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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japan's first classic album
The first two albums from Japan, `Adolescent Sex' and `Obscure Alternatives', were less than great - this might have been due to the New York Dolls-direction of those records and their unhappy tenure on Ariola-Hansa, whom they left for Virgin in 1980. Their third album `Quiet Life' and singles like `European Son' and the Moroder-collaboration `Life in Tokyo' showed a...
Published on 28 May 2006 by Jason Parkes

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sophistocated electro pop
This album is a step up from 'Quiet Life' which marked the beginning of the new, sophistocated Japan culminating in their final ( and best) album, 'Tin Drum'. It's probably the most accomplished and subtle electro pop album of its time. While lacking the world music/ electro synthesis of the latter, its pretty melodies and lush ambient textures make it a very pleasant...
Published on 25 Oct 2008 by Lazydrake


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japan's first classic album, 28 May 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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The first two albums from Japan, `Adolescent Sex' and `Obscure Alternatives', were less than great - this might have been due to the New York Dolls-direction of those records and their unhappy tenure on Ariola-Hansa, whom they left for Virgin in 1980. Their third album `Quiet Life' and singles like `European Son' and the Moroder-collaboration `Life in Tokyo' showed a change in direction. The band took a sound influenced by Bowie (the Berlin era, including the Iggy Pop records) and Roxy Music (notably `Both Ends Burning'). Other influences were becoming apparent - Eno's `pop' albums of the early & mid Seventies, Talking Heads Eno-produced material & the work of Electronic pioneers, Yellow Magic Orchestra. `Quiet Life' was a transitional album, within a year the original Japan line-up of David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen & Rob Dean would record their first classic with `Gentlemen Take Polaroids.'

Produced by John Punter (though Sylvian was rumoured to have made his presence felt), the album was largely written by Sylvian; though this mid price reissue contains b sides `The Experience of Swimming' and `The Width of a Room' that were written respectively by Barbieri and Dean. Originally side two would have included `Some Kind of Fool', which is listed on some old vinyl versions of the record. For reasons unknown, this was replaced at the last minute by a version of Smokey Robinson's `Ain't That Peculiar' - in line with their previous cover of `I Second That Emotion' (though this is much closer in style to YMO). `Some Kind of Fool' finally got released in a remixed/re-recorded form on the Sylvian-compilation `Everything and Nothing' (2000).

The songwriting had improved since `Quiet Life', while the sound of the five-piece Japan was perfected here on the opening title track, `Swing', and `Methods of Dance.' GTP is a more varied collection and displays Sylvian's dominance of the band - Dean and Karn guested on Gary Numan's `Dance' album and Barbieri worked with the Penguin Café Orchestra, so maybe this dominance wasn't an issue? (the cover of `Ain't That Peculiar' was intended to give the band more a contribution). Tellingly, Dean would leave the band not long after. The title track remains a perfect pop song, going much further than Roxy Music, who would probably return the influence with 1982's `Avalon'! `Swing' brings Japan's distinctive rhythm to the fore, Sylvian inotining the title of the closing track (`Taking Islands...'), while `Methods of Dance' is one of their greatest moments, using an Oriental female vocal on the chorus - pre-figuring the sound of 1981's `Talking Drum.'

`My New Career' is a change of direction for the band, a mellower affair featuring Karn on Dida/Clarinet and a guest violinist - it feels like Roxy-gone-ambient and showcases Sylvian's pop sensibilities that he would drop a few years later. `Burning Bridges' feels like a precursor of their biggest hit, the minimal `Ghosts' (which memorably didn't feature Karn's idiosyncratic fretless bass); `Burning...' feels influenced by the second, largely instrumental side of Bowie's `Low', though has a sound not far from the soundtracks to `Apocalypse Now' and `Midnight Express.' `Burning Bridges' is largely instrumental, concluding with Sylvian's slight vocal - this track was particularly effective on the `Oil on Canvas' video where `Burning Bridges' was the first track leading into `Sons of Pioneers.'

The most interesting track from their Ariola-tenure was `The Tenant', an instrumental that was inspired by Erik Satie; this lead in turn to 1979's `Despair' - another example of the Satie-influence (& another work taking its name from European cinema or literature!). The Penguin Café work and instrumental `A Foreign Place' suggested these directions, which fed into one of Japan's greatest songs `Nightporter.' This is essentially a Sylvian solo track, predicting the approach taken on solo material in 1986/87, such as `Laughter and Forgetting', `September', and `Waterfront.' The atmosphere and sound of Satie's `Gymnopedie'-sequence is apparent here, though Sylvian's trademark croon turns avant classical into a conventional song - the feel is close to that of Scott Walker. `Nightporter' is the kind of record that many wish Walker would make, rather than the difficult material found on his infrequent solo albums.

The album concludes with the stunning `Taking Islands in Africa', which again doesn't feature the full band and features a guest performance by YMO's Ryuichi Sakamoto. A lush ambient work that uses Sylvian's divine vocals as a lush (maybe too lush?) lead through an electronic symphony; the Steve Nye remix is pleasant enough, but doesn't really add to perfection.

