself to music either. You can find official Urbangarde clothing and accessories, modeled by Hamasaki herself, on their webshop. Unfortunately, it looks like they only have a Japanese version, though there are some import stores that offer their clothing as well.
If you’ve decided you need to hear more from this band of mad geniuses, you’re in luck! A ton of videos are available of their YouTube channel and you can preview more of their music on iTunes as well. Their newest album, Utsukushii Kuni, will be released in Japan on June 18. You can believe we’ll be lining up to get it! Hopefully we won’t have to fight any Kewpie dolls though…