Quit Your Band: Musical Notes from the Japanese Underground By Ian F. Martin, 242 pgs.

Jan 30, 2019

I’m not sure a book like this would have existed before the internet. The idea of an expansive yet personal overview of new-to-the-reader scenes allegedly forms the basis for much of today’s expository scene writing—I use the word “allegedly” here because the imagined audience of such books often has at least a toe in whatever musical pool the writer discusses. In the case of the sprawling Japanese music ecosystem that Ian F. Martin discusses in Quit Your Band, though, the author knows that readers are unlikely to have much acquaintance with the groups and scenes he mentions, to say nothing of the intricacies of booking shows in Japan. This lack of acquaintance is one of the points he makes: the best way to immerse oneself in any new ’scape is to find a band and start chasing down tendrils: ex-members, aligned groups.

If this method sounds familiar, it might be a product of your age, dear reader: we used to do it like this (excuse me for a second while I yell at a cloud. Okay, I’m back now). I think a lot of aging punks who are detached from active music hives feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that are out there, and as such resort to the hackneyed assertion that there’s no good music being made— even though the number of options and avenues that have yielded the exact opposite of that assertion. Because the history of recorded music is available to everyone, it’s now easier than ever for microscenes to spring up. It takes a little more work to find them, but it’s work that’s fun. Or should be, anyway.

Ian F. Martin’s book is more than a book in this age of the internet: it’s easy to forget that all books are now hypertexts. Reading about the bands he discusses in a vacuum is one way to approach this book. It’s much more gratifying, though, to use it as a springboard for discovery. Martin carefully and lovingly details specific, sometimes tiny epochs of Japanese underground music, which are accessible with a little digging. And if you’re a “Back in the Day” kind of person, you’ll remember how immensely gratifying such archeological discoveries could be. If not, now’s a great time to start. –Michael T. Fournier (Awai Books, 1133 Broadway Suite 708, New York NY 10010)