For the first seven or so months I was in Japan I really didn’t focus that much on buying video games. For the most part this was because I had a real shit TV with horrendous input lag, but I don’t know, I also had a general disinterest in playing games for a while. I think it went back to my depression/anxiety that I wrote about earlier. Whenever I feel down or out of it I make an active effort to get the hell out of my head and outside of my place.
But a return to a somewhat normal mental state + a new TV + HELLACIOUS SUMMER HEAT really made me dive back into gaming the past few months. I had bought a Retron 5, so that covered my basic needs. But with my Japanese skills more than severely limited, I soon found myself wanting to branch out into newer “retro” consoles.
This was around the time that I bought my Hanshin Tigers Gamecube, which also led me to make another decision; if I was going to buy any more old game consoles, I was only going to buy really weird/stupid/amazing variants.
Because any asshole can by a PS2 – it takes a special kind of person to buy a pink one.
I bought a Game Theory album the other day and I’m still in a little bit in shock over it.
That’s because, up until this month, the entirety of Game Theory’s discography had been sadly out of print, making it nearly impossible for new generations to listen to and discover the band, who are one of the great unheralded heroes of the early “college rock” scene of the 1980s. Sadly, Game Theory’s lone consistent member and primary songwriter Scott Miller (a fucking genius by the way) passed away last year, and he never got to see his albums find a new audience thanks to all that bullshit.
But no more!
Tokyo’s original HMV, which opened in 1990 and closed in 2010, was more than just a record store. It was a scene spot where many up-and-coming Japanese bands were able to foster local popularity and grow into somewhat international stars. In fact, an entire genre of music, Shibuya-Kei, the jazz/pop hybrid made famous by acts like Cibo Matto and Pizzacato Five, became popular largely because of HMV’s heavy promotion.
But HMV’s Tokyo location was built during the tail-end of a bubble economy. And while its first few years were a hotbed of activity, everything I have read about it suggests that it spent the second half of its existence in a slow decline before finally shutting its doors four years ago.
But that was then! While international record sales are still on fire thanks to the digital revolution, if the insane abundance of record stores in Tokyo are any indication, Japanese people still love buying music on a physical format. And now that the vinyl and cassette tape resurgences are finally hitting Japan in full force, it seems that record stores are just doing better and better here.
So HMV is back! With an all new location, and new name (HMV Record Shop) and I went to check it out.
808 State’s Ninety and Ex:el are widely regarded as being two of the most important electronic albums of the early 90s. Not only are they fantastic records, but they also pioneered methods of combining the then-underground acid house sound with pop-friendly production and vocal hooks (not to mention all-star guest appearances). While they’re not as widely lauded today as more popular albums by acts like Aphex Twin, The Chemical Brothers or Prodigy, it’s safe to say that they’re far more influential than any albums released by those acts, and that they definitely helped to serve as the groundwork for the electronic music explosion that would briefly dominate the latter half of the decade.
So it’s nice to see both albums finally get the respect they deserve on newly remastered deluxe edition…cassette tapes.