Pizzicato Five and Flipper’s Guitar are the two bands usually credited with pioneering the 1990s shibuya-kei movement: an eclectic retromodernist approach to music that strongly influenced Japanese pop for a few years. I’ve shared some Pizzicato Five before, both here and in the form of an Imaginary Compilation Album for The New Vinyl Villain, so here’s the other side of the coin.
Where P5 looked to disco, Motown, and French pop for their inspiration, Flipper’s Guitar took their main influences from jangly guitar bands in the UK indiepop scene: Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Haircut 100 (after whom they titled a song), The Pastels and of course Orange Juice, from whom they nicked the title of this album, “Three Cheers For Our Side”. Their name was also an oblique Orange Juice reference, being suggested by the jumping dolphins on the cover of their first LP You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever.
Flipper’s Guitar weren’t around for very long: this debut album appeared in August 1989, and they’d split by the end of 1991. The debut wasn’t particularly successful at the time, and by the time the follow-up arrived, the original quintet had been reduced to its creative core duo of Keigo Oyamada and Kenji Ozawa, otherwise known as “The Double Knockout Corporation” (geddit?). The photogenic boy duo proved a much more marketable proposition, particularly with them now performing exclusively in Japanese and exuding an edgy irreverence in media appearances, and their second album Camera Talk, and third, Doctor Head’s World Tower (which picked up on the UK’s newly-trendy baggy and shoegaze scenes) went on to gather both critical acclaim and commercial success. And then they split, abruptly and acrimoniously, leaving a slate of already-advertised tour dates unfulfilled. And they’ve never reformed since. Oyamada went electronic and achieved cult popularity in the West – particularly as a remixer for other acts – under the name Cornelius; Ozawa also had a solo career of less international standing.
But back to the album in question, made when they were still a five-piece (you’ll notice original keyboard player Yukiko Inoue contributing female vocals here and there). You can play spot-the-influence or just enjoy a Japanese take on British indiepop. If you like this, the other original albums are worth checking out too (though I warn you, they are mostly in Japanese), along with the live album On Pleasure Bent, which improves on many of the studio versions.
Link: Flipper’s Guitar – Three Cheers For Our Side (password: salad)
- Boys Fire The Tricot
- Coffee-Milk Carzy
- My Red Shoes Story
- Exotic Lollipop (And Other Red Roses)
- Happy Like A Honeybee
- Samba Parade
- Sending To Your Heart
- Goodbye, Our Pastels Badges
- The Chime Will Ring
- Red Flag On The Gondola