The past two nights, Puffy has been helping ring in the new year as part of the annual COUNTDOWN JAPAN music festival. By a happy chance, the festival takes place in both Osaka and "Tokyo" (really Makuhari), so with performances in each city, both girls got to play in front of sort of a home crowd (though Yumi calls Tokyo home these days, and Makuhari is not actually Tokyo).
The COUNTDOWN web site has now posted a "quick report" on these shows, and the official blog has posted a set list. Since it's currently only in Japanese, I'll romanize it here:
(Woops! Now in English too! Well, still..)
1. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.
2. Circuit no Musume
3. Hiyori Hime
4. Hi Hi
5. My Story
6. Nichiyoubi yori no Shisha
7. boom boom beat
8. Tokyo I'm on My Way
9. Asia no Junshin
Song 6 is a cover of a High-Lows song - they're a Japanese punk band. That's the song where Ami busted out her White Falcon, while Yumi sang solo. (No pictures, unfortunately!) So, another new surprise. I do like the fact that they're trying some different things each time they go out these days.
Here are the links to the two "quick reports":
12/29 - Osaka - Planet Stage
12/30 - Makuhari - Galaxy Stage
The text says they're starting a winter break today, so we may not hear much from them over the next few weeks. I'll be watching anyway... and I've still got my New Year's predictions coming up!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Why, it seems like only a few weeks ago that Puffy last updated their official site. Now, we have this:
So it's obvious at this point that that's a new photo. I think it's pretty neat how it looks like it could be ten years old, though. They look as young as they did back then, especially with the straight hair and matching outfits.
On the other hand, I still think the deleted background is just odd. It looks sloppy - they couldn't afford to sit them in front of a nice background? What was behind them, a garbage dump or something? They couldn't hire a nice studio? It's very distracting, it's such an obvious cutout. And I'm being blinded by all that pink and white.
Also, what exactly are they promoting here?? This is the first time I can remember a completely blank photo in that space since their last full redesign about two years ago. They went from promoting the book to promoting... nothing in particular. I'm sure the "Hiyori Hime" single will be listed there soon.
If you missed it (and care), Puffy's also got a desktop calendar now for sale in the "Goods" section, featuring photos from the "Tsukiichi" shoot.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 10:28 PM
Monday, December 22, 2008
Not since 2000's Spike tour have Ami and Yumi attempted to play their own instruments at a recorded or televised live show, something they did pretty regularly in their early days. Well, no real information was given out along with this, but the following teaser photo was just posted on Puffy's staff blog showing rehearsals for the upcoming year end COUNTDOWN JAPAN 0809 show slated for 12/29 and 12/30 (I guess those are the days they're actually performing):
That's Ami with her Gretsch White Falcon as her purple Brian Setzer Hot Rod sits in the background. Clearly, something is afoot! I don't see why she'd have these at rehearsal if she wasn't meaning to play them. (And I don't see why her staff would point it out.)
It's interesting that she's said before that these particular guitars are too big for her to actually play.
No similar photos of Yumi were posted, so not sure if it's just Ami or not. But I can't wait to see this either way.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 7:49 AM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Back in early January, I made a series of predictions for what we'd be seeing from Puffy in the new year. Much as I'd probably like to forget some of them, I thought it'd be fun for you guys, at least, to look back and see how accurate I was. It's mid-December, so I strongly doubt you'll be hearing any major new announcements from Puffy until next year. (Of course, I have been wrong before, as you'll soon see!)
I labeled these "safe bets", "flip a coin" and "long odds" - obviously in order of most to least likely.
Let's break it down:
- Honeycreeper gets a US release. Nope! I call shenanigans on this one, though - it's not my fault. They announced it. Ami told us herself at the US shows. Epic Records sent out an email. Their publicity agency sent out a PR blast. It was all over the place. It was official.
What the hell happened? Your guess is as good as mine. I blame the economy. Or George Bush.
- A new PUFFY CD single release in Japan - and a song not from honeycreeper. Yup. Two of them - "All Because of You" and "My Story", with another - "Hiyori Hime" - announced for early next year.
- New commercial endorsements. Yup. New endorsements and ads featuring their music from Kagome and MOW. Also, technically "new" but really more "back to the future", Yamaha re-signed with Puffy for a new promo for their Vox and Vino, an endorsement deal Puffy had in their early years.
Category prediction batting average: .666 (oOOoOOOoo!), but with an asterisk. It should have been 1.000.
Flip a Coin
- Honeycreeper scores a US hit. I kinda lose by default on that one, eh?
- Some sort of major DVD release. Well, I was half right on this. I think when all is said and done, you'll be able to call the Honeysweeper tour DVD being given as a limited edition single bonus a "major release", given that I think we'll see the whole show come out eventually. Not all this year at this point, though, obviously.
- PUFFY will do a return US tour, this time covering the East, or even the entire country. Well, this is why I called it "flip a coin", you know. Kinda depended on getting honeycreeper out here, as so many of these predictions did.
- One or more members of their current, "temporary" touring band will become permanent, replacing long-standing band members. I said in the original post that this would be a tough call to make, and it is - especially since Puffy hasn't had a major tour or album since I wrote that post. However, their "TV" band, at least, has been pretty stable, and their touring band has often featured Kawanishi from Jetki on drums, replacing the increasingly busy Takashi Furuta. Impossible to know if this is really permanent, though, or if they even really have a "permanent" band anymore - especially as their touring band and TV band is often different.
I did say I'd like to see Enapou (née Enazou) full time, and she has appeared on pretty much all of Puffy's "live" TV appearances, but did not play in the actual live band during 2008.
Category prediction batting average: I'm gonna give myself .250 on this category (half right each on two of four). Which is significantly worse than flipping a coin :)
- Ami and Yumi join Facebook. Ha! No, at least not officially. But they are updating their MySpace page again, which had been left to rot for some time. So that's something, at least.
- A new album in 2008. Oh, so close! Puffy themselves have talked about a new album and have released a steady stream of singles, but it looks at this point as if we'll have to wait until 2009.
