As the band Budgie drummed in before the Slits (or Siouxsie and the Banshees), as Ian Broudie’s group long before he was a hotshot producer or a Lightning Seed, as the first recorded sighting of wild Bill Drummond (future mastermind of the KLF) and as an early proving ground for bassist (!) Holly Johnson (later the vocalist in Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Liverpool’s Big in Japan deserves a lasting place in rock history merely for existing.
Between the group’s formation in the summer of ’77 and its dissolution fifteen months later, the entirety of its vinyl output was one half of a single (backed by a pseudonymous Yachts track credited to the Chuddy Nuddies). The rest of its oeuvre was issued posthumously: two compilation cuts and a four-track 7-inch, From Y to Z and Never Again. Singer Jayne Casey (who later led the dub-tinged pop band Pink Military and the ethereal Pink Industry) takes inspiration here from Japanese girl pop singers, adopting a choppy and chirpy boopsie-doll voice in “Suicide a Go Go,” a sing-song foray into an underworld of prostitution. While “Taxi” hints at the kind of full-echo drumming that Budgie would later exploit as a Banshee, “Cindy and the Barbi Dolls” is a Martian surf samba with Drummond mumbling Rod McKuen-esque poetic love junk over ’50s guitar while a kitschy choir of double-speed munchkins oh-oh-ohs and yeah-yeahs its way behind the chords.