For all the shit my brothers’ put me through for my music taste when I was younger (not as bad as I’m making it sound), they do remember quite a few of the groups I listen to. So I was pretty shocked that my twin brother sent me a text to a link for a book with super JPop artists Perfume. The book is titled “33 1/3 JAPAN GAME” by Michel St. Patrick. I didn’t expect that someone would actually take the time, effort and dedication that would be needed to write a short book on the ‘GAME’ album. After some hemming and hawing about deciding to put a digital or physical copy I scooped up a gently used version off amazon, blasting the ‘GAME’ album for days while I waited.
331/3 is a series of books written each volume about a particular single album by any artist. The title of the series “33 1/3” is a homage and referral to the speed of a vinyl LP. They typically focus on English-speaking bands albums, but have recently expanded to cover global artists with 33 1/3 Japan, and 33 1/3 Brazil. Currently, on the 33 1/3 Japan productions are 4 books. “Super Cell’s Supercell featuring Hatsune Miku’, ‘”Yoko Kanno’s Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack”, “Perfume’s Game”, and “Cornelisus’s Fantasma”. With of course, more to come.
Now with the background out of the way; what did I think and why was I so hesitant to read it? To be honest, it goes back to my hesitancy about talking about music personally. It’s special and makes me self conscious when it people give the blank looks, etc when speaking. Plus… the author gave me pause. Even as a white woman, seeing a white boy’s name as the author made me hesitant since there is a long-ass history of white-boy Japanophiles, and white dudes fetishizing Japanese women, idols or not. However, Patrick St. Michel has a long and well rounded portfolio writing for music and pop culture before and after 33 1/3. Within the introduction, I knew he was legit.
The book, breaks down what led Natsuka and Capsule to produce Perfume and their strange relationship. It’s pretty well known Natsuka treats Perfume coldly in comparison to KPP and Capsule. Even I hadn’t known he didn’t meet them in person until several years after he started writing for them. It shows where Perfume came from, their slow rise, the rocketing to popularity and where they went after ‘GAME’ released.
Pretty much, it’s a break down of where all the elements came from to create ‘GAME’ and Perfume. Which, if you’re like me and have some musical background and know something about the sub-genres of Shibuya-kei and EDM this makes a lot more sense then just the usual vague comparison. Diving further into the elements, but not in a condescending or too in-depth musical terminology he gives examples of the unique elements within a given track and how those elements kept Perfume afloat. Given that many other techno-pop artists at the time quickly fell through the cracks, while Perfume still remains as they are.
For me, I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard Perfume fan, although I’ve been shoulder to shoulder with some die-hards at the Chicago show in 2016. Getting down into some finer details of the tracks and composition was worth it. It’s a reasonable 82 pages of direct content, with the full page count being 98 pages including references and index. St. Michel doesn’t go into a single fan-boy moment, aside from his direct recounting of the SXSW concert, and even that is delivered smoothly and maturely. (Or at least, more maturely then I ever could.)
If you’re looking for material to help better express why a certain album is ‘good’ the 33 1/3 series is the place to start. We all know and can agree that ‘GAME’ is the most important Perfume album ever made, but now it’s broken down so we have the why.