I so had another post in mind for today, but Kunio Muramatsu’s Green Water spoke to me and said: “hold that powder for some other day, the sun’s still shining!”. From the first song on it’s not hard to see why. A flooring collection of meticulously crafted Pop songs screaming “SUMMER!” merit, at least this time of the year, someone to properly scope and dig them out. There, on the front cover, you see hints at what’s in store. Kunio list some of his favorite people. Instantly this is what pops out: “Todd Rundgren and John Lennon”.
Not far from his ex-Sugar Babe compatriots, the now vastly more known Tatsuro Yamashita, or the slightly lesser known Ginji Ito, Kunio had the chops (at least musically) to contribute to the Pop visions of others but what about his own? It wasn’t until 1983 that he had enough inspiration to actually put songs onto tape. But man, what fabulous songs did Kunio have waiting in those wings.
The overarching genre of Green Water is City Pop, but truly the heart of this music lies in that wiry second generation of American Power Pop that Big Star, Rundgren, Sparks, Shoes, and others embodied. If Tatsuro Yamashita’s Big Wave was his personal ode to Brian Wilson and Sunshine Pop, Green Water was as close as Kunio came to coloring the dreamy Power Pop of John Lennon, and others, with that early ‘80s urban-influenced experience found in Japan. Far too many numbers that are simply too catchy to resist, numbers like the opener “The Party”, sweet pogoing Bay City rolling would-be chart-stormers like “My Girls”, and deliciously off-beat Beatlesque pop like “Heaven Color’s Dream” readily put your head bopping with their brilliant mix of melodic harmonizing and no-fucks given, stuffed-to-the-gills arrangements. It’s in these times, that Todd Rundgren easily comes across as a major influence.
What remains after this are the songs that floor you, at least they still do for me. What’s can you say about a song like “Fairy”? A collaboration with Tatsuro Yamashita, is a wondrous creation, one of Brian Wilson Smile-era meeting the Japanese techno-pop sound of the day…a combo that is quite simply stunning. Tats does a wonderful job helping Kunio play the role of some neo-Carl Wilson and embody a song that sounds like its being swept to and fro into some deeply affecting surf. Try capturing all the details in the production – the reversed, double-tracked vocals, those phased, wobbling electric pianos, phased-out floating synth strings, and that dripping water sounds at the end – and you have the makings of a track that belongs in a bigger Sunshine Pop canon. Basically, it’s the Panda Bear track everyone has been waiting for him to deliver (one easily making worth the price of admission to this album)…
“Jealousy” a song co-written by another City Pop luminary, Epo, is a ridiculously cool blend of American Philly doo-wop soul, Marina funk, and late-period, cloud-in-the-sky John Lennonisms of Double Fantasy. “After Care” continues that vibe with more emphasis on some wicked sun kissed joyful buildup, that grooves as much as it stakes out something pining for some other (shades of Steely Dan’s work in Pretzel Logic come to my mind). I promised myself I wouldn’t do a track by track rundown, but one last mention is “Katharina”. Romantic, breezy, groovy, and wonderfully arranged (to an inch of its life), something about Kunio’s tenderly naive-sounding vocals that truly stands out here since it colors everything else in a different light. I’m not ready to declare the end of summer…as long there’s some Green Water around.