- PUFFY will begin producing their own albums. Incomplete on this one - no way to know yet. As doubtful as ever, though, especially as they have not self-produced any of the recent singles (which will likely appear on the album when it does come).
- A PUFFY breakup. Thankfully no. But their financial situation is obviously not what it once was, so there will always be a chance that either they or their record label will decide it's all no longer worth it. Even then, though, they may still exist as Puffy, just not as a band. They're still fashion icons for thirtysomething women in Japan, and they're friends, so why not?
- Yumi gets hitched. Nope. There were rumors, but they don't seem to have materialized. All you single guys still have a chance!
- PUFFY gets another TV show. Nope. Though Yumi has hosted various shows by herself, including Girl Pop Factory 08.
Category prediction batting average: .000. Now them are some long odds!
I'll do this again at the end of this month - I've already got some more predictions I'm mulling in my head. Maybe I'll do a little better next year!
Posted by Jeff Williams at 6:23 PM
The debate rages! New photo or old?
As I say at the forum thread linked above, I swear I've seen this before - but maybe I'm wrong. Is this a new photo taken specifically to promote the Genji anime? Might it end up being the single cover for "Hiyori Hime" as NejiPooshon speculates? Or is it simply an old PR photo that some news organization dug up to attach to an announcement for the upcoming anime series?
To me, Ami's hair style is all wrong (Yumi's is plausible) and what's with the oddly cropped-out background? This borders on being a Photoshop Disaster! It definitely lacks the polished look of Puffy's recent PR and other photos. And the straight hair looks quite retro to me. (Though other things about it do look new, like Yumi's blonde streak and bangs.)
Posted by Jeff Williams at 3:00 PM
I still haven't gotten back over to my local Japanese book store, but luckily somebody who goes by the name of 投稿者 泥んこ水 at the Sumairu Puffy BBS has posted the Docomo Sound Style scans. I'm reposting here, but be sure to check out that site once in a while, as there are some dedicated fans over there doing a lot of work like this:
Posted by Jeff Williams at 2:00 PM
Monday, December 8, 2008
The promised InRed scans. One of Yumi, one of Ami. They look amazing.
They're pretty striking photos in real life. This is a semi-large format magazine (same size as many Japanese fashion mags), and these are full page photos. See here:
My lens cap is next to Yumi for size comparison.
The next page has a short interview, where they do talk about both "Tsukiichi" and the just-announced single "Hiyori Hime", so this is obviously part of a well-planned advance marketing campaign.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 7:24 PM
So I was literally just at Asahiya and Kinokuniya bookstore looking for that InRed issue (found it! Scans coming later), and I trudge all the way back in the sub-freezing weather only to find this site as soon as I return. Then I remember seeing "Sou... Sty..." in the corner of a magazine in the rack, with those the only words visible (being blocked by another magazine to its right) and with the image covered by the rack itself. Argh! If only I had known...
I'll see if I can make another trip back to the store tomorrow. I'm not even sure it's the correct issue, but now I need to check.
Honestly, this might be my favorite picture of them together in quite a while. I know it's not a fashion photo, or a high-end shoot or anything, but maybe by chance, they both look their best up there.
I'll hopefully be able to scan InRed tonight. It's only a two-page spread, then an all-text interview of some sort (probably focused on fashion, so not too interesting to me). The photos are big and beautiful - a computer screen isn't going to do them justice.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 11:45 AM
Saturday, December 6, 2008
PUFFY announced today that their next single is coming February 25 (as I figured, more than a month still to wait!) and will be a collaboration with fellow pop star Shiina Ringo.
New Single "Hiyori Hime"
2009.02.25 In Stores!!
Limited Edition: KSCL 1343 ~ 1344 / 1500 yen (tax incl.)
Normal Edition: KSCL 1345 / 1,223 yen (tax incl.)
1. Hiyori Hime
2. DOKI DOKI
3. My Story variation by agraph
The song's also going to be the theme for the anime "Genji monogatari sennenki", which is apparently an adaptation a pretty well-known story and probably will be pretty popular. So, a pretty nice coup for Puffy all the way around.
The "limited edition", like the last two singles, will come with another DVD of live songs from the "honeysweeper" tour. Apparently only four songs again, which is not what we were promised - and that makes me wonder if there's not still more that they're holding back for some reason (*cough* album bonus *cough*). The track list of the live DVD:
1. Kuchibiru Motion
2. Hataraku Otoko
3. Jet Police
4. Asia no Junshin
In case you're wondering what we're still missing from that performance after these three singles, it's a pretty long list and would make a great future bonus:
Teen Titans Theme
Closet Full of Love
Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?
Bear in mind that all of these were obviously filmed - they didn't just turn all the cameras off in between songs every once in a while. So high quality HD footage of these songs exists, though it may or may not have been edited already. Several of those songs are unavailable on any other live DVD. That last one has never been recorded by PUFFY anywhere else at all. So it would obviously be great to have it at some point.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I'm just curious about a couple things. This will help me tailor my content a little better to what you want. Hopefully the sample size won't be embarrassingly small - please vote if you have a minute! I hope my Japanese readers can understand my poll questions too.
For that last one, I'm sure some of you would love to have an "all of the above" (because I'm just that great at what I do), but it would really be more helpful to me to know what sort of content you're most interested in. Obviously, I will keep doing everything, but if it seems clear that people want more or less of one type of thing, then I'll do more or less of that thing.
Also feel free to leave some comments here on what you like/dislike about the blog, or what you'd like to see in the future.
If you're wondering where this is coming from, there's been a noticeable drop in traffic over the past six months or so and I'm trying to figure out a) how to stop it, and b) whether it's something I'm doing (I hope) or just generally dwindling interest in Puffy (I hope not). I know that over the past six months or so I feel like I've been struggling to find stuff to post about - there's been kind of an extended lull now with only snippets of what would have been minor news in earlier years (like the book release, or a new TV ad).
Anyway, I hope to get some good feedback from this.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 10:22 AM
Monday, December 1, 2008
So Puffy's got a new book out, a fact you probably know by now.
