28.12.17

Zero News

We've got a big two days ahead of us in Buck-Tickistan, and brevity is the soul of wit, so we'll be brief: numerologically speaking, Buck-Tick have completed the cycle they finished with No. 9 and reset the clock to 0. On March 14th, known in Japan as White Day, the band will release their 21st full-length studio album, entitled No. 0

And if you think White Day is about white supremacy - go unfriend yourself from Facebook, you nitwit. White Day is a fake holiday invented by candy companies as a companion to Valentine's Day, because Japanese Valentine's Day revolves around the sexist custom of women giving chocolates to men to beg desperately (and probably in vain) for their approval while failing to appreciate the fact that most Japanese men prefer a gift of booze over chocolate any day of the week (also girls, if he doesn't give YOU chocolate, he's not worth crying over). Then on White Day, the men return the "favor" - by obligatorily giving chocolates to every girl who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day, which means that nobody's feelings get hurt, and also, it means that these chocolates have no meaning, emotionally speaking, particularly given that they're supposed to be white chocolates, because apparently, in addition to being unable to smoke cigarettes or drink whiskey, beer, or coffee, women in Japan are expected to prefer white chocolate over milk or dark, because doncha know, every woman in Japan is a strawberry Lolita, or so I'm told.

(If you don't know what a strawberry Lolita is, click here to find out.)

Anyway, sorry, that wasn't a bit brief. Guess we're not witty anymore. But it's time someone told the truth about White Day already. Obligatory chocolate sucked enough already without it being white like the abominable snowman.

But! On to the news. As we announced in our last post, prior to the release of No. 0, Buck-Tick will be releasing a second single, entitled Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete, and the are now some more details about that. In addition to an adorable band photo which can be viewed on the splash page of the band's website, the band have announced that the B-side to this single will be a song called "Salome," with lyrics by Mr. Sakurai and music by (drumroll) Hoshino "Sexy Beast" Hidehiko, who hasn't been allowed to write a track for a Buck-Tick single since he made more money in royalties from "Dress" and "Jupiter" than Imai ever made in his whole life since "Love Parade" in 2013. Not only that, but the last single track Hide wrote that actually made it onto an album was "Yougetsu," the B-side of Kuchizuke, which was released in 2010. Not only that, but the last time Hide wrote the A-side for a Buck-Tick single was "Gensou no Hana," released in 2003, and kids, 2003 was a whole 14 years ago. So on that note, we were already betting that "Salome" was going to never appear on an album, possibly never be played live, and almost certainly be instantly forgotten by just about everyone (with the exception of yours truly) until some anniversary rolls around and they re-record it as the theme song for the BDSM action thriller Goth Bondage Jesus 2: Mistress May I Have Another (y'all remember "My Baby Japanese," it was the theme song to Goth Bondage Jesus: Crucify My Love, that terrible yet amazing film with starred Mr. Sakurai opposite a cross-dressing Yoshiki.

(God guys, how could you forget this movie so soon? It was way better than Longinus!)




However, it's all academic at this point to take bets on whether "Salome" will get the head of John the Baptist all up in its bits or if it will be, as we predicted, relegated to the B-side bin of history, because the track list for No. 0 has already been announced in the latest issue of FT, and "Salome" isn't on there.

Join me in playing a sad trombone for Mr. Hoshino... but play it with a bit of bounce, because, friends, this is a blessing in disguise. Hide has three of the songs on the new album, and if one of them were "Salome," that would mean a total of three Hide songs for the next two years, but none of them are "Salome," which means that we get FOUR Hide songs, which is at least one more Hide song than we got last time, so put on your striped t-shirts, pour ten packs of sugar in your coffee, point and wink at the girl nearest you, and dance like that shy-yet-sexy rhythm guitarist second fiddle in the streets/fiddler extraordinaire in the sheets you know you are... especially because every Hide song on this go-around has a sexylicious title and all save one are named for women, which more deeply pounds in the point (absolutely no sexual double entendre intended!!!) that when Messrs. Sakurai and Hoshino get together to write lyrics, there's clearly something sassy going on that isn't going on when Imai's involved, because more often than not they end up writing about sex on the beach, white froth and incoherent moaning, stripper pussy, mystical mandala LSD pussy, death goddess pussy... well, you get the picture (bonus points for whoever can match each description above to the Hide song it describes. Leave your answers in the comments.)

But without further ado, here's the track list for No. 0.

01. Reishiki 13-Gata "Ai" (Type-Zero Model 13 "Love") - Sakurai/Imai
02. Bishuu Love (Love the Beautiful and the Ugly) - Sakurai/Imai
03. Babel - Sakurai/Imai
04. Nostalgia-Wita Mechanichalis - Imai/Imai
05. Ophelia - Sakurai/Hoshino
06. Femme fatale - Sakurai/Hoshion
07. Barairo Juujidan -Rosen Kreuzer- - Sakurai/Hoshino
08. Gustave - Sakurai/Imai
09. Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete (Tell Me Goodbye) - Sakurai/Imai
10. Hikari no Teikoku (Empire of Light) - Imai/Imai
11. Igniter - Imai/Imai
12. Guernica no Yoru (The Night of Guernica) - Sakurai/Imai
13. Tainai Kaiki (Return to the Womb) - Sakurai/Imai

Sakurai has already declared that it's one of the best albums they've ever made, and there's clearly a lot in here, but we don't want to speculate too much without having had a chance to look at the lyrics. Still, there are a few things we can comment on. 

The title of the first track is written in such a way as to imply that "Love" is a make and model of weapon, such as a gun, missile, or bomber. 

Ophelia is the lead female character in Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Ophelia is basically Hamlet's girlfriend, but Hamlet plays hot and cold with her and in general treats her pretty badly. He has his reasons, but it's not enough for her. She has a mental breakdown which culminates in one of the most beautiful suicides in the history of literature, immortalized in a famous painting by John Everett Millais, beloved of both goths and emo teens alike.

A femme fatale is a beautiful woman who lures men into trouble, often to their deaths. Salome was one of the original femme fatales, but we'll go into that more once the Moon single is released.

