Denki Groove Decade: 2008-2017

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On March 12, 2019, Pierre Taki tested positive for a small amount of cocaine. In America this would be no big deal; a temporary embarrassment as your mug shot floats around the ‘net, perhaps a limited-run reality series as you attempt to get sober. In Japan, you’re basically banished from the planet. Apparently this is big news, as sales of the PS4 game Judgment suddenly came to a halt, which seems grossly unfair to the hundreds of people who worked on it. More important to me is the complete vanishing of the Denki Groove catalogue from all retailers and streaming services. I was stoked to finally be able to buy DG stuff on iTunes (instead of paying import prices or searching high and low for a way to pirate it), and it was awesome that I could now point people to Spotify rather than dodgy live videos on YouTube. All of that, just gone overnight.  And they wonder why I insist on carrying that ol’ fashioned iPod around.

I know that Japan is still stuck in the era of Reefer Madness and I don’t really want to editorialize too much on their draconian drug laws. And I don’t really have much to add to the debate of “separating the art from the artist” which we unfortunately seem to be forced to have every month or so, at least here in America. In Japan the debate is pretty much settled, even on (or especially on) victimless matters such as this one. Something musicians in the West sing about freely is considered a major scandal over there. I mean, let’s face it, unless your favorite artist is They Might be Giants, they’ve probably dabbled around with drugs at some point. Denki Groove were high-energy ravers who lived through the 90’s, so you can do the math. I guess I’m past the point in my life where I’m “disappointed” in someone who’s caught using, and instead all I can say is that I hope Pierre Taki gets well, if in fact he has any sort of problem with addiction.

Of course, the idea of “erasing” someone who’s been pervasive in Japanese pop culture for decades is absurd on its face, and I have to think DG will be back someday. Hell, Yasuyuki Okamura made it back, and he got busted twice. But it’s all sorta up in the air right now. A couple months ago, DG released their 30th anniversary album, and I’m sad to say I didn’t grab a copy, because I’m sure as hell not gonna find one now (predictably, Denki Groove CDs and vinyl has shot up about 250% on eBay and discogs). But I did nab this nice compilation album for cheap a while back and it dawned on me that I never actually listened to it.

It’s a neat collection, since it focuses solely on their work since they came back as a duo in 2008. Last year they released two live albums, and if you’re a longtime fan it’s pretty notable how little they lean on their classic catalogue – 8 albums from 1991 to 1999 that hit on every important trend in electronic music. By this time they’ve got enough singles to fill two solid discs, and I highly doubt any DG fan needs another copy of “N.O.” or “Shangri-La”. The recent DG albums are all well-worth picking up, but if you just want the digest version, here it is. One tightly sequenced and ultra-catchy banger after another, eventually calming down and delivering gems like “Foxx” and “KNGN” (which didn’t appear on any album). Not much that’s new here, but there is a live take on “Shameful” and an edit of “Fallin’ Down” which is significantly different than the one that made the album. I’m not sure why they went with the album version of “Shonen Young” over the absolutely perfect single cut, but outside of that I’ve got no complaints.

Last night I grabbed a bottle or three of Sapporo and cranked it loud. I’d recommend you do the same, but unfortunately they’ve been disappeared for the time being. Ironically, interest in Denki Groove’s music seems to be at a high point right now. Call it the Streisand effect. We’ll see you again soon.

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