I, unfortunately, can't read much of it, which makes it a little hard for me to review. It's a collection of essays written for the SMA mobile service - they're really more like blog posts. Mostly trivial stuff, from the sound of it - stories about what the girls do on their days off, what their birthdays are like, etc. It's all written by them, so I'd still be interested to read it if I could, but c'est la vie. One of these days, I'll learn Japanese.
Unfortunately there are not very many pictures, which is disappointing if you're an illiterate like me. There is exactly one two-sided page of color photos. Here it is:
The rest of the book is black and white, including the photos, and they all come from the same photo shoot. Oh well. I'm a sucker for any new photos of them so I'm happy enough for that, but I'm left wanting for more.
The quick verdict is that this book is probably not worth your money if you don't read Japanese.
If anyone would like to post a basic summary of each of the essays somewhere, I'll be glad to link to it here. I only got the gist of a few of them before my translator went to bed for the night :)
Posted by Jeff Williams at 10:18 PM
The latest official site update. They seem to be promoting "Tsukiichi" a little more heavily than I would have expected - makes me think that any new music is probably still at least a month away. They really do seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in the studio lately - it's been at least several months already, by my count. Not to mention the meetings. They've gotta be planning something more than a book signing tour...
Nothing much new to the site besides the homepage, although there are a few earlier things in there that I had missed (an "All Because of You" special, and some tour goods). In fact, many of the sections are coming up broken for me, although they may be fixed by the time you visit.
By the way, I did get the book today. I'll write it up a little later, but honestly, it might be something that most western fans are going to want to pass on. It's pretty text-heavy.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 11:51 AM
I'm forever impressed by both the fulfillment centers of Japanese online retailers and the speed of EMS shipping. I pretty regularly nowadays receive my stuff from Japan on or even before the release date. That's probably earlier than some of you guys that are actually in Japan!
Anyway, it is probable that I'll get this book tomorrow (really today), and luckily enough, I'm taking the day off. If it does get here tomorrow, I'll post some scans and thoughts within the next 24 hours or so...
Posted by Jeff Williams at 12:34 AM
Friday, November 21, 2008
Yumi Yoshimura's set to star in the Japanese remake of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" simply called "Heaven's Door", set for release February 7. It's a small part - some have called it a "cameo" - although she's got her own page on the web site's "cast" section (pictured above). No mention on IMDB, though.
The original film's about a couple of criminals suffering from an incurable disease who basically go on a cross-country crime spree before one of them dies. The remake replaces the two adult male protagonists with one adult male and one 14 year old girl. (What else? It is Japan.) I'm not sure what role Yumi's playing, but perhaps the Japanese text up there tells us - if I find out later, I'll update.
For those new to the whole Puffy thing, this is not the first movie role for Yumi - IMDB lists four previous acting stints. That includes her starring role in "The Neighbor No. 13", in which she played the female lead. She's really a pretty good actress. A versatile artiste!
Posted by Jeff Williams at 11:40 AM
Puffy's official site was updated a few days ago with news that the book "Tsuki Ichi" will contain 30 total essays (including 6 new ones) and 200 pages. It sounds like there's also some sort of pre-order bonus photo, though no doubt only for those in Japan (maybe if you order overseas from a major retailer).
The only decent place I've found to order this from the United States is HMV Japan. CD Japan and YesAsia apparently aren't carrying it, and Amazon wants $30 in shipping on a $15 book. HMV charges a still-high but somewhat more reasonable 1200 yen for shipping, or about $12.
I'll do a full writeup once I receive it - hopefully close to the December 1 release date.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I posted about this show back in August, but at that time all I had was a little photo, a set list and show report. Well, how about the performance itself? Some kind soul has granted your wish:
Doesn't appear to be all of it - it's missing two songs ("Basket Case" and "Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi"). But still, at almost 20 minutes, it seems to be worth your while. Honestly, I can't really tell as my new computer is now in the shop and I'm typing this on an ancient Celeron PC that can't even play Veoh or YouTube video. I can see little snippets before it hitches up and freezes. Sigh.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So I got my new computer and it's defective! Or at least built like crap. Click the link for the full story and photos. It's going back to IBM/Lenovo. So my posting might still be a little sporadic until I get it back. (I have it right now, but it's probably getting re-packed up tomorrow.)
Anyway, one tidbit of news is that Puffy will be on the cover of InRed magazine next month. I'm pretty sure their English blog translation is wrong - it's not the December issue (which is out now), it's the issue coming out in December. That would be the January issue.
InRed loves Puffy. But I doubt they're being put on the cover for nothing. Think they'll have something to promote? I think so. And hopefully not just a book. Maybe even more than a single.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 9:34 PM
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Posted on my other blog, but relevant here too:
Fresh off the build line in China. I wonder if it'll come complete with photos of the iPhone girl (er, Thinkpad girl?).
It's been hard to post to this blog lately because the computer I've been using since my own laptop broke doesn't even have a DVD drive and is much too slow to do anything like encode video. It can deal with photos, but painfully. So most of the types of posts I usually put up during the in-between periods, like my own encoded videos, haven't really been possible.
I should have my shiny new Thinkpad tomorrow. Can't wait to be back in business!
Posted by Jeff Williams at 8:32 AM
Monday, November 3, 2008
New song, written by Shimura Masahiko of Fujifabric.
Tough to judge anything from 15 seconds, but it sounds like it could be fun in the context of an album. Doesn't have the feel of a song that really stands on its own. We'll see how they actually release it.
Sounds pretty garage, actually, which could be really cool. But I've gotta hear more before I can really say one way or another.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Just before I went on a little trip this weekend, the power jack on my laptop broke. So it's gonna be hard to blog for a little while, but I am going to try to anyway. I should be able to post news and whatnot, at least; it's just hard to do anything with my own pictures or video without my own computer to do stuff on.
I may need to buy another one, which I'm none too happy about. Grr.
UPDATE: I've bogarted my wife's old laptop for now - it's junk, but at least I can blog. I'll post something good up by the weekend.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 3:51 PM
Friday, October 24, 2008
Yep, only a few details at the moment. It's mostly a collection of essays written by Ami and Yumi, apparently. 200 pages. At least one photo (and probably more):
Here is the link to the book on the publisher's web site. It'll sell for 1,575 yen, or about $15.