Rosen Kreuzer is the German version of Rosicrucian, which was an esoteric society that gained popularity in the 1600s in Europe. Whether or not the secret order actually existed, the idea of such an order had a tremendous impact at the time. The theosophists who searched for Shambhala-Argarttha around the turn of the 20th century were a later wave of similar hermetic occultists. We're sure we'll have loads more to write about this when the album comes out.

Gustave is probably a reference to the engraver Gustave Dore, whose engraving of Babel we shared in our article a little while back. When we hear the song we'll be sure, but he wouldn't be the first artist for Sakurai to write a tribute song to or name in a song - the award for the former goes to Van Gogh in "Asylum Garden," and the award for the latter goes to Chagall in "Lullaby III."

Edit: In the latest issue of FT, Sakurai stated that "Gustave" was Imai's working title for the song, which he took from the name of artist Higuchi Yuuko's brand Gustave, which includes a lot of whimsical illustrations of cats. Y'all may remember that Higuchi Yuuko's illustration book Babel is one of works which inspired Buck-Tick's song Babel. Anyway, according to Sakurai, Imai showed Sakurai some of the Gustave cat illustrations, and Sakurai felt inspired to write a song about a cat named Gustave, and therefore he kept Imai's working title as the final title of the song. But as for where Higcuhi Yuuko took the name Gustave from... the answer is, she took it from a crocodile! This crocodile, to be exact. Read about it here. (Special thanks to Blog-Ticker Mawb for helping us with researching this while we were off partying at the DIQ).

Guernica is a famous painting by Picasso depicting the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika by the Nazi Luftwaffe at the start of World War II. All hail rock albums about art history.

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In any case, if all this news has you feeling weak in the knees, or if you're a crotchety old granny who likes to enjoy your rock-n-roll through opera glasses while sitting on your plum duff in a red plush seat at the back of a Respectable Adult Theater far away from the speakers, rather than dancing your feet off while plastered to a speaker in a clump of sweaty fangirls at some Disrespectable Non-Adult Live House, then boy do I have some good news for you: Buck-Tick are going to be putting on another seated tour this spring to support their album, and it's going to last approximately four years and take them to approximately every city in Japan with a population greater than ten. Don't believe me? Here's the tour schedule:

3-31 (Sat.) Kanagawa - Yokosuka Arts Theater
4-1 (Sun.) Tokyo - Olympus Hall Hachioji
4-7 (Sat.) Hyogo - Kobe International Hall
4-8 (Sun.) Nara - Nara Centennial Hall
4-14 (Sat.) Tochigi - Utsunomiya General Cutural Center
4-15 (Sun.) Gunma - Gunma Music Center
4-21 (Sat.) Ishikawa -  Kanazawa Honda no Mori Hall
4-22 (Sun.) Nagano - Nagano City Arts Center
5-12 (Sat.) Kagawa - Sunport Hall Takamatsu
5-13 (Sun.) Kochi - Kochi City Culture Plaza Carport wtf?
5-19 (Sat.) Okayama - Kurashiki Citizens' Hall
5-20 (Sun.) Kyoto - Rohm Theater
5-26 (Sat.) Hokkaido - Sapporo WakuWaku Holiday Hall
6-1 (Fri.) Fukushima - Kooriyama Citizens' Culture Center
6-3 (Sun.) Chiba - Ichikawa City Culture Hall
6-9 (Sat.) Osaka - Orix Theater
6-10 (Sun) Osaka - Orix Theater
6-14 (Thu.) Niigata - Niigata Citizens' Arts and Culture Center
6-23 (Sat.) Hiroshima - Hiroshima JMS Astair Plaza
6-24 (Sun.) Fukuoka - Fukuoka Citizens' Hall
6-30 (Sat.) Miyagi - Sendai Izumity 21
7-1 (Sun.) Aomori - Aomori Citizen's Hall
7-6 (Fri.) Saitama - Kawaguchi Lilia
7-7 (Sat.) Kanagawa - Kanagawa Citizens' Hall Yokohama 
7-14 (Sat.) Shizuoka - Shizuoka Citizens' Culture Hall
7-15 (Sun.) Aichi - Nagoya Blah Blah Forest Hall
7-18 (Wed.) Tokyo - NHK "Shittiest Sound in Tokyo" Hall
7-19 (Thu.) Tokyo - NHK "Shittiest Sound in Tokyo" Hall

Tickets are now 8000 yen each plus as 720 fee, because they just keep jacking up the price of sitting in a red plush seat so far from the band members that you can't see them without opera glasses, breathing in the farts of the fat lady who's standing next to you refusing to dance, while intermittently screaming "ACCCCHIIIII" in your ear in a baby voice whenever things get too quiet. The Fish Tank presale (i.e. the only time you have a minimal fighting chance of getting a seat close enough to the stage to see the band with the naked eye) is on between January 13th and January 23rd, to ensure that people will buy the maximum number of tickets despite not knowing what the fuck they'll be doing in JULY because it's half a year away for fuck's sake, and therefore some of those people will definitely end up not being able to go see B-T, which means that they'll resell their tickets on Ticket Camp or similar, and Buck-Tick's management will get angry about resales and maybe ban some people from Fish Tank, only god dammit, they brought this on themselves.

If any of y'all want our help with tickets, we are ready and willing to help, but ask us as soon as possible. General sales open on March 10th, but before that there will be lots of Ticket Pia presale lotteries and other similar presale options, so don't miss them.

Also, if you enjoyed watching the Fish Tanker's Only 2017 DVD, please write to Buck-Tick's management and tearfully request moar fun standing shows like that, because the opera glasses industrial complex already has enough of our money, and listening to a live show in NHK Hall is kind of like listening to a live show through the water in an indoor swimming pool.

And... that's it for now. Tomorrow is the Day in Question. The day after tomorrow is also the Day in Question. Cross your fingers with us and hope that they've swapped out "Dokudanjou Beauty" and "Muma the Nightmare" for some old songs they haven't played in a while. We known it won't work, but if there's one thing Buck-Tick taught us, it's never to give up on our dreams.

