NINGEN ISU — Taihai Geijutsu-Ten (review)

NINGEN ISU — Taihai Geijutsu-Ten album cover Album · 1998 · Heavy Psych Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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Taihai Geijitsu-ten is the seventh album by Ningen Isu. It features the return of Masahiro Goto on drums, who had previously played on the fourth album, Rashoumon in 1993. The album was released on the Trycle label, their only album with that label. After the band's contract with Meldac expired in 1994, they released an album on an independent label in 1995 and then were fortunate enough to release their sixth album on Pony Canyon thanks to a collaboration with a manga artist. But after that, they were still without a regular label and their drummer, Iwao Tsuchiya left the band.

The album title translates as "Degenerate Art Exhibit" and was inspired by the Nazi exhibits of modernist art in the 1930's as examples of degenerate art. Guitarist Shinji Wajima reckoned that rock and pop music were also a type of degenerate art and thought it would make a good album title.

The music here has taken a retro turn once more. The guitar sound is decidedly old school, early seventies, and at least a couple of reviewers have called this album very heavy psych. The opening track, Tainai Meguri, begins with some punchy chords and Goto's psychedelic/early seventies/Ginger Baker-inspired drumming. The album stays pretty close to this approach and wraps up sounding very much like a lost gem of 72/73.

As is usual for a Ningen Isu album, there are heavy stoner rock / early doom metal tracks with a strong Sabbath influence. "Ahen-kutsu no Otoko (The Man in the Opium Den)" and "Dunwich no Kai (The Dunwich Horror)" are two tracks that hammer low and heavy. But there's more to the album than just that.

"Kuzouzu no Scat" is a grooving, hard rock track whose title was inspired by Heian Period Buddhist art in Japan that depicts in nine frames the stages of decay of a human corpse. Wajima's "Chu, churu, chu-chu-chu-chuu, yeah" sounds strangely like Jim Morrison. Suzuki's "Chinurareta Hinamatsuri (Blood-soaked Dolls Day)" is a unique cross of progressive heavy rock and traditional Japanese singing. It also includes what I think is a Taishogoto, a type of koto, a traditional stringed-instrument. Meanwhile, "Kikuningyou no Noroi (Curse of the Chrysanthemum Doll)" is probably the only Ningen Isu song to have any keyboards, but only at the end, and "Ginga Tetsudou 777 (Galaxy Express 777)" is the only track in their catalogue to include horns.

Two other tracks that stand out for me are "Mura no Hazure de Big Bang", a song that captures the band's humorous side. The lyrics open with, "Today is the Sheep's Sports Day / One Sheep, two sheep they jump over the fence". The song's chorus mentions an explosion on the outskirts of the village. It's a pretty fun song. I also really like "Tentai Shikou-shou". This roughly translates as "Celestial Body Dysguesia". Dysguesia in the condition some women experience when they're pregnant and their taste preferences change, though in this case it's the title of a short story. This is possibly one of the band's most melodic songs. It's pretty cool because it begins with a drum pattern and slightly distorted guitar and the bass guitar comes in played high up the neck and the bass strings humming the main melody. It's also unusual because it's one of the very few Ningen Isu songs to include hand claps.

This album gets very high ratings on the Internet with one person ranking this in the number one position for 19 of Ningen Isu's 21 albums. My first reaction when I heard it was that it was indeed their best album. However since then, I have found I like quite a few of Ningen Isu's albums as well and possibly even better. Still, for fans of early seventies heavy rock and progressive rock, this album satisfies very well considered it was released 25 years after the phenomena of this music had passed.
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