200 pages is pretty significant. Their last book "Ayumi" was around that size, and it's considered something of a bible of their entire history, with lots of details that weren't previously common knowledge.
I'll add more once there's more to post. As usual these days, Puffy's staff claim "not to be able to" say more yet. I admit that I'm a little surprised by this announcement, but I'm definitely looking forward to the book.
If anyone in Japan would like to fill us in on any more you might know from their Japanese blog posts, please leave a comment. Is this a collection of their magazine columns? Or something new?
Posted by Jeff Williams at 6:14 PM
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Thanks to timwamoonface for posting this at the puffyamiyumiworld.com forums, and obviously to Uutygfavailable for uploading to YouTube in the first place.
You probably read my previous post about Puffy's appearance at Rock in Japan Festival 2008; now we've got video of the event:
Asia no Junshin
They don't sound the best I've heard them sound live, but I think partly it's the venue and having to use the house sound system. They never sound as good at festivals as they do when playing alone - just one more reason why festivals suck.
And for those who care, click the following link for a bonus clip of Kimura Kaela singing at the same festival - in a miniskirt! Probably not the most advisable outfit when the cameraman is shooting from below the stage.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I'm in a rut. Feel like I've got nothing to post. I'm gonna do a review of something, sometime this week. Know why? Because every time I spend a lot of time writing a review of something Puffy does, they make some major announcement that pushes my review down the page and out of everybody's consciousness and basically renders all my work moot. So hopefully by writing something long-form, I'll jinx myself again and bring on some news.
In the meantime, here's an episode of Hey! Hey! Hey! that I hadn't seen before to keep you entertained:
The hairstyles would put it in the "Illustrated History" era.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
As I sit here watching the stock market drop below 10,000, worrying about my 401(k) imploding in the global financial meltdown, watching the value of my house drop below the amount I still owe on it, and wondering if I'll have a job in the coming months at the post-merger media company where I currently work, I've found my mind wandering onto other, less fiduciary subjects to take the edge off.
Like, for example, why is it necessary to "not talk about" albums before they're announced? See here. This has never made any sense to me. We all know the album is coming, Puffy have officially said an album is coming. So what's the point of withholding any further info, or talking about it as if that's not what they're doing in the studio and on these photo shoots and whatnot all this time?
I know all the rationales. I used to work in marketing and still sort of do (just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!). I know it's all about "maximizing impact" in a "coordinated campaign". I also know that there may be details that are still not set and may change, and you never want to say something publicly that you're not sure will end up really happening.
But come on. This is all based on pre-internet, old media traditions. It's from the days when you needed to make sure all your PR was ready for the various magazines' and newspapers' deadlines, and many of them only published once per month. It's also from back when radio and TV were the only "fast" media outlets, but time and space on them were limited, such that you needed to have enough real content ready all at once to make it worth covering. That's all still true to some extent, but the internet is a different medium, working in real time without limits or constraints on content - and it's made this self-conscious withholding of info we all otherwise know already seem a little silly.
Tell us what you know. Show us the process. Some artists already do this - maybe not coincidentally, the ones who do it best are not under contract to a traditional record label. (Not that I'm suggesting this could be a path for Puffy - I merely suggest that record labels themselves might want to look and adapt.) It doesn't hurt your message, it helps it. It lets you dribble out info a little bit at a time, keeping fans interested on an ongoing basis rather than hitting them with everything you've got all at once and then watching them fall off, knowing that you've already blown your load.
So Puffy's working on an album. What's the concept? Who's playing on it? Who's writing it? Thought of any potential titles yet? Got any artwork, or at least artists that we might know? Where's it being recorded? And how's the recording going?
Yes, all this anticipation probably just heightens the frenzy among their hardcore fans. But there are more than just hardcore fans to please out there. I just don't think all this old-media traditional secrecy is the best way to reach a broad internet audience on an ongoing basis. And even hardcore fans can lose interest in the absence of news. (Maybe you've noticed that I sometimes go weeks without posting anything. I am not immune - when it seems like Puffy aren't active, I've got other bands that I listen to. I mean posting these TV show clips of Puffy playing the same old songs is only interesting for so long.)
The second thing I've been wondering is a) why don't live music venues in the United States ever check for cameras anymore?, and b) why are live music venues in Japan still such fascists about doing so? Talk about extremes.
It used to be that if you got caught with a camera at a concert in the United States, they would take your camera. And you wouldn't get it back, either. Just meant some bouncer at the venue got himself a free camera.
Nowadays, they don't even bother. Some places don't even say cameras aren't allowed anymore. At the last two shows I've been to - the 50th Anniversary Jazzmaster concert and My Bloody Valentine - there were no signs, and some people were using big SLR's in plain view. At the two Puffy shows I've been to (one and two), it was a similar story. You can't read a show report written in this country anymore without a butt-load of photos and videos attached.
Really, that's the way it should be. The bands get more free exposure, the concertgoers get a free memento and those who didn't get to go are excited to see new photos of their favorite artists online. I just wonder why the change. Maybe the venues are too busy looking for bombs these days, and don't have time to waste on innocent stuff like cameras. Especially with cell phones and little pocket cams being so ubiquitous.
In Japan, though, it seems that change never happened. Cameras are still not allowed and that rule is strictly enforced. It's frustrating as a reader of concert reports from afar, and I'm sure it's frustrating for the concertgoers too. What is the point of this rule? It's never made any sense to me. I sort of understood it back in the old-media days because the bands thought they could make more money by selling "official" photos to magazines and such, or get themselves better coverage by bartering "exclusive" photos to go with whatever show review or other story a publication was writing in exchange for better placement.
Today, it seems like the additional exposure from thousands of people posting photos to hundreds of blogs and web sites for potentially hundreds of thousands of readers would easily trump the possibility of any additional revenue or exposure from selling official band photos or doling them out as "exclusives". Especially with a band like Puffy, who are probably not going to get top billing anymore simply for handing out an exclusive photo from a show. Puffy are already one of the world's most photographed musical acts - what's a few more going to do besides keep the interest level up?