16.12.17

Tickets, Goods, and Spotify

Hey, folks. How's the winter treating you? Were sorry we haven't been more post-happy lately. It's been a weird month, but we hope to get some live reports done in the near future.

However, first things first: the new news from Buck-Tickistan!

First, we would like to announce that due to some Blog-Tickers overestimating their ability to fill seats at B-T shows, we have several tickets available for sale for Buck-Tick's shows at Takasaki Arena on December 23rd and the Nippon Budoukan on December 28th and 29th. If any of y'all are interested in any of these tickets, please contact us right away. We will be selling each of them for the original price plus fees. Two of the sets of Budoukan tickets are contiguous pairs, so if you want to go as a pair and sit together, you can do that! Just let us know right away.

Second, as some of you may have noticed, there are new DIQ 2017 tour goods available in addition to the ones we've already profiled earlier this year. These goods happen to include the ugliest t-shirt ever made, which comes with an attached fake plaid shirt tied around the waist. Kids, let us remind you: plaid shirts are only cool if you are a lumberjack or an out lesbian. Otherwise, they are cultural appropriation, hipster cosplay, or you haven't come out of the closet yet but we encourage you to come out because enough of this heteronormative world already. But there's a caveat to that - plaid shirts are never, we repeat, never cool if you tie them around your waist. This shirts-tied-around-waist thing is really a trend in Japan this year, which we find very surprising as it basically indicates that this year in Japan, looking as uncool as possible has become cool. #makeitstop. In any case, if any of y'all want to place any further tour goods orders with us, just shoot us an email. For only 6000 yen each, one of these fabulous tees could be yours. Don't worry - if you pay us, we won't judge you.


Good God, there are two of them!?

Third, and much more importantly, Buck-Tick have announced that on February 21st, they will be releasing a second single in advance of their forthcoming new album. Entitled Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete, this single will contain the original version of "Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete," which appeared in remix form as the b-side to Babel, plus an additional song. It will be available in three versions - two limited editions, plus a regular edition. Limited Edition A will contain a bonus BluRay disc, while Limited Edition B will contain a bonus DVD. Both visual discs will contain the music video for "Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete." The pricing is listed below. If you'd like to reserve this single through Cayce, just shoot us an email. We will make sure you get your Tower Records bonus goodies.

Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete Limited Edition A - 2570 (incl. tax)
Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete Limited Edition B - 2030 (incl. tax)
Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete Regular Edition - 1080 (incl. tax)

Also, we invite all of you to take guesses as to what English lyrics Mr. Sakurai is singing in the chorus to this song. Is it "Under the moonlight/You bring me down every time"? Is it "Plunder the moonlight/You go to town every night"? Is it something else? You decide! Let the mondegreens abound!

Fourth, Buck-Tick's most recent single "Babel" will be featured as the ending theme of the series Unforgettable, which will air weekly on Tuesday nights at 1:34 AM on Nihon Terebi Kanto Local starting on December 19th. However, the first broadcast only will air at 2:34 AM instead of 1:34. Note that when they say Tuesday night, they mean the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, not the night between Monday and Tuesday.

In addition, "Babel" and some other selected popular B-T songs will soon be available on the music streaming service Spotify, in addition to Apple Music, LINE Music, and Google Play. It's unclear whether these songs will also be available on the international versions of these streaming services, so overseas fans, please let us know - because if these songs do indeed become available overseas, it means that the B-T management actually took our advice! Fingers crossed.

Fifth, the usually-truant Fish Tank newsletter is scheduled to be sent out spot on time on December 25th, the day otherwise known as Christmas. Why are they bothering to get it out on time this month, after failing to do so for the past year? We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion. We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion. We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion. We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion. We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion. We really hope it's because they're doing a standing tour and they need to announce the ticket sales in a timely fashion... (say it with us ad infinitum...)

Anyway, that's all our news for now. Pray with us that we can lose this cold so we can write live reports.

16.11.17

Babble of Babel

Well, kids, the Babel single is out, and we are pleased to present our official, eminently singable English translation, complete with expanded translation notes, since y'all have been sending us so much feedback over the years begging for more notes, moar notez!

Also, for ease of reading, we've reposted some of the notes here, along with some additional fun stuff and analysis we thought y'all might enjoy. But first, the song.


Babel
Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi
Music: Imai Hisashi

Dark of the universe
I embody oblivion
All things under heaven
Gossamer grace in the moonlit night

Flesh of the lamb
And the wine crimson and red
I want more
I want more
Blood I crave ah give me more

Tonight am I through Heaven towering
Right to the place where you stand
Call me Babel
Pleasure and joy
Anger and sorrow
Unto the end of desire
Call me Babel
Love the pale moonlight

Caught in the Fear, if you...
Fantasy, illusion you are
Here or not here if I...
I myself am nothing but a dream

Oh see the void
Split apart and soak me in
It burns
It burns
How I thirst, losing my wits

Tonight am I through Heaven towering
Until I tremble and sleep
Call me Babel
Pleasure and joy
Anger and sorrow
So do I crumble and fall
Call me Babel
Love the pale moonlight

Oh see the void
Split apart and soak me in
I want more
I want more
Blood I crave ah give me more

Tonight am I through Heaven towering
Right to the place where you stand
Call me Babel
Pleasure and joy
Anger and sorrow
Unto the end of desire
Call me Babel
Love the pale moonlight

Tonight am I through Heaven towering
Until I tremble and sleep
Call me Babel
Pleasure and joy
Anger and sorrow
So do I crumble and fall
Call me Babel
Love the pale moonlight

"Babel," of course, refers to a famous story from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, in which the ancient Babylonians, having survived the Great Flood of Noah, set about to build a great tower as a safeguard against a second flood, saying, "Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." God looks on and notes, "Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them." To prevent the people from reaching Heaven, God confuses the people's language. Unable to communicate with one another because they all speak different languages, the people give up building the tower and scatter off into various splinter groups. The site of the tower is named "Babel" because it sounds like "Babylonia," but also like the Hebrew word for "confusion." The word "babel" has been adopted into English to refer to a scene of noise and confusion, or a mixture of many languages.

