Awakening The Rocker Within

NEWS FLASH: This just in today! Japanese superstar GACKT (37) invents and instates, via general consensus, a new form of verbal punctuation. Now, replacing the Japanese and English words ‘desu’ and ‘are’, we shall hereby be required by Japanese law to say EVER at the end of every statement and sentence. May also be used as a general exclamation, or as a warning called out after anyone wearing capris.

This PV screams GACKT. It screams GACKT louder than a hysteric fan-girl in the front row. The excessive, unnatural, hard-to-believe-it’s-serious machoness, and insanely awkward acting and lines, which we began encountering early on, and the utterly random moments that are so shockingly powerful, it makes them even more random, all just seethe GACKT.

Long story short, he got it all right with the brand new PV for EVER.

The random (yet undeniably brilliant and meaningful) fragments of storyline in this PV are simplistic, and yet I somehow have a feeling we’re not meant to accept them at face-value. I was really into the shameless self-directed idol-worship, and how his performance awakens the rocker spirit in the boy wearing the YFCz uniform.

The most unbelievable moment of the whole PV is the first scene actually showing the idol himself. When he does that spirit-fingers thing? I mean come on! Everything about his outfit (even the sparkly makeup looked quite cool in the PV), his dance moves, and how he used the hat was really stylish. All I can say about the scope thing that periodically targets him, though, is…Gundam or it didn’t happen.

My only real complaint about the video was…what happened to Chachamaru? Is he camera shy now or something? I’m seeing Tsukasa, SHUN, and some guy with a Perm on bass (Ni~ya from Nightmare again?). I know Chirolyn is scary, but really.

The random ending where the spirit-guide bouncer guy (AKA “GACKT’s Secretary” -insert expletives-) laughs and says “heh…EVER.” was… was…very…let’s just say I bet GACKT thought up that one personally.

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Zen Visual Kei

I apologize for not being very active lately. Truth be told, I haven’t really been feeling inspired by anything enough that I would want to write about it/review it. Most of what I’ve been listening to this past month has been pretty much the same old stuff. To put it in internet layman’s terms: meh.

So, recently, instead of listening to tons of music, I climbed into the mountains to hear the sound of the birds, and live off the land, miles and miles from the nearest tub of Gatsby Moving Rubber, without a perm in sight…And while I was in retreat…I wish I could say something like “I became enlightened”, but unfortunately my realization was somewhat lesser. I realized that I’ve been kind of snobbish, mostly because I’ve become paranoid in recent days about the creativity involved in the recent Visual Kei (and Jrock at large) releases. Some of them have felt more than a little mainstream, and of late, I’ve been waking up from gloomy nightmares, the word Commercialism…commercialism…commercialism… echoing around the room.

However, thankfully before my threats of KAT-TUN rebellion actually resulted in the buying of best-of albums and switching my banner out for one of Kamenashi Kazuya with his hair knotted up in a pink hair-tie, I started thinking more about where things stand, not in regards to the music industry and commercialistic totalitarianism,  but in regards to being a Visualist, and the listening to music aspect of our fandom. (I made the new banner just in case though!)

Just being annoying...

I like the Japanese word “Hajime” 「始め」 which means “beginning”. What I like about it is the kanji because it’s an extremely common and simple character, 始, but it has multiple parts, which, in my eyes, kind of represents the causes and conditions that need to be in place for anything to “begin”. In Japanese, the phrase meaning “Nice to meet you/How do you do” is “Hajimemashite” 「始めまして」 which means, literally, “it has begun”. I like this sentiment because, unlike “Nice to meet you”, it has a feeling of continuity and progressiveness.

In the same way that a personal relationship has a “it has begun” moment, which then develops and progresses into a “now we’re bros” plateau of mutual acknowledgement, media and music has the same patterning (in fact, most things do). In this case, you’re hearing a song for the first time– that’s the “hajimemashite”. Then, if you liked that song enough to look into it further, you will continue to explore that artist’s works (music, movies, media), to the point that maybe you will even travel to foreign countries to see them perform live (is the personal-relationship equivalent engagement? just kidding).

