Those who have only experienced Plastics through their lone Western album release — the English Welcome and its American equivalent, Plastics, an Alex Sadkin-dulled production of inferior remakes of material from the band’s first two albums — are missing out on the Japanese quintet’s best work.
The original Japanese albums — Welcome Plastics and Origato — are marvelous and well worth finding for fans of extreme kitsch and quirk. Sung in English by Toshio Nakanishi and Chica Sato, the Plastics’ ultra-perky art-pop (played on guitar and synth) takes its cues from American culture of the ’60s as portrayed by the B-52’s and Devo. Jumpy and clever, nervous and zany, the group takes Western ideals of technology and commercialism and makes catchy Asian sport of them. The first album’s song titles say it all: “Digital Watch,” “Too Much Information,” “Robot,” “I Am Plastic,” “Top Secret Man.” (There’s also a silly cover of “Last Train to Clarksville”; Origato includes the Plastics’ rendition of “Eight Days a Week.”) A great, cool, original band that might just as well be from Mars.
Following Plastics’ breakup at the end of 1981, Tachibana put down his guitar in favor of exploring jazz sax, resulting in H, a diverting album which is wacky but not silly — his commitment to this musical path is no less sincere for its synthesis with what he helped develop in Plastics.
On Hm, his saxisms are a touch artier and less lightheartedly playful, but it’s still a fun record. Primitive drums (or were they copped from a ’40s B-movie conga line production number?) are often used to underpin “outside” jazz sax charts and solos, interlarded with quieter numbers minus bass and drums in which pretty melodies are stated. Odd but ingratiating.
With Yukihiro Takahashi producing and supplying occasional drums, the synth-oriented Mr. Techie & Miss Kipple just doesn’t make it. The menu: a James Brown tribute that goes on too long, oddball instrumentals (including one Tachibana wrote with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh) that are interesting at best and irritating at worst, a stiff Plastics rehash and a poker-faced hymn professing “No Disappointment in Jesus” (delivered in a low and slurry half-speed voice). Weird yet uninvolving.