In addition to being an origin story about why people speak different languages, the Babel story is also a story of the folly of hubris. People seeking to become equal with god are invariably brought low. Stories about the folly of hubris abound in all religious traditions, and stories similar to the Babel story appear in many non-Christian mythologies, including pre-Christian Sumerian mythology and even completely unrelated mythologies of American indigenous peoples.

Beyond this, in the Christian tradition, Babylon has long been used as a symbol of hedonism, decadence, and oppression, mainly because the Jews in Babylon were an oppressed minority, yet at the same time, in its day, Babylon was the largest city in the world and the center of the height of human knowledge. The Freemasons consider Babylon their birthplace, while the Rastafarians use Babylon as a metaphor for the white colonialist capitalist industrial hegemony. The Walls and Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a remarkable tiered water park and pleasure garden, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, though since not even ruins remain, there is doubt as to whether such a place ever existed. Most accounts agree that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by one of the Babylonian kings (there's debate about which one) to please his wife... and all we have to say to that is kids, if your guy builds you a wonder of the world to show his love for you, he's almost certainly a keeper. (Quick conspiracy theory: King Sakurai I of Buck-Tickistan built the mighty Tower of Buck-Tick as a highly phallic love monument to the same blue-eyed minx for whom he wrote "Sapphire" and "Yougetsu." Vkontakters, spread it far and wide! Get angry, argue about the lady's true identify, and start flame wars! That's what conspiracy theories are for! Plus, remember - everything you read on the internet is true!)

Anyhow, the Tower of Babel has been the topic of much interest and exploration in literature and theology since ancient times, and its relationship to actual historical structures and leaders has been long debated. Many historical scholars think that the story of Babel was most likely inspired by the ancient Sumerian ziggurat at Babylon, Etemenanki. Etemenanki was a massive religious structure which, if it had been completed, would have been topped by a temple, but the construction was never finished. King Nebuchadnezzar II (the same guy who is often believed to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) reportedly wrote about Etemenanki in some detail way back around 600 BCE, but there's always a debate as to whether this kind of stuff is true or not, given its extreme age. What is certainly true is that Alexander the Great ordered Etemenanki to be restored from the ruined state in which he found it, but when the work did not progress as swiftly as he hoped, he ordered the whole thing demolished and rebuilt again from the ground up. However, he died before the project could be completed, so Etemenanki was lost forever.

Since the Tower of Bable passed into the realm of legend, many famous artists have depicted it in their work, often depicting the tower as a spiral-shaped structure, which was inspired by records of Sumerian architecture, Muslim architecture, and the Roman Coliseum, among others. Of the artistic representations of Babel, the most famous was painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1563. In general, Bruegel was less known for painting religious images than he was for painting complex, humorous landscapes populated by numerous figures, often peasants engaged in daily activities. As such, his art was both enormously popular with the common people of the period and also an invaluable window into the life and times of Dutch peasants during the early Renaissance. Bruegel was a contemporary of Hieronymous Bosch, who painted the famous Garden of Earthly Delights which we discussed several times before on this blog. Bosch's subject matter tended toward the fantastical, while Bruegel leaned toward the real world, but the two painters had plenty in common, including a wacky sense of humor and a penchant for cramming as many figures as possible into a single painting. In some cases, the work of one is mistaken for the other, sometimes deliberately. Bruegel made much of his money creating prints which were reproduced by the major print mogul of the era, a guy named Hieronymous Cock, who looked like this:



It's worth noting that not only was Hieronymous Cock the dude's real, actual, true name (Don't laugh! It's not funny!) but that cheeky Hamlet pose he's affecting in the picture above was the real and true hipster Hamlet - Hieronymous Cock died years before "Hamlet" the play was even written, which just goes to show that even Shakespeare didn't pull his ideas out of thin air. Anyway, Hieronymous Cock was a businessman, and he shamelessly attributed at least one Bruegel print to Bosch because their styles were similar enough that it seemed plausible and Mr. Cock (stop laughing!) figured that Bosch would sell better than Bruegel. Sorry, Bruegel. Anyway, here's Bruegel's Tor du Bablee.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Tower of Babel.

In fact, it is Bruegel's Tower of Babel which directly inspired Buck-Tick's song. Imai gave the song the working title "Babel," stating that the bass line sounded like a the rumbling of a large building about to fall down. Sakurai stated in Issue #85 of the Fish Tank newsletter that he built the lyrics off Imai's working title in part because Pieter Bruegel's Babel painting was being exhibited in Tokyo at the time, and also because a fan had sent him a re-imagining of Bruegel's Babel by Japanese artist Higuchi Yuuko, which he found "cute and charming." About the lyrics, Sakurai stated, "I couldn't attend the Brugel exhibition because I was in recording... but if you look up the Bible story about Babel, you find that people built the tower to get closer to God. The foolishness of humanity was the subject I most wanted to write about. Beyond that, interpret the lyrics however you want.

Ad for the Bruegel Babel exhibit in Tokyo, 2017.

Higuchi Yuuko's re-imagining of Breugel's Babel, complete with her own Lovecraftian monster wreaking havoc in the distance.

Gustave Dore's "Confusion of Tongues" is another rendering of the Tower of Babel. [Fun fact: Gustave Dore may be the source of the "Dame Dore bar" Sakurai refers to in the lyrics to "Lullaby III." Illustrating everything from Poe to Byron to Milton, Dore was a primo romantigoth artist sure to win the love of any art nerd with a heart as melancholic black as Mr. Sakurai's. What are you waiting for, go image search his work right now!]

Sakurai previously made reference to the Tower of Babel in the lyrics to "Lady Skeleton," but in the live performances of that song, he made it pretty clear that the tower was intended to be a phallic symbol, more like this Tower of Babel, drawn by M. C. Escher.


