Thursday, March 11, 2010
Gender-bending Japanese mystery album
One of the incredibly useful and practical things I learned in college was that, in Japanese Kabuki drama, men's and women's roles alike are played by male actors. Those impersonating women are called onnagata, and after rigorous training and shaving are apparently considered more beautiful and delicate and alluring than actual women. Well, they might be right about that if this album is anything to go by. Bando Tamasaburo V has been Japan's foremost Kabuki cross-dresser since at least the mid-70s, when this cash-in album appeared. Here he is, wearing a cool sweater and fiddling around with a heavy-handed symbol. In the album his dulcet tones are swirled up into a gently disorienting pastoral head trip orchestrated by Jun Fukamachi. It's really quite magical. Bando talks rather than sings his way through a number of reflections on life, loneliness, cross dressing, bicycles, and the seasons. Or at least this is what I like to imagine. "Spring" (haru) is really the only word I can make out from the lyrics and jacket sleeve. There is a beautiful melancholy moodiness to the proceedings that seems to betray a mid-winter longing for better weather. I could be projecting though.