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Eastern Youth

A seasoned punk band tilts at windmills on its new album

The Japanese economy may have turned the corner, but for veteran punkers Eastern Youth, the cup is still half empty. Anxiety and frayed emotions permeate their eighth album, palpable in frontman Hisashi Yoshino's singing even to those who don't understand Japanese.

Although currently lumped in together with the emo rock reinvention of punk, Eastern Youth in fact predate it by a long shot. The band was formed in 1988 by school mates Yoshino and drummer Atsuya Tamori, influenced by UK hardcore punk and the burgeoning US indie-rock scene. Migrating to Tokyo in 1992, they added Tomokazu Ninomiya on bass, completing a lineup that remains unchanged.

In 1992, Eastern Youth also took the unusual step of eliminating English from their lyrics entirely. This unhinged Yoshino's creative muse and allowed him to express complex emotions forcefully, and from this point on the band seemed to connect more directly with their audience. It also eliminated mangled, awkward English expressions, if making Eastern Youth more difficult to approach for a foreign audience.

While the title of Don Quijote is spelled in romaji, that's about the only concession to English the band have made on their new disc. But even without grasping Yoshino's lyrics, their impassioned delivery, wrapped in a fusillade of angular guitars, leaves an impression.

Some of the impressed include the Fuji Rock Festival's Smash corporation, which has invited them to perform at the festival three times, and American bands like At the Drive-In, Jimmy Eat World and Cursive, whom they are supporting in a North American tour this month.

Eastern Youth's music has been described in their press releases as "expressing the sense of helplessness among Japanese youth." Yoshino recently elaborated. "I guess it comes from the instability of society. We still can't see the exit from our long recession, and because of that more people are committing suicide, losing homes and forced to live on the street. The chaos here is causing the destruction of logical thought, and I think what was the common sense of right and wrong is becoming questionable. I think in these circumstances it is becoming harder for young people to have hope for the future."

Don Quijote is available on King Records.

credit: King Records

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