But the interesting backstory behind "Babel" doesn't stop at the art history connections. Sakurai's "Babel" lyrics contain a number of interesting word plays and references. In the line "Blood I crave, ah give me more," Sakurai spells the imperative verb "kure," meaning "give me," as "kurei" (くれい). Though Sakurai chose to write the word in hiragana, when written in katakana, "kurei" means "clay," which could be taken as a reference to the clay or dust from which mortal bodies are made. Paired with the reference to wine, I can't help but think of this drinking song by Henry Purcell:

He that drinks is immortal
And cans't ne'er decay
For wine still supplies
What age wears away.
How can he be dust
How can he be dust
That moistens his clay?

I suppose it's a long shot to assume that Sakurai is familiar with a song like this, but he's pulled out some surprisingly esoteric references to Western culture before, so it's not impossible. If he doesn't know it, he should. After all, don't these latter-day pirates look fun to hang out with?



The first line of the second verse also contains a beautiful word play. In Japanese, the word I translated as "the Fear" is "ifu" (畏怖), meaning "dread, fear, or awe." But of course, "ifu" sounds like the English word "if." Sakurai juxtaposes the two to subtly underscore the fact that he's talking about fear of death as the main motivator of selfish and indulgent human behavior. His use of the phrase "here or not here" in the next line is very similar to the way in which he employed "to be or not to be" in the lyrics to The Mortal's "Dead Can Dance." I already wrote a lot about that in my article The Cacophony of Mortality, so if you haven't read that one yet, go read it.

A third, less obvious word play is the juxtaposition between the reference to wine in the first verse, and the phrase "sake yo" in the second verse. This "sake," spelled 「裂け」 in kanji, is the imperative form of the verb "sakeru," meaning "to rend, tear, or split apart." However, when sung, it sounds indistinguishable from the noun "sake," meaning alcohol (spelled 「酒」in kanji).  Adding to the double meaning is the fact that "sake yo" is followed by the phrase "nurase yo," the imperative form of the verb "nurasu" (「濡らす」), meaning "to wet or moisten." Every time you drink wine, you're certainly moistening your throat with alcohol, so a casual listener who heard the song without looking at the lyrics card could easily be forgiven for thinking that "sake yo nurase yo" is a line about Sakurai wanting to get drunk or be showered in booze. As I've explained before, using homophones to generate double meanings is an ancient tradition in Japanese poetry, so I think it's safe to assume this ambiguity is intentional on Sakurai's part.

But if the actual meaning of "sake yo" means "split apart," then what, exactly, is Sakurai wanting to split? To find out, all you have to do is look at the previous phrase, "kuu yo," which is spelled with the kanji 「空」. "Kuu" is the on-yomi or Chinese reading of this kanji, and as such is not usually used when the kanji stands on its own, as it does in this line. To indicate that he wants the kanji to be pronounced "kuu," Sakurai added a hiragana pronunciation guide known as furigana, to make sure everyone knows that the character has an unusual reading in this context. (For more on kanji readings, check out this article.) 

Usually, when this kanji stands on its own, it is pronounced with one of the two main kun-yomi, or Japanese readings: "sora," meaning "sky," or "kara," meaning "empty." The "kuu" reading usually means "empty" or "air" (as in "melted into air, into thin air"... we'll come back to that in a bit), which is why I translated it here as "the void." However, since the character also means "the sky," in this context, it has the double meaning of referring both to emptiness and to Heaven. So what does Sakurai want to split open, again? He wants to split open Heaven, with the Tower of Babel! Split open Heaven with a big phallic tower, then make it wet... wow, this is turning out to be the most sexual theology class we've ever taken, eh? But let's not focus on the sex part so much that we forget that there's another implication here: Heaven is empty. Does God exist, or is humanity and human desire all there is? 

Sakurai leaves that an open question, but he does explore it further. Look at the next line: "it burns, it burns, how I thirst, losing my wits." The Old Testament God never bothered burning the Tower of Babel, but he's famous for burning some other nearby cities, namely Sodom and Gomorrah, by raining down fire and brimstone upon them to punish their inhabitants for their sins. 

As related in the Old Testament, the sins of the people of Sodom mainly involved the fact that as soon as a pair of angels arrived in the city to check the place out, the men of the city surrounded the house where the angels were staying and demanded that they come out and have a big ol' gay gang-bang with all the dudes in the city square (those of you who think supernatural yaoi is a recent invention, think again...) Lot, the supposedly morally pure man who was sheltering the angels, told the would-be gay gang bangers that they were kinky creeps to want to do it with two male angels. "Please fuck my two virgin daughters instead!" said Lot, because he was morally pure and chosen by God. But the Sodomites were adamant that they only wanted sex with other dudes and wanted nothing to do with icky female virgins. The angels removed Lot and his family from the city and then God promptly destroyed it, and turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for good measure, just because she had the shameless curiosity to look back over her shoulder at all that fire and brimstone (best fireworks show ever). So it was just Lot and his two daughters wandering the desert, and his daughters, fearing that their family line would die out, proceeded to get Lot really drunk and sleep with him (their own dad, for fuck's sake) to get pregnant with his kids. So, despite being saved from a public orgy with a bunch of sinful gays in the Sodom city square, they ended up having sex with their own papa and having his babies. Both babies grew up to found great blessed dynasties, and the moral of this story is, apparently, that gay sex is the worst possible sin but offering your daughters as sex toys to a horny mob and drugging and raping your own dad are wholesome, God-approved activities (Jesus, the Old Testament is weird).

