Japan Suicide feel like the front runners in the search for a new form of rock music, one which very generously tips its hat to the darker swathed, post-punk originators but which also reminds us that commerciality and success should be the by-product of creativity not the drive. And it isn’t even that Japan Suicide couldn’t find themselves with commercial success, it is just that we have to change the rules first. Santa Sangre is the suggestion of change, a reminder that just because we put suffixes such as post- and alt- before established musical genres, it doesn’t mean that the bands found in those new and convenient pigeon-holes are not playing by the game, they are just doing it in the trappings of the outsider.
Japan Suicide, however feel like the real deal. Yes, you can tell a lot about their record collection from listening to this album, Joy Division obviously spring to mind, as does Bauhaus, in their less fractured moments, but if you are going to wear influences on your sleeves then why not pick something enigmatic, dark and beguiling. But once you get past those boring debates about how much a band borrows and from whom – it’s the way of the creative world – get over it, what opens up before you is a collection of songs with a wonderful balance of weight and deft creation, melancholy and intensity, depth and darkness.
Blown Away shows the straighter edge of Santa Sangre, dripping with old school gothic moves and dystopian Blitz Kid groove, whereas Thus Bad Begins comes on like Depeche Mode on Ketamin, all claustrophobic swirls and slow, oppressive electro-dirge. For Every Flaw skips through rawer edged garage rock territory, it smiles at The Pixies whilst dreaming of being The Cure and Circle is a monolith slab of droning rock. There is more going on here than first meets the ear.
And as much as it references a very specific musical era, it also neatly links arms with other modern sonic tourists to that much maligned decade like The Editors and Interpol. It is this weight of musical reinvention which could see real change, offer real alternatives to the beige and conformist world we largely find ourselves in. And like a musical pile on, a creative bundle, if you like, it could be Japan Suicide’s added mass which breaks the bed below and clears the way for a fresh start. Strange analogy I know, but you get what I mean.