Bands of Japan: The Watanabes
The Watanabes trace their mikan-scented roots to Ehime, where they played their very first gig in a sweaty little bar in Matsuyama, in front of a packed audience of socially and sexually frustrated JETs. “We were awful” says Duncan Walsh, “But they were hammered and an audience who had travelled hours from the depths of the Ehime inaka weren’t gonna let a dodgy band spoil their Saturday night.” Some confusion surounds their name which they attribute to the the slightly troubled and overly nostalgic protagonist Toru Watanabe in Haruki Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood. The name also seems to be an allegorical reference to The Smiths.
JP: It took me awhile to warm up to The Watanabes. Now I really don’t know what my objections were (okay, looking back I see I found them “spoiled” and “nostalgic”).They certainly have improved both lyrically and musically, though the vocalist does occasionally stray out of his range. Tracks like “Concerned With You” and (especially) “Ice Age” showcase a new-found folky indie-rock sensibility that is truly compelling. Whimsical guitar-pop indeed.
Daniel: Standing firmly on the shoulders of other indie giants such as Colin Meloy, The Watanabes’s Duncan Walsh’s nasally crooning is sure to make all the hipster girls weak at the knees. And that would be all worth mentioning if he wasn’t backed by such an amazing lineup of musicians that come together so beautifully in “Concerned With You”, a track that also puts me in mind of the gone (but not forgotten) Jump, Little Children.