I guess my feeling is that "controlling the message" is less important these days than promoting your act. And the two things are not really dependent on each other.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 11:01 AM
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
CQA have posted some tiny little photos of their show a week or so ago to their web site. They're so small that I almost didn't bother mentioning them, but there are definitely some good shots of Yumi in the mix. How cute does she look here?
She's like an adorable little chipmunk.
I'm still desperate to get some of their merchandise. (Nobody answered my earlier plea, not that I really expected anyone to. It was worth a shot.) It's all designed by Artdenka, which is an up and coming Japanese design team specializing in this whole "goth kawaii" thing. You can buy their "Skullbox" toy figure here. You can see more of their t-shirt designs at their Flickr page. Their real web site is under construction, but it's here if you feel like looking.
Supposedly CQA are going to be selling stuff via their web site soon, but most likely it'll be Japan-only. (Update: they started. And yeah, only for Japan.)
Also, another show report from the night, though I warn you that I have no idea what this person's saying. Auto-translation is no help whatsoever in this case. Ditto for this other report, though I gather there's a set list there and that it included some sort of cover of a song by Kyoko Koizumi (though not "Nantettatte Idol"). And I think somebody must be a fan of Spongebob Squarepants, but I won't hold that against them.
Monday, September 29, 2008
So! Maybe you're wondering if that new Snuff tribute album is worth buying. Maybe this will help you decide:
Honestly, it's not my favorite song on the CD. What is? Maybe this one!
Don't know Poni-Camp? You should! Maybe you recognize this ludicrously cute girl in front:
That's ENAPOu aka ENAZOu aka just plain Ena, former guitarist for all-girl punk band Lolita No. 18, current guitarist and lead singer for Poni-Camp and now semi-permanent "as seen on TV" guitarist for Puffy. I've never seen her do a real live concert as their regular guitarist, but she's always there these days backing up Ami and Yumi on TV, standing around pretending to play along to the pre-recorded instrumental track being pumped in from tape somewhere. Hey, it's a paycheck, I guess.
Actually, the first time I saw her was on this video for Nantettatte Idol - the one time I've ever seen her actually play with Puffy, and she is so totally awesome. I was interested to learn (today, actually) that that's actually Puffy covering Lolita No. 18 covering Kyoko Koizumi! I've never heard Lolita No. 18's version, but it was out a bit before this video was shot.
Enazou left Lolita No. 18 in 2001, seems to have basically taken four years off, then formed Poni-Camp in 2005 and changed her name. She's been around for close to 20 years now. Poni-Camp stuff is kind of hard to find, but - and I can't believe I'm saying this - thank god for MySpace, which has five songs you can listen to. All of them rock! She sings in English, and she does it really well.
Lolita No. 18, on the other hand, is all over the net. Here are a couple of my favorite videos:
That is actually Joey Ramone in the video for "Rockaway Beach" - he produced that album for them, shortly before his death.
Incidentally, Lolita No. 18 reformed with a new lineup and is still around, still led by their founder Masayo Ishizaka but otherwise totally different. But Puffy obviously are still friendly with them, as Yumi's side band CQA shares drummer To-Bu with "new" Lolita No. 18. The bands seem to be joined at the hip.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 7:18 PM
Couple nights ago, Puffy appeared on the 15 year anniversary special of TBS's CDTV (aka Countdown TV) alongside other major names including Ayumi Hamasaki, a reunited Southern All Stars, Glay, Kumi Koda and others. The special itself was four hours long - it was a pretty major TV event. Puffy appeared both in a short interview segment and later for a "live" performance, although like all of their TV appearances lately, it's obvious the band isn't really playing.
Here they are, watch it while it's hot:
Higher quality version is here.
If you're wondering what everybody laughs at towards the end of the interview, Ami was talking about about how she wanted to be a flight attendant before joining Puffy. One of the guys asks her "well, aren't you glad you formed Puffy instead?" and she replies with something like "I'm not sure yet."
As for the performance, I wasn't sure whether it was them or the various TV shows apparently insisting on a pre-recorded backing band these days (Enapou's just playing air guitar back there), but I did notice that several of the other bands on this show seemed to be playing really, actually live. So, disappointingly, it seems like it may be Puffy themselves responsible for this.
Seems odd that they'd play "All Because of You" rather than their newer single, doesn't it?
Friday, September 26, 2008
If you're lucky and have actually seen them working, then you might know that I normally have nice Ajax labels that pop open a little box full of post links at the top when you click one of the post labels/categories below posts or in the sidebar. Well, that broke. And I don't know why. So for now, I've reverted back to Blogger's ugly old style labels. Click one and you'll see. I'll keep working on fixing them, but ugh!
Also, I know the link to Yowavinalaaaafincha? in the top right isn't working either. CD Japan removed it from their site for some reason. I'll look further into that tonight.
Update: See the comments. Snuff tribute link is working again.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Thanks to two people for this: 老犬 (Old Dog, or Rouken) for writing the original Japanese, and TofuUnion for translating it to English and sending it to me. I've just cleaned it up a little bit (as much as I could), as TofuUnion suggested I should. I'm not sure about the meaning of everything myself, though, but it's still a lot better than a Google translation!
Anyway, this is a translation of post #2197 at Sumairu Puffy, a report on Puffy's performance at this show/festival/whatever, where they appeared with the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.
First, the set list.
1. Tokyo I'm On My Way 2. boom boom beat
3. That's the way it is. 4. Oriental Diamond
5. All Because Of You 6. Puffy the Monster (Members introduction) 7.
8. My Story 9. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru, etc. 10. Jet Police 11. Asia no Junshin
First appearing was concert planner George Williams. Then came the usual flow of the SE (???) and the show started. Most of the audience were I think Ska Para fans. The audience was so hyped from the first song, maybe more than at a Puffy solo concert. Puffy sang in good voice conditions. It felt really very good.
The most impressive MC was by 175R, very long but more than that. I cannot remember it too well.
"We are glad Ska Para are to play today." and then Puffy looked back to the band members. "Ska Para members must have 2 types of dresses coming with, so could we borrow one of them?"
