Eastern Youth

Despite the way it sounds, "Japan's greatest emo band" is not faint praise along the lines of, say, "Israel's best Oi! band" or "Spain's finest Celtic rockers," though bands do exist to qualify for such plaudits. Remember, there isn't a non-English-speaking nation on Earth where kids speak punk rock (of all kinds) more fluently than Japan. And Tokyo's Eastern Youth, which formed in 1988 in Hokkaido, represents the best of what's connoted by "emo" in any country. The band plays muscled, lilting guitar rock, technically competent, but hardly technical; emotional, but not histrionic. Hisashi Yoshino's unpretentious vocals draw to mind Ian MacKaye, though he sings only in Japanese, a move all the more admirable considering how profitably he might have adopted English back in 2000, when the band toured the U.S. with At the Drive-In. According to the band's Japanese label, Five One Inc., Yoshino's lyrics are "intense literary expressions of emotions and the sense of helplessness in the passage in life" -- whether or not that's true, Eastern Youth needs no interpreter.


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