The particulars of the Sodom and Gomorrah are largely beside the point, and we only shared them because we hoped you might share a moment of squicky amusement with us, but the main point is, Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction in fire and brimstone have become an iconic symbol of sin and punishment throughout Western culture ever since the original spread of the Christian religion. Given that the entire premise of "Babel" is already one big Biblical reference, the "it burns" line is surely an evocation of that fire and brimstone wrath of God, the price we must pay for our sins. I've no doubt Mr. Sakurai has been to Sodom himself a fair few times, and he's obviously lived to tell the tale, but coming off the heels of Atom Miraha, it's not hard to imagine what fire from the sky might be. J. Robert Oppenheimer, effective inventor of the atomic bomb, famously compared the original Trinity nuclear blast to "the splendor of the Mighty One," and isn't the bomb the Tower of Babel of modern times? Nothing in the history of humankind has given us such godlike power, and no hubristic act has ever brought us so close to our own total destruction. Perhaps I'm reading too much in, but there are a lot of potential interpretations to these lyrics, and that's what makes them so interesting.

In keeping with this, I can't help but think that the line "love the pale moonlight" is a reference to the famous line spoken by Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the 1989 Batman movie, "Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?" What the Joker is really asking is, have you ever examined your own inner darkness, or entertained the elements of your own character and desires which you normally keep hidden? (Out of the "sunlight," as it were). Since this song appears to be all about the way people succumb to their own worst urges, the meaning fits perfectly. For those of you who can't understand how Sakurai could jump from Jesus to Batman with such alarming alacrity, I just want to ask you - how goth is Batman? Answer: he's fucking Batman. Maybe not quite as goth as Andrew Eldritch, I dunno (we can fight about that one, especially since Andy always vehemently denied ever being goth). But Batman would beat Jesus in a goth-off any day.

This is relevant because "Babel" is a fundamentally GAF (Goth As Fuck) song. As the line "how I thirst, losing my wits" demonstrates, it seems that with this song, Sakurai has taken his usual vampire story one step further, this time using the vampire (who drinks blood and can only come out at night) as a metaphor for the way the human race acts like a vampire upon the world. In this way, "Babel" makes a natural sequel to "Devil's Wings." (Read more about my analysis of "Devil's Wings" in this article.) A lot of the imagery in "Babel" is similar to Sakurai's previous vampire songs "Ghost," "Shingetsu," "Romance," "Kuchizuke," "Yougetsu," and "Fantomas," and this similarity is echoed in the music video, which strongly resembles the video for "Romance" in many ways. However, in "Babel," the vampire imagery is clearly metaphorical, rather than literal - no mention in the lyrics to "Babel" of being killed by sunlight, for example. The characters are vague, and there's no love story, only a story of attempting to reach God by satiating desire.

As far as satiating desire goes, the imagery of eating "the flesh of the lamb" is at the heart of the meaning of the song. It's a classic Biblical metaphor - the Lamb is one of the most widely used symbols of Jesus ("Worthy is lamb that was slain," etc.), so naturally, anyone or anything that eats the lamb's flesh is, in Christian metaphorical terms, in league with the Devil... or perhaps the opposite. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that the bread they ate was his body, and the wine they drank was his blood, and commanded them to eat bread and drink wine in his memory. This is the origin of the Christian ritual of Holy Communion, whereby worshipers partake of bread (or crackers) and wine (or grape juice) at church as a way of symbolically growing closer to Christ. Some Christian faiths believe in the idea of transubstantiation (not to be confused with trans masturbation), whereby, once blessed by the priest, the Communion bread and wine actually literally transmute into the body and blood of Christ. The question of whether transubstantiation is a thing or not has been the cause of bitter theological debates throughout the history of Christianity, though if you ask us, not enough attention has been paid to the question of whether, if transubstantiation is a thing, does that make everyone who partakes in Communion a cannibal? (We believe in freedom of religion, and we're not trying to disparage anyone's faith. We also believe that context is a tremendously important factor when considering the ethics of cannibalism. So we assure you, this is an honest question.) Anyhow, if transubstantiation is a thing, then that means that every devout Christian who partakes in Communion is, in effect, eating the Flesh of the Lamb and drinking sacred wine in order to be closer to God, so from this perspective, the act Sakurai describes in his lyrics may be considered a divine act.

However, eating flesh also has a strong connotation of predatory exploitation and consumption, particularly when viewed from a Japanese Buddhist perspective. Many Buddhist traditions encourage or mandate vegetarianism, due to the fact that in Buddhism, every living creature is considered sacred, and therefore, to eat the flesh of animals is a sin (dunno why that means it's okay to eat plants, which are every bit as alive as animals, but everyone's got to eat to survive, and that's a debate for another day). The lamb, as an herbivorous baby animal, is a perfect symbol of innocence, which is why Christ is presented as a lamb in the first place. Therefore, eating the flesh of the lamb also serves as a powerful symbol of exploiting, trampling on, raping and/or murdering the innocent for one's own pleasure... because after all, once doesn't need to eat lamb's meat to survive. Lamb is an expensive delicacy associated with wealth and power.

Likewise, wine may symbolize the sacred blood of Christ, or it may symbolize debauchery, the Sin of Gluttony, the clouding of the senses, shutting out the voice of the divine. Christianity has never been anywhere near as opposed to alcohol consumption as certain other religions, most notably Islam, but there's still a long, robust tradition of Christians railing against drinking as morally impure.

So which is it? Are lamb and wine the body and blood of Jesus, or symbols of sin, and thus of the Devil? If all this is happening in the pale moonlight, maybe it's the Devil after all, but who is the Devil, anyway? He used to be the brightest of angels, Lucifer Morningstar, who parted ways with God, and was thus cast out of Heaven, because he wanted to do things his own way. "Satan" is another commonly-used term for the Devil, but the real meaning of this word is "adversary" - i.e. anything which serves as a temptation or test of faith. Contrary to popular belief, most Satanist religions don't actually worship the Devil as a physical entity locked in combat with God, but rather employ the original "adversary" meaning of Satan. Rather than following a dogma and living for a promise of an afterlife, Satanists believe in respecting the instincts, needs and urges of the human animal by engaging with the fleshly, physical, sensual world in the here and now, thus taking the same path as Lucifer, leaving the height of an intellectual heaven in favor of earthy reality. Many years ago we used to regularly receive questions from fans about whether the Buck-Tick members are Satanists. While the answer to this question is almost certainly "no" - Satanism is barely practiced in Japan, a largely secular country where the vast majority of the population identify as lax or agnostic Buddhists with some Shinto thrown in - the lyrics to "Babel" could nonetheless easily be seen as a sort of Satanist hymn. I doubt Sakurai was specifically considering this when he wrote these lyrics, but it's still interesting to contemplate.