"Or they can get dressed in our longer dresses? Say, but I only have two pairs."
"I have relatives coming later. It is unlikely, but forget about us, I said."
Yumi asked Ami, "What will you do for your 35th birthday?"
Ami: "Well, drinking."
Ami: "Yesterday I got drinking 3 centimeters." (???)
Ami: "and alcohol the day before too."
Yumi: "What? What happened? Hey, if you have personal problems, talk to me!"
Ami: "Well, I want to be an adult drinker having fun, that's all."
"Yeah, Avril came to play live in the Tokyo Dome ... "
Ami: "It was like Atami resort" "Penlight looded like field fires in the distance."
I remember something like that. I think other people will write in their blog, so please see them. Anyway, many times we've gotten good laughs.
It was a shame, Puffy did not collaborate with Ska Para.
Puffy came out at the encore of Ska Para, but they just blew and shook with towels and danced.
"HAZUMURIZUMU" "Neji Potion" "Boogie Woogie № 5". I expected a lot of collaborative songs.
Do they not realize it anymore?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Just a couple little things today, so kind of a tapas bar buffet of a post here.
Hiro from the band Ketchup Mania has posted a little report to her blog about their show with Yumi's band CQA the other night. There's not much about the show itself, but Hiro seems to like Yumi a lot and she's got some cute cell phone pics from backstage.
Try the Google translation of that link - as Google translations often are, it's amusing. "SPANK ME!"
There's a little more detailed of an actual show report from someone at Sumairu Puffy - sorry, I can't figure out how to link directly to a post there, so you'll have to just scroll down a bit. (Or even hit subsequent pages, depending on when you read this.) It's post #2193. It's in Japanese, of course, and no pictures.
Also! Puffy's appearance with Ai Otsuka and Avril Lavigne at the Tokyo Dome for Avril's "Best Damn Tour" was Sept. 16, the day before the CQA show. Most of the reports I've seen around the net naturally focus exclusively on Avril, as it was her show, but I found this little nugget (in English!) that mentions Ai and Puffy played just 5 songs and that there were around 35,000 in attendance. Not a sell-out at the 55,000-capacity stadium. Kind of lends credence to the theory that Ai and Puffy were brought in to try to boost sagging ticket sales in their home market - this stadium's probably just too big for Avril.
And lastly but certainly not leastly, Ami Onuki turns 35 today. Happy birthday Ami! Watch the official blogs for more on that - I'm sure they'll post party bits any second now. (Here's a cute picture of Ami and her balloons at Amigator.)
Posted by Jeff Williams at 12:20 PM
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If you're like me, you probably buy a lot of your older, hard-to-find stuff on Ebay. I check there for Puffy stuff every once in a while, but there's usually not much - I did get my old cell phone strap there, and a couple of my CD's. But since the "HiHi" cartoon went away, the volume has dropped to near zero. Last I checked, there were only about 15 Puffy items in both the "Music" and "Entertainment Memorabilia" sections combined.
Nowadays I buy almost everything Puffy-related through Yahoo! Auctions. Ebay never really caught on in Japan, and in fact they folded operations there a couple years ago in the face of the Yahoo juggernaut. I'm not gonna beat around the bush: in most of the ways that matter, Yahoo Japan sucks big donkey balls. They have some draconian membership and payment requirements, for one thing, and they will never stop spamming you once you sign up. Also, if you live outside of Japan, you need a way around the fact that by default, items only ship domestically. (More on this below.) But the volume of stuff up there is amazing.
As I write this, there are 786 Puffy items on Yahoo, ranging from (of course) all of their singles, albums and DVD's to more esoteric stuff. Some of my favorite examples:
Auction link. Looks to be a near life-size standee. Pretend you're roommates with Ami and Yumi! Here's a link to the version from their original Vox/Vino endorsement if you prefer the girls in their youth.
Auction link. Awesome shirt, and one I've never seen before. They do often really put out some great apparel. I'm not sure which tour this is from - the translated auction page says it's from "a few years ago". Amusingly, the same translation says "the logo is lame now."
Here's a link to another sweet shirt in a totally different style.
Auction link. This doll set does come up on Ebay occasionally, but not very often and it can be hard to get for a reasonable price. (I've tried.) The cool thing about it is that it comes with little guitars and microphones as accessories. And also a bandana!
There are/were at least three doll sets available in Japan. Here's one in the kubrick style. And here's one meant to be more realistic, although to me it looks closer to that awful American set that was out here a while back (but with better clothes).
Auction link. For those most interested in actual music, this is the almost mythical "Do You Puffy?" box set. It's actually not all that rare on Yahoo Auctions - there are two of them up there right now, but I like this one because it's still got its original wrapper. This set had (if I remember right) all of their singles up to that point on vinyl, plus a bonus disc, plus a t-shirt and a couple of other little trinkets.
Auction link. That's actually a shoe box, but I thought the box was funnier than the Puffy-themed shoes themselves. Who else would think of quoting Dirty Harry and the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus in the same tag line?
To bid and win a Yahoo! auction directly, you need the following:
1. Japanese speaking ability or someone who can translate (to communicate with the seller)
2. A Japanese shipping address
3. A Japanese credit card
Some of you might have a friend in Japan with a shipping address you can use. Unfortunately, Yahoo now requires a credit card with a Japanese billing address for payment. This seems somehow against basic civil rights and I have no idea how they get away with it, but that's their policy. Even if you're actually Japanese and have family still in Japan, you can't pay with a US-based credit card.
So what do you do if you live outside Japan and don't speak Japanese? The best option is probably to use an auction broker/deputy service. I have never tried these and can't vouch for any of them, but they're a legitimate business category that I know others have used successfully. Some examples include Japonica, Shopping Mall Japan, and Japamart. Note that I do not endorse these sites! I am simply providing examples so that you can do some further research. If you've had experience with these or other auction deputy sites, leave a comment.
Of course, you will pay both a commission and extra shipping fees at sites like this, so it really isn't worth it unless you buy a lot of stuff at once. But for some, there could be no other way.
