A step in the right direction.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 08/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Japan's debut album was an earnest but fairly weak glam record, showing some personality but lacking in originality and songwriting. One would fear that they'd fall into a sophomore slump from an already low point, particularly considering that their followup was released in the same year as the debut, but what a difference a few months can make. It could be that they had more confidence in what they were doing, it could be that their relative success had given them a bit of levity with the label, or it could be that songwriter/vocalist/guitarist David Sylvian had developed quite a bit. Regardless of what the reason, "Obscure Alternatives" is a much more satisfying listen than their debut album.
SO what makes this better? Certainly, the songwriting is improved, with Sylvian tackling everything from the sort of straightahead glam he did on the debut ("Automatic Gun", "Sometimes I Feel So Low") to reggae-inspired new wave ("... Rhodesia") to minimalist, moody instrumentals ("The Tenant"). Certainly the title track, uncategorizable musically, while still a far cry from what was to come, is odd, original, and unique. Or it could be the beginnings of development of the later Japan sound-- drummer Steve Jansen is still a lot busier than he would be in the future, but his work is starting to show a sense of subtlety and taste. Or it could be the emergence of Mick Karn, with his bass mixed way up front and his playing beginning to develop the watery feel he would become renowned for. Honestly, I suspect it's a little of all of these, and while some of the tracks have that sort of lifelessness to them ("Suburban Berlin"), by and large, its a good effort.
Fans are encouraged to check out the UK reissue of this album-- it features much improved sound and as a bonus the long out of print "Live in Japan" EP, making it an exceptional value."
Better new wave than the Police?
Lori Kreck | Nevada...where real cowboys live hard | 10/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this at the same time I bought the Police's first album in 1978. Better than the Police....Hell, I don't know cause I never had a huge thing for the Police but this is one of my favorite's from the new wave. I like the "distressed" hauntingly distant vocals and the subject matter in the lyrics. This was the non-commercial kind of new wave U rarely heard on the radio...not Devo, B-52's, or other pop-wave...not that they're bad. I'm not going to try and compare them to anyone in particular but my taste in music tends to be pretty edgy hard rock/metal/blues and phsychedelia and this album/disc still does it for me...."