Satanism or not, there's a mountain of occult symbolism here to sift through, most notably the occult associations with the image of the Tower. Though the Tower of Babel is never explicitly destroyed in the Bible, its divine destruction reappears in later Christian mystical imagery, most notably in the Tarot, on the Tower, Card 16 of the Major Arcana. 



Tarot of Marseilles Tower ("The House of God") - This is the oldest tarot deck, heavily influenced by Christian mysticism, and thus, the Tower is explicitly the Tower of Babel.

Rider Waite Tower - The Rider Waite deck is the most widely used Tarot deck today, and its imagery has had a massive influence on many later tarot decks.


Crowley Thoth Tower - The Thoth Tower is a pagan reinterpretation of the Tarot based on the teachings of famous occultist Aleister Crowley. Most Christian imagery has been erased from the Thoth deck, but note how the round, wide shape of the Thoth Tower distinctly resembles Bruegel's Tower of Babel. The dove with the olive branch is a reference to the sign which heralded the end of the flood of Noah.


Though one of the most feared cards in the deck, the Tower represents nothing more or less than the "moment of truth": the complete shattering of illusions. Sakurai may or may not be familiar with Tarot symbology, but the shattering of illusion theme matches well with the lyrics in this song about people being nothing more than illusions and dreams. It also calls to mind another Shakespeare reference, Prospero's famous speech in "The Tempest" - 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


If Sakurai isn't familiar with this speech, I'll eat my dreams. This one is a must have for anyone who's used the word "dream" more than anyone else in the Japanese language, and there can be only one, and that one is Mr. Sakurai.

Next up: Jenga! Buck-Tickistan commemorative version. How high can you built it before it all comes falling down? If anyone wants to illustrate this for us, please send us your illustrations, by all means. We'll send you some B-T goodies in return.


P.S. Congrats, Blog-Tickers, we successfully procrastinated an entire day's work to write this article. If you enjoyed it, please leave us a comment below.

13.11.17

Ticket to Utsunomiya

Babel is released tomorrow, but for now, we're just here for a quick announcement - a friend of ours has become unable to attend Buck-Tick's The Day in Question 2017 show in Utsunomiya this Saturday (that's November 18th, folks), and is offering her ticket to any Blog-Ticker who wants to go to the show in her place. It's a balcony seat, but the venue's not that big, and Utsunomiya is also famous for its gyoza, so whoever goes should be sure to catch a delicious dinner before or after the show! For those of you who don't know, Utsunomiya is a 50 minute bullet train ride from Tokyo (tickets are about 4500 yen one way), or if you go by local train on the Utsunomiya Line, it's about one hour and 40 minutes from Shinjuku (local train tickets are about 2000 yen one way). Anyway, for those of you currently in Tokyo or surrounding areas, this is your chance to enjoy Just One More B-T. The price of the ticket is the original list price, plus fees and shipping. Whoever asks for it first gets it. It you're interested, email us for details.

26.10.17

Gravity's Cavity

Gravity is a word with a lot of, well... gravity. Just consider all the associations this single word instantly calls to mind!

Most of you who have ever tried Douglas Adams' recipe for flying ("the ability to hurl oneself at the ground and miss") have come into contact with the original gravity that all the hipsters loved before it was cool. On earth, this fundamental force causes everything, everywhere to accelerate at -9.8m/s^2 toward the center of the planet... and yet despite it being the thing that made that apple fall on Newton's head and Mr. Sakurai fall on his ass on the first day of the Memento Mori tour, physicists still can't quite explain why gravity exists. It doesn't fit into the Standard Model of physics. Maybe, if we were able to prove the existence of little massless hoodoo particles known as "gravitons" that scientists hope and believe are out there causing all the gravity around us right now, we'd end up with a simple-ish mathematical explanation for why the world is round and why our feet stick to it. But as yet, gravitons are nothing but an unproven hypothesis, and the weak yet inexorable pull of gravity remains one of the greatest mysteries in science. Despite the number of other things which have stolen gravity's name over the years, Original Gravity(tm) is probably still the coolest thing to ever bear gravity branding.

But still... there's so much more gravity than just gravity. After all, how about that wildly confusing, award-winning and suspiciously psychedelic-sounding novel about sexual rockets?


Or how about that time that Sandra Bullock went cartwheeling off into space not attached to anything in what may be the most terrifying (yet awesome) space movie of all time?



Or how about the ending theme to Wolf's Rain, an anime which we're pretty sure was written by a Buck-Tick fan based on the lyrics to "Rakuen" and "Kimi e"? (If you haven't watched this one yet, by all means watch it! But make sure you have a box of tissues ready to sob into, and make sure you continue to the very, very end... it's all in the twist!)



Oh yeah, and now that you mention anime, what about the most atrocious j-rock yaoi ever made (if you think that with the words "j-rock" and "yaoi" in the same sentence, it can't be bad, you obviously haven't watched it! So what are you waiting for, we've linked the first episode below.)



Then again, those of you who are theater nerds probably prefer this type of gravity instead (and bless these girls).



But still. Though we'd love to be able to try ignoring gravity, as some of you may have already heard, Gravity is Big in Buck-Tickistan right now, and it won't let itself be ignored!!!

