English-singing Japanese Bands

OP inspired by this Slate article.

For those of you who can’t be bothered to read a link, this Slate article addresses the following:

Some of the bands they mention are King Brothers, Syrup 16g, the Pillows, the Miceteeth, NICO touches the walls, etc. I’ve checked most of the bands in the article out on youtube, and you can find some interesting stuff.

So what I’d like to know from our Japanese/Japan Dopers is simple: Which Japanese bands that sing in English should not be missed?

As a matter of fact, as a corollary, which Japanese bands that sing in Japanese should be on every Dopers’ radar screen?


If The Pillows are singing in English, I must not be listening closely enough.

I have a couple Shonen Knife CDs that I rather like. I think of them as a cross between the Ramones and Hello Kitty.

Puffy does a lot of English songs, particularly lately. Sometimes they’re English versions of their Japanese songs - although not always with lyrics translating the original*, sometimes original. They also have a very good cover of Jellyfish’s Joining a Fanclub (their producer was in Jellyfish). Sometimes the same album will have both English and Japanese versions of the same tune - 59 has both the English and Japanese versions of the Teen Titans theme, Nice has both Planet Tokyo and Red Swing, and Spike has both Violet and Love So Pure.

  • The most fun version of this is Invisible Tomorrow, which has two English versions - So Long Zero and Friends Forever. (I assume So Long Zero was considered a bit too…mature for Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi.)

Shonen Knife has been mentioned.

For Japanese artists who don’t do a lot in English that you really should listen to:

The Brilliant Green has a couple songs fully in English (I Never Dreamed being my favourite), but performed predominantly in Japanese. Tomoko’s two solo personas (Tommy February6 and Tommy Heavenly6) are also worth hearing, with the same note.

HALCALI’s lyrics are typical of J-Pop - mostly Japanese, with bits of English mixed in. And they’re a MUST LISTEN, IMO.

Well, let’s see, the 5,6,7,8’s have the ubiquitous Woo Hoo song that one ofthe phone companies is flogging fairly constantly, they also cover Guitar Date which is AWESOME!

If you haven’t hear Electric Eel Shock’s Rock and Roll can rescue the world, you need to find this song. All the joy and optimism of Rock, with a little tongue in cheek name dropping. Plus, it really does rock.
Guitar Wolf is a must hear for Garge Rock fans. The albums don’t touch the live show, but the guitarist recently died, so you may be ou of luck there. I’m not sure if they will be releasing anymore albums. Too bad, they were an incredible thing to see live.

To clarify, the band Puffy is known as Puffy Ami Yumi in the United States, to avoid confusion with the singer also known as Puffy (this was before he changed his nickname to Diddy).

I MIGHT be mistaken, because my only exposure to this is secondhand, from my teenaged daughter, but there’s a band called Seatbelts I think is Japanese. They did some of the music for Cowboy Bebop, including a song I really like called Ask DNA.

The Beat Crusaders. Don’t know much about them but they do the theme song to Kappa Mikey, which I love. Both the theme song and the cartoon that is.

I loathe the man for that. I really do. Not that Puffy AmiYumi is a bad name, as such, but Puffy’s so much better.

Awesome recommendations so far guys! I’ve listened just finished listening to Electric Eel Shock and some Guitar Wolf and they’re both really good!

What songs would you recommend for Shonen Knife? Any Puffy songs I shouldn’t miss?

From Shonen Knife, I really like “Cookie Day.” They’re an all-girl pop-punk band, and most of their lyrics are super-cute, about food and animals.

Shonen Knife’s covers - Daydream Believer, Top of the World, I Wanna Be Sedated and Cherry Bomb, particularly - are a good place to start. Punk Animals, I Am A Cat, Mosquitos, Tower of the Sun, Catnip Dream, Blue Oyster Cult, Buttercup (I’m a Supergirl), Flying Jelly Attack and Tortoise Brand Pot Cleaner Theme are other favourites of mine.

For Puffy… All the ones I mentioned in my previous post are good, Boogie Woogie no 5, K2G, Su-i Su-i and Sui Sui (two version of the same song, back to back on Spike), Asia no Junshin/Pure Asia (I prefer the sound of the Japanese lyrics, but the pure silliness is clearer in English), and Your Love is a Drug would be other suggestions. Oh, and Hi Hi (the theme from Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi) is really damn catchy, too.

Catnip Dream is the song that got me hooked on them. It’s a drug song…

…for cats.

Boom Boom Satellites are worth a recommendation, I think.

I rather like Pizzicato Five. Their song “Baby Love Child” was featured in the Futurama episode about Leela’s parents.

The Pillows do have a couple of songs in English, but the singer’s pronunciation isn’t terribly good.

There’s a band/lady named Bonnie Pink that I like (though her last CD sucked), who appears to be fluent. About half of her songs are in English, and sound like an American singing for the most part.

I would say that her most consistent CD is Even So, though Heaven’s Kitchen, Evil and Flowers, Daisy, and Let Go have her best songs.

I think, for the purposes of this article, “English-singing bands” must = “bands that throw in a few fairly random English phrases per album”.

as for the OP, hehe, I think a couple of songs off the (~50/50 English/Japanese) Teriyaki Boyz’ Beef or Chicken album are pretty can’t-miss. If nothing else, you must hear “Takeover” and “Celebrity Deathmatch”. Sheer fun.

also, I’ll echo someone else’s Seatbelts recommendation. I don’t know that they’re actually a band outside the context of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack(s), but my god, they made some damn good music for that.

I helped bring Swinging Popsicle stateside last year, and they’ve steadily grown on me. They’re on the pop-rock spectrum and sing a bit in English. “Change” is a good one, though “Snow Ism” and “I Just Wanna Kiss You” are popular and have English hooks. (My favorite is probably “Cinema ni”, but it’s is in Japanese so it doesn’t exactly count.)

They’ll be playing another con in June, so you could even see them live. They were great and well-received here, and that was with an American drummer they had never played with or even met before!

More info and links to samples here.

Any list of great Japanese bands that sing in English that doesn’t include them is a bullshit list. Guitar Wolf was insane.

Shiina Ringo (sometimes Sheena Ringo), and her group effort, Tokyo Jihen, is what I listen to almost exclusively nowadays.