A while ago I read a book called Zen Guitar, which, you guessed it, applied the concepts of zen to playing guitar. The format of the “method” in this book was that the “student” was supposed to think of playing the guitar in the same way you would practice a martial art. The first thing the author tackled was the “black belt” issue. People wanted to know what it took to become a “black belt”. Sparing you the sentiments about how “one will forever be a student” and all that (he doesn’t spare you, but I will), I did like his comment on the topic. He said (paraphrased, as I can’t remember it verbatim) that “in the way of Zen Guitar there is only one belt: the white belt. The student must always return to white belt, every time. The only way that you can attain a “black belt” is by practicing to such an extent that your white belt becomes soiled, and steadily, blackens from use.”

Now, taking all of this philosophy into consideration and then looking at the actual experience of this developing relationship with the experience of listening to certain music, there is no definite point of fulfillment, is there? And yet we rush (it’s a side-effect of visualist dementia– don’t worry, we all have it) forward as if there’s some sort of finish line, or black belt. Essentially, there isn’t one.  At least I don’t think there is– not for me, anyway. And yet it’s interesting to see how, even with something as circular in nature as the appreciation of music, impatience develops. We obsess over when new material will be released– forgetting that there are still songs on old albums that we haven’t even listened to properly.

Essentially, it’s hard to avoid becoming jaded to something. At first and for a while it’s exciting, but if you do something enough, live it and breathe it enough, it becomes a habit – something done without thinking. Even if new material comes out, are we really as excited about it as we were right when we first started listening to The GazettE? I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, or state that this is just how it is. But for me, at least, Visual Kei and Jrock isn’t just a “phase” or something that I will lose interest in after a while. I would never “break up with it” as it were, just because I’ve hit a flat area. These are the points in ones relationship– with anyone and anything– where it actually starts to take awareness and conscious action to keep something alive, strong, and healthy. When you stop appreciating something properly, the jadedness creeps in, lethargy soon follows, and then who knows what’s next– gangrene, maybe. Or even worse, you find yourself actually checking out DBSK albums on eBay (don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying I’ve done that. Not yet, anyway.).

What I’m going to do about it, to both help refresh my appreciation of Visual Kei, and bring some new material to SG, is go back through all of my albums/singles/DVDs/whatever, many of which are dated from several years ago and haven’t been reviewed (I won’t do repeats) yet. I will do my best to listen to them with a “white belt” ear, and review them. It will definitely help me get back in touch with the older stuff, hopefully it will help newcomers to VK check out some classics, and maybe it will send some of you vets back to your dusty collections. Who knows, right?

THE PERM: ROUND 5

Here are a few of the slightly more normal variations. In general I think that the (dare I say it?) “perm-mullet” is somehow acceptable. Despite having possibly the two worst hairstyles ever invented on earth implied in the name…ugh. When they have the bangs straight and swept to the side with the back permed, it’s really feminine, but it can sort of work. It’s the face- obscuring kinked waves that essentially lie at the root of all my problems. When guys are trying to be bad-ass and evil, stylistically ringlets are just…well…ringlets, I mean come on.

Both Schwarz and Jimi (center L+R) of up-and-coming Visual Kei band Chemical Pictures are puffed up on the perm. The left-hand example is one of the slightly more feminine styles of perm abounding in Jrock at the moment. The right-hand example is just…I haven’t found words for it yet, and likely won’t- ever.

Even when Als Dead, the Perm Will Go On....

I have never even heard this band before, but I fatefully found this image, and instantly wanted to give the vocalist a prize for how much Gatsby he must have used to get his permed waves to stay piled up like that.

It would seem that despite being a 40 year old man with a great reputation as one of the most-loved bassists in Jrock, even Tetsuya cannot avoid looking like an awkward adolescent girl sometimes. It’s a combination of the russet color and the fluffy bangs that make it so unfortunate. I recognize this same shade from the Hyde example in an earlier round…Maybe they have the same stylist.

Although I don’t have a direct image (I’m not that advanced yet.) the bassist of R-SHITEI [I realized this doesn’t link directly to the member in question. You can find him at: 七星] is also sporting a perm, not too different from that of Schwarz (Chemical Pictures).

That should about wrap up the perm rounds. I’m relieved somehow that I was able to make an even 5– horrific as the concept is. I should have been able to stop at just 1 round of perms, but they just kept appearing. I hope that my neurotic inability to drop this pet-peeve hasn’t triggered some horrible psychological reaction in the brains of Jrock stylists to force this coiffure on every Jrocker in the scene…

Thanks to Reitsu for the Chemical Pictures image….And for not telling me those weren’t their actual stage names until after I released it to the public!

Image credit for Tetsuya’s golden locks goes to perverse_imp. Thanks!