`Gentlemen Take Polaroids' was Japan's first classic album and one that left the comparisons to Roxy Music in the dust, it's my favourite album of theirs, though 1981's `Tin Drum' is almost as great. Its influence would be felt over the next few years, especially in the form of the commercially successful Duran Duran, who would fuse its sound with a more conventional rock sound. `Gentlemen Take Polaroids' was the first album Sylvian was content with - it was great to see him encoring with a jazzy version of `Nightporter' a few years ago at the Hammersmith Apollo. It would be even nicer to see the four or five of them play this material one last time...One of the albums of a certain era, and one to file alongside such titles as `The Correct Use of Soap', `Empires and Dance', `Fourth Drawer Down', `The Garden', `Organisation', `Remain In Light', `Technodelic', `Travelogue' and `Vienna.'
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentlemen...your attention please., 4 Feb 2009
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Very difficult to listen impartially to this album again. Things experienced repeatedly in the teenage bedroom tend to be far greater than the sum of their parts - but what fascinating parts.

Don't believe the clumsy pigeon-holing of the list obsessed B-listers; Japan were never a New Romantic band. Yes they had the make-up and the sharp clothes (although always more Bowie than their contemporary's pantomime), but the music was icy, austere, and too complex for the pop manifesto and good time aspirations of that gang. Representing a sometimes awkward step between the smoother Young Americans sound of Quiet Life's disco torch and the disquieting detailed atmosphere of Tin Drum's taught skittering rhythms and entirely alien palette, Gentlemen... will polarize all who hear it. Those who hate it however will never do so for a lack of imagination, on Japan's part at least.

Give it a try (its also very cheap!).

P.S. For the drummers and bass players amongst you, you will never hear another rhythm section quite like Mick Karn and Steve Jansen.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great snapshot of Japan on Polaroid's, 15 Aug 2000
Forget the dodgy New Romantic-esque album cover (sorry lads, but it's terrible), Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) is a defining-moment in Japan's history, and one of the finest albums of the early-80's. A clear successor to their excellent Quiet Life (1979) experiment in semi-synthesised, multilayered sound, GTP is both beautiful, haunting and exciting.
The lengthy, eponymous title track is a brilliant and unlikely pop record in it's own right, whilst gems such as the breakneck Methods of Dance and the beautiful piano of Nightporter (a Top 30 hit) gel themselves into a rich piece of work which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Many listener's may find the album a tad plodding upon their first inspection (especially on Burning Bridges, which is perhaps just a little 'too' downbeat), but overall there is a great mix of styles and tempos, and the production is sublime. You won't find any songs here on your latest 'Greatest 80's Album Ever' compilations, as they're too good for that......
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great record, 5 Nov 2006
By 
Mr. L. R. BUXTON (England!) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
With "Gentlemen Take Polaroids", Sylvian guided the band into a brand new area and brought them new success. Imagine a Bowie/Eno band with late period, smooth, Ferry-like vocal inflections, and throw in plenty of mystery and style, and you get "GTP".

This is a great work, a real grower. The title track is well-paced, with Sylvian's lower, soulful vocal particularly well-suited to the material, and the rest of the album is just as inventive - the eerie synth-dominated near-instrumental of "Burning Bridges", the cold funk workout on their cover of "Ain't That Peculiar", the beautiful piano-led ballad, "Nightporter" staking out future Sylvian territory, and Jansen and Karn's work generally is excellent. One to get.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The yardstick for the 80s., 12 May 2007
As the synth led 80s genre goes this really is the yardstick by which all other such albums should be measured.

The Steve Nye production is silky smooth from start to finish, Sylvians writing and vocals are pure class and Mick Karns glorious bass should be listened to by bassists from all genres to teach them that it can be an instrument, not just a method of marking time.

Stand out tracks are the title track, Swing and Methods of Dance.

Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet would have loved to be this good!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbeatable, 12 Aug 2001
By A Customer
I have listened to this album a ridiculous number of times and I just keep discovering new depths to its musical strucures. It is a masterfully crafted piece of work from a group of gifted musicians that managed to weave their individual skills into a sublime musical tapestry. I can't say that I was instantly impressed with this album the first time I heard it (about 20 years ago!), but luckily I listened to it again (and again...) and it has rewarded me in proportion to the number of times I have listened to it. Anyone that hasn't taken the time to appreciate this recording is doing themselves a dis-service: it's a classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A blast from the past!!, 30 April 2013
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Took me back to college days. Have enjoyed listening to this and remembering the 80's when music was music. Enjoy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underated Genius, 5 Feb 2013
By 
P. I. Stone "mollpoll" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Gentlemen Take Polaroids (MP3 Download)
David Sylvian is one of the most underrated songwriters of all time. Any one who was not around during the hey day of Japan and the new romantic movement must buy this album. You will not be disappointed, the album epitomises the era of the day.
I am now in my fifties but still enjoy playing this music. The second track of the album Swing is a classic and at the other end of the scale the haunting melody of Nightporter is superb. Fantastic Album
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic., 20 Feb 2012
This is my favourite Japan album for lots of reasons,from a personal point of view,I have fond memories of listening to this album. I love the instrumentation and the production values. Awesome,a good introduction to Japan if you have never listened to a whole album by them before.A tragic waste of a wonderful musical relationship with the complete breakdown of the band and the sad death of such a talented musician as Mick Karn in early 2011.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gentlemen take polaroids, 16 Aug 2011
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absolute classic album by japan,the music doesnt seem to date,nightporter and taking islands in africa are very dreamy relaxing songs, and the album title song just brilliant.
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