There is some hope! Late last year, Ebay and Yahoo signed a deal that would allow cross-border bidding and translation directly through each others' sites. Unfortunately, they seem a bit behind schedule, as I don't see that Ebay has done anything to enable this yet. But maybe soon - I'm watching with eagerness.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 1:26 PM
Friday, September 12, 2008
Seriously, is anyone in Japan going to see CQA on the 17th? Please let me know if you are and would be willing to pick me up a few things. I'll throw in a few extra yen for your trouble! And of course pay for shipping. I gots ta have me some of this junk!
Posted by Jeff Williams at 10:29 AM
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I'd never have predicted it based on Puffy's first TV appearance on Hey! Hey! Hey! way back in 1996, and even through their early "Papapapa Puffy" episodes, but Yumi's actually become a pretty good host and interviewer. She's doing it solo more often these days - maybe setting herself up for a new career?
This was GIRL POP FACTORY 08, which aired on Fuji TV September 5. Some of you might like to watch the Perfume performance, but if you want to skip to the good stuff, Yumi's interview segment starts at about the 2:28 mark:
The thing about both Ami and Yumi is that neither one of them really does that whole cutesy thing that most Japanese female singers do (including Perfume a little bit, so you can see the contrast right here. No, most Japanese girls don't really sound like that! I guess it's supposed to appeal to males and young girls). It's somewhat ironic, given Puffy's reputation in the United States. But they just reject that whole artifice; they seem incapable of acting any way other than naturally. And that's what makes them such good hosts, and so interesting to watch.
There seem to be five parts to this if you want to find the rest on YouTube - I haven't watched them all, so I don't know yet how much Yumi there is in the remaining parts.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 9:58 PM
Friday, September 5, 2008
Picture kinda says it all, doesn't it? Even if you can't read kanji. Hit the Chelsea Hotel site for ticketing info.
For anyone who doesn't know - and I've seen at least a couple new faces around here recently - CQA, aka C Quick Attacker, is Yumi's "other" band. (And that's her holding the blank sheet of paper upon which they've Photoshopped the show date up there.) They're not usually very active, but this is now two shows in the span of a few months - maybe they're all getting more serious about it. They've got a revamped web site, they've got an official blog, and they're putting on some shows. They're like a real band!
They are also now selling a larger selection of "tour" merchandise, some of which looks pretty sweet.
If anyone in Japan goes to this show, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd pick me up some of their merch - I'd obviously pay you for it!
And if anyone knows where to find a sample of their music beyond that little 30 second snippet that used to be on MySpace (it's gone now), let me know and I'll be happy to post it here. The band remains, as far as I know, unsigned.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 2:39 PM
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
You've probably noticed that I don't normally post about every little compilation that Ami and Yumi appear on - the reason being that there are a lot of them, with most featuring songs that have previously appeared elsewhere. These are really like those K-Tel compilation albums with "20 Original Hits!" that you used to see advertised on late-night TV. Not really worth mentioning.
But every one in a while, they record something special for a tribute. They did it for Tamio Okuda, they did it for Cyndi Lauper and now they're doing it for the British punk band Snuff with Yowavinalaaaafincha? - A Tribute to Snuff.
I've heard of Snuff but I can't really say I'm a huge fan - I just don't know them too well. I vaguely remember being sort of into them for a while in high school, which would have been shortly after they formed. But they seem to be one of those "big in Japan" acts that's actually more popular there than here, and from what I've read they've influenced that whole Ken Yokoyama generation of Japanese punks, of which Ami, at least, is obviously a fan (if not one herself). I like it when they do this sort of thing, because it gives you a sense of what kind of stuff they're really into themselves, maybe even moreso than their own music.
Anyway, the song they'll be covering is called "Not Listening" from the album Snuff Said... You can hear the original here.
If I find a sample of Puffy's version, I'll post it.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 9:10 AM
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Seems like I didn't miss much during my focus on the Olympics - at least, not much that seems worth writing about 2 weeks later, anyway. Things are pretty quiet while Puffy are in the recording studio, and they're really keeping everything close to the vest this time. They're not always quite so secretive. Wonder if that means anything.
Anyway, until there's something else to talk about, enjoy this episode of "Hi Hi Puffy Bu", Puffy's Asahi TV show from a year or two ago, if you haven't seen it already. These episodes are not easy to find online and haven't been really since the show was on - so I thought I'd post at least this one for those of you who missed it (it's nice quality too! The only episode I have like this). Watch it while it lasts. (Those reading via RSS, this is a Veoh video and they don't embed well in RSS readers. Come to the blog itself.)
By the way, my wife, who loves Yumi, tells me she sounds really "urban" in this video. Even moreso than she usually does. Actually, "urban" is not the word she used, but that's about the nicest way I can put it :) Like an American with a thick Brooklyn accent. Any of you native speakers agree?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I know, I've been a little slow to update this month with the exception of the "My Story" news and reviews. Part of it's just that it's still summer - I'm a little bit checked out in general, and now's about the time when I start to get depressed about the coming cold weather. I've also been just obsessed with the Olympics the last two weeks - it seems like I've been doing nothing else but watch them. But that's over now... (sniff).
Anyway, one bit of news that I missed a week or two ago is this new Excite Music interview with Puffy - they did one a while back after "All Because of You" and it seems that they've updated with a new one. It's quite long. For you English speakers, check out the Google translation, which is hilariously incoherent. Maybe one of the other services does a better job.
btw, that pic above is totally random - Excite just didn't have a photo to go with the interview. Have you all seen Puffy modeling kimono for KIE? Probably most of you have - it's a couple years old.
I'll check around and see what else my focus on tabletop games and pseudo-sports over the past 16 days has led me to miss.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I was kind of on the fence about whether or not this was worth posting, but I've got to kill a little time - I've got a post in the works that I think is gonna be worth waiting for. As they say at my office, I'm in the "asset gathering" stage right now.
Anyway, on August 16th, Puffy played the 2000+8 J-Wave Live concert that they've been doing the last few years as part of their summer festival circuit. Not a lot of pics out there from the show (this one plus one more at the official site), but I've found one good and long show report focused mainly on them, and of course the pretty short and bog-standard set list:
- Basket Case
- Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Etc.
