FLASH IN JAPAN
“KAMIKAZE! C’MON, Kamikaze! Make some noise!” MC Alfonso, 808 State’s onstage shaman, acrobat and demagogue, is doing his best to induce hysteria in the pop kids of the Tokyo suburbs. He’s doing very well. But he’s made one crucial mistake.
“Come on, Kamikaze. Let’s hear you! Manchester vibe in the area, Kamikaze!” He doesn’t mean Kamikaze. He means Kawasaki. That’s where we are — Kawasaki. And so the Japanese people turn to each other, puzzled looks in their eyes and the implied question; why are the English so talented but so stupid?
Oops! As 808 State would say. This is an (ahem) big rave and no mistaking. In fact, in the Land Of The Rising Sun and the nine o’clock closedown, tonight’s show — which will continue until 11 o’clock! — is the big rave to end all big raves. Techno and underground House, cranked out for two hours prior to showtime, ensure that the natives, assiduously quick as ever in appropriating Britain’s pop culture as their own, are well mental and on one and all that kind of thing. Watching the Oriental boys and girls cracking their fingers and whistling like the Hacienda’s best of two years ago, you can’t help wondering where they are getting these moves from. The night-time news?
808 State are the nearest the Techno-dance movement has to a rock group, something that becomes apparent as Graham, Andrew and Simon take the stage in their gold lurex anoraks in a halo of green lasers (Graham met Rick Wakeman at the airport and hasn’t been the same since). Graham is actually clutching an electric guitar. And the full-blooded sonic attack that introduces ‘In Yer Face’ Is more reminiscent of most stadium rockers than the average Techno PA. This is meant as a compliment; 808 State have always stood apart from their colleagues in their welding of cultures, function and imagery. And as Graham hawks his ‘axe’ around the stage, it’s obvious that shrinking boffinry has no appeal for this crew.
The (ahem) ravers froth with ecstasy at every subliminal bass thunderclap, each volley and flotilla of hi-tech fireworks. MC Alfonso is employed solely to leap around, get Japanese place-names wrong and create a crazy vibe, something he does pretty efficiently. Predictably, it’s the singles that receive the wildest receptions; ‘Cublk’s’ oft-sampled mechanistic growl and ‘Pacific’s’ luxuriant progressive rock orchestrations, complete with free-wheeling sax solo. Unwashed rockers still insisting that electronic music is ‘faceless disco pop pap’ should place themselves in front of a bass bin at an 808 State gig soon.
Goodnight, Kamikaze, you’ve been great.
© Stuart Maconie, New Musical Express, 28 March 1992