Yes, folks. We're talking about the newly-launched luxury brand Gravity Jewelry, designed by Buck-Tick's former web designer, Kouzu Nakaba. After a long, illustrious career on various design projects, Mr. Nakaba has now reached the stage of life when he's free (read: wealthy enough) to pursue lavish, glossy vanity projects that may or may not make money, but will definitely lock down his spot in the Pretentious Hall of Fame forevermore. Mr. Nakaba's Gravity line transcends thousands of years in a vague-yet-epic science fiction universe somewhere between The Never-Ending Story, Interstellar, King Lear, and Stephen Universe (the giant lesbian gemstone was two lesbian gemstones in a trenchcoat all along!!!) Somewhere along the line in this loopy, hole-riddled chronology appears a Great King who has three daughters, and he gives each of them a planet full of preposterously expensive made-to-order jewelry. No word as yet on whether the king goes insane, or whether anyone's eyeballs get put out with the line "out, vile jelly!" (one of our most favorite ever Shakespeare quotes)... but we can always hope. Thankfully, the entire story is already written in English, sparing us the time and effort of translating it, so if you're curious, go read it here.

But what does all this have to do with Buck-Tickistan, you ask?

Don't play dumb, kids. You already know. This has to do with Buck-Tickistan, because Kouzu Nakaba, like every other straight male who's ever laid eyes on Mr. Sakurai, fell instantly in purely platonic and definitely not gay love with Mr. Sakurai the moment he met him, and therefore when Mr. Nakaba was coming up with a story about a King, his thoughts leapt instantly to Mr. Sakurai, King of his heart, whereupon he felt pulled as if by gravity, knowing for sure (even though it was three in the morning at the time) that he NEEDED Mr. Sakurai to be the Lord King of the Rings for him, and he therefore had to call Mr. Sakurai right that minute and beg him, "Please, please, please, let me use your vital, vigorous, veiny, virile hands for my ads to advertise my fuck fantasies fancy as fuck jewelry in a purely platonic and definitely not gay way. Pleeeeeeaze." Lucky for Mr. Nakaba, Mr. Sakurai was wide awake at the time, drinking shochu and lint-rolling cat hairs off his fifteen identical Alexander McQueen t-shirts. "Sure," said Mr. Sakurai, then added, "These rings - do they make good cat toys?"

That message on the Gravity Jewelry website, about the 100th anniversary of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and astronaut Naoko Yamazaki's thoughts on gravity, the force, and Gravity (2013 film starring Sandra Bullock), that's all just a convenient cover-up for the real meaning of this brand name: the ineffable power by which Mr. Sakurai sucks up straight men (and lesbians!) like a vacuum cleaner into a definitely not sexual whole new world (get it?) that they never knew existed.

Anyway, for those of you too lazy to visit the Gravity website, the rings look like this.

"Planet Clarines"
Cool...? To us, this doesn't pack anywhere near as much visual punch as much of Big Black Maria's work, but perhaps our tastes are simply too low-brow and our eyes are still closed to the true beauty of modern art. But how about...

"Planet Sirocos"
Hmm... matte texture, presumably to evoke frost and ice. Cool idea, but in person, matte jewelry tends to make you look like you're about to attend Rich Person Con 2017, and frankly, we'd rather not. The Pretentious Hall of Fame welcomes you, Mr. Nakaba. But wait, there's still...

"Planet Illumina"
Now we're cooking with gas! White gold coated in black rhodium, for that gothical finish, plus a gravity's rainbow of colored stones. It's all most there. All it needs is a few more curls, and maybe a rose in the center... oh wait.

Friends, if you weren't already aware, the above is the ring that was designed by Mr. Sakurai himself for the Tenshi no Revolver tour and produced by Big Black Maria. This ring may be made of plain ol' plebeian sterling silver and garnet, rather than white gold and rubies, but we'll choose this one over the kings and queens any day of the week, because in our opinions, it's better looking than the ones above... and it was certainly less expensive!

For those of you who were wondering, Gravity jewelry is all made to order out of real gold and diamonds. The Queen ring costs 298,000 yen, while the King ring costs 682,000 yen. Affordable, right? But if you're a female fan with small hands (or, in fact, a male fan with small hands) but you think the King ring is definitely cooler than the Queen ring (the King ring is definitely cooler!) and would prefer the King ring (we would prefer the King ring!) then Mr. Nakaba has the following very special message for you: "Fuck you, small-fingered person! You do not deserve my King ring. Small-handed people have no reason to live! My King ring starts at a whopping size 16 and only gets bigger from there! Maybe it will fit around your itty-bitty little big toe! Now get out of my web-store, poor person very lacking in gold coins!!! *blows raspberry*"*

*This is a 100% real, true, fact-checked quote straight from Mr. Nakaba's lips. (And everything you read on the internet is true.)

But!!! If you, unlike us, are absolutely in love with these rings and determined to have them, or you're simply so obsessed with Acchan-chan that you'll buy anything he endorses, no matter what it is, don't despair! Replicas of these rings are currently available for order through the Buck-Tick Web Shop and if you want our help ordering them, we'll be happy to help you, just shoot us an email. The replica rings are made of sterling silver and black Swarovskis. Queen sells for 37800 yen, while King sells for 59400 yen, which is less than our rent, so looking good there, because one of those Big Black Maria rings back in the day was definitely more than our rent and that was definitely too much. However, if you were hoping that these King rings would be made in smaller sizes... dream on, kiddo! They only go down to size 15. All you small-handed people out there, you might as well just cut your hands off right now, to save yourselves the shame. Never have fat fangirls with fat fingers felt so smug and superior! 

If you want the replica rings, don't delay - they're only available till November 24th! It says on the web site that they'll be delivered by December 23rd, just in time for Christmas, so you'd better get on the phone to your rich husband's credit card right now.

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But what about Mr. Sakurai, eh? Whatever came of that invitation he received from Mr. Nakaba?


Well, folks, it was only the next day when Mr. Sakurai sobered up that he realized that taking on this job would involve him being uploaded into a computer, Tron-style, digitized as a Final Yaoi Final Fantasy character, then spit back out into the real world. And while he was inside that computer... who can say what happened to him?




Chekkitout, guys, Noctis has a ring, too!!!1 And a beard! Is this a Future Song for Acchan-chan? We can only wait and hope.

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P.S. Yes, we are still accepting orders for tour goods. And yes, they played "Babel" on the tour and it was even more exciting live than in the video (of course). We've had a very busy few weeks but things have eased up a bit now, so we promise we'll bring you more articles soon.