Just like our dear bear boss, I love almost anything about Japan, specially it’s culture and music. J-music (especially J-Rock) has been a big part of my life. But for me, there is one band that’s more special than all the rest, there should be no shock that they’re one of the most popular and influential bands not only in Japan, but also for all of Asia. I’m talking about L’Arc~en~Ciel of course, a band who has proven that great rock music can also be mainstream. This brings me to the topic of today’s I wuv Japan, their album True and why it’s so damned good.
L’Arc (or Laruku for the fans) started as a band in 1991 when Tetsu (leader and bassist) got the mysterious Hyde (vocalist and front man) to join the group with Hiro and Pero (both of whom left by 1992). At that point, Tetsu got his childhood friend Ken to play guitar and snagged Sakura a little while later for drums.
The band’s first album was Dune and debuted in 1993 with success in the Japanese indie scene. Following on the heels of that success, the band signed with Sony Ki/oon and released Tierra in 1994 and Heavenly in 1995.
Both of these albums were successful mainly helped the band develop the sound that would send them to the top of the charts on their 4th album named of True. This was the last album that drummer Sakura worked on with Laruku since shortly after he was involved in an arrest scandal for having possession of illegal drugs (a pretty serious charge in Japan).
Now, why did I choose this album in particular?
First off, it has the one song that got me into J-Rock, that song being “The Fourth Avenue Cafe”. This in my opinion is one of their best songs they have ever composed.
Secondly, it has many, many other great songs on the album such as the rock ballad “Flower”, the catchy “Caress of Venus”, and the epicness of “Lies and Truth”. This doesn’t mean that the whole album isn’t as terrific. In fact there are many others such as “Round and Round” and “good-morning Hide”.
After listening to one song I was hooked. I can still remember, I was just 10 years old when I heard “The Fourth Avenue Cafe” as one of the endings in the awesome anime Rurouni Kenshin. If Gackt is the Japanese version of David Bowie, then Laruku would have to be Japan’s Queen and this album would be their A Night at the Opera. Now why would I say something that bold? Just like Queen’s album A Night at the Opera, True goes for a different style of music with each song: “The Fourth Avenue Cafe” and “I Wish” have a slightly jazzy touch, “Caress of Venus” is kinda pop-ish, while “Round and Round” goes for more of a solid rock sound. I really can’t get bored with this album, ever.
If you get ever get the chance, try to get this album in any form you can. I had to go through an odyssey to get an original version of this album but it was soo worth it. You just can never go wrong with L’Arc~en~Ciel, especially if you are just starting to get into J-Rock. Give them a listen sometime.