- My Story
- Kore ga watashi no ikiru michi
- Boogie Woogie No. 5
- Tokyo I'm On My Way
- Asia no Junshin
They say via their various blogs that the festival circuit is now basically over and they're back to recording again. Can't come soon enough! I'm hoping for a real tour again sometime in the near future.
Posted by Jeff Williams at 3:09 PM
Monday, August 18, 2008
These are a little old now, but I hadn't posted 'em yet so I may as well.
Japanese music shows are really starting to suck. I don't remember them going so heavy on the pre-recorded instrumentation and the backing tracks 7 or 8 years ago. The band may as well not even be there. And cutting a four minute song down to two minutes?? That's a low blow. This is Music Japan, and this barely qualifies as "live":
Another one - from The M:
Blah. It's not Puffy's fault, though - I want to hear them play it for real.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Now this is a PUFFY single. I was a little worried after "All Because of You" that they'd gone off the rails in a whole new direction dominated by drum machines and software-modified vocals. But they're back to basics here with two guitar tracks that would have fit like a glove on pretty much any PUFFY album this side of Spike.
The track listing:
1. My Story (words: PUFFY music/production: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
2. Twilight Shooting Star (words/music: Sawao Yamanaka arrangement: Kenji Ueda)
3. All Because of You (DISCO TWINS Remix)
Bonus DVD - Live at Shibuya AX
1. Sayonara Summer
2. Oriental Diamond
3. Akai Buranko
4. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.
You've probably seen the video for the title track (and if not, it's below) so there's not a lot I can tell you that you don't already know. But I love the song, and I haven't been a huge fan of Hellgren and Myhr's PUFFY songs to this point (from what I remember, that includes boom boom beat and Oto Memoriaru). I felt they were missing something; they sounded a little too formulaic, almost machine-made, and "boom boom beat", at least, was almost tuneless to my ears. Definitely not one of my favorite PUFFY songs.
I wouldn't say this one is either yet, but it definitely sounds like a real PUFFY track, and in fact it reminds me a lot of the Andy Sturmer era. In fact, in some ways it reminds me specifically of "Akai Buranko" - something about the chord progression during the chorus, and the production and construction of the song. That's one of the highest compliments I could pay - "Akai Buranko" is one of my favorite PUFFY songs.
I've been assured also that the lyrics do not sound ridiculous to a Japanese person. So, there's that too, I guess.
The "b-side" (do people still call them that in the digital era?), written by the pillows' Sawao Yamanaka, is fine... I'd say perfectly adequate... but it doesn't have the soaring quality of "My Story". It's a pretty straightforward, somewhat lighter song that harkens back to earlier PUFFY. It also reminds me of a specific song: "Green Apple", another of my favorites, this one from Spike. "Green Apple" takes some more unexpected twists and turns, and it's got more of a cuteness to it than "Twilight Shooting Star", but they somehow seem to end up in the same place at the end of the chorus. And the way the girls sing it sounds very similar - it makes me feel like we're back to 2000 all over again.
As for the "All Because of You" remix... well, the kindest thing I can say is that it sounds nothing like the original. It seems a little early to be getting remixes of this track to begin with, but no doubt they just needed a bit of filler to jack the track listing up by 50%. It's not a track I'm planning to listen to much.
What I was most excited about on the new single was four more live tracks on Volume 2 of the Shibuya AX show DVD. I really love this marketing plan they came up with for this series of releases - it seems like in the end we're going to end up with what amounts to a full live DVD for a total premium over the regular editions of about six bucks. That's amazing.
The four tracks on this volume include two new songs (from honeycreeper) and two classics. It's interesting to watch the girls' body language during the songs, which might be a good indicator of which are their favorites. ("Sayonara Summer" doesn't seem to be one of them.) I'm a huge Yumi fan but I'm still just transfixed by Ami on this DVD, like I was on the earlier volume from the same show. She really seems to be dredging up some dark thoughts from deep inside her soul during parts of this show - and she stares dead-on at the camera much of the time. I think it's beautiful. I never thought I'd be talking about Ami's penetrating gaze, but just look at this:
She's got me hypnotized. That's from two separate songs, by the way. She's literally standing there, singing to the camera. Very weird... but I can't look away. She must have been in some kind of a mood that night.
They come alive during "Oriental Diamond", which they really seem to enjoy. And they sing it well - I'm always amazed at how precise their singing is live these days, even when jumping around. It seems like more often than not, they sound better live than they do on their albums.
This show seemed a little more stripped-down than some of theirs that I've seen from Japan (it's definitely not as complex of a stage show as the 10th anniversary concert on Tour! Puffy! Tour! 10), but they did get a video screen going during "Oriental Diamond".
Their rendition of "Akai Buranko", a song that often seems to give them fits when singing live, is probably the best I've ever heard it on this DVD. This must be a hard song to sing - they're often out of tune with each other, and they always sound exhausted by the end of it, but not here. As usual, the song is lit completely in red. ("Red Swing" - get it?)
If I never see PUFFY in person again (which will be a tragedy in itself), one of my big regrets is that I never got to see them play "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc." live. They didn't play it at either show I went to - in fact, they cut it out of my show specifically in 2006. They played it everywhere else on that tour.
This song was obviously part of their early shows, and now serves as an anchor, usually near the open or close of the show. And it serves as the audience participation song, with Ami and Yumi letting the crowd sing some of the choruses. More importantly, they really have fun singing it - it's obvious that they're in no way sick of this song. They love it. And that always makes it fun to watch.
One more photo - the hair brigade:
As for this:
One of these was also included with the "All Because of You" limited edition DVD. It's telling you that there's going to be a lottery for a special autographed case after all three volumes of the live DVD are out - you just need to send in your proof of purchase for all three CD's. Not sure if it's open to US residents, but probably not. I've got a Japanese address that I can use, so I'll probably go for it. The form to mail in is going to be included with the next CD. (And it doesn't say "single" or "album", just "CD". But my guess is it'll be an album, given the rest of what we've been hearing.)
Here's the video for "My Story" if you haven't seen it: