Omokage Lucky Hole is perhaps the most ironic thing I’ve seen come out of Japan

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (For the love of God, do not follow me on Twitter.) will probably notice frequent mention of something called “Omokage Lucky Hole”. Omokage Lucky Hole is–as wonderfully described by Japanese Wikipedia–a “Japanese funk band”, but that’s far from the whole story.

But before I launch into covering the finer points of the group’s music and why I enjoy them, I’m going to back up a bit to when I first discovered them. Like most people not familiar with the Japanese indies scene, I first heard Omokage Lucky Hole’s work in Natsu no Arashi’s amazing opening sequence. The song–Atashi Dake Ni Kakete–caught my attention with its commanding horns, and later with its saucy lyrics. When the single dropped, I played both the main song and its B-side on loop for weeks on end. At this point I had to hear more. After months of searching on Perfect Dark, I managed to find some albums–Dairi Haha, Ongaku Girai, and later on Whydunit?–and the rest is history.

Despite being around since the mid ’90s, Omokage has only produced something on the order of 35 songs. To put things into perspective, Cymbals–who were active from the late ’90s until the early ’00s–produced around 100 songs in their short period of activity. The difference here is that the members of Cymbals were signed onto a mainstream record label, and making music was their job. While I believe Omokage is signed onto a label, the fact that there is a 10 year gap between two of their albums is a pretty clear indication that these guys have Real Jobs, and making music is simply a hobby.

It’s probably a stretch to classify Omokage’s music as funk. I’m not terribly music savvy, but my mother described the nuances of funk wonderfully by putting on a James Brown song in which both the instrumentals and lyrics were clearly made up on the spot. All of Omokage’s songs have rather transparent structure, along with really tight and clever lyrics, so I can’t say for sure if they still qualify. Furthermore, while a good number of their songs carry a funky sound, they do hit other neighboring genres such as R&B and hip-hop, even if just lightly.

A typical Omokage song is characterized by fast, fun and interesting horn compositions, backed up by a solid, funky bass line (Performed by band leader, Sinner-Yang.) and accompanied by a slick electric guitar. The keyboard also plays an invaluable role in the instrumentals, as well as someone on drums, along with other miscellaneous instruments brought into the mix, such as cowbells. They also put on a good number of slower jams, as well as straight up rap pieces that don’t carry much in the way of melody at all.  Whether it’s a fast piece, a slow piece, or a more hip-hop oriented piece, vocalist Acky has the voice for all of them, and delivers each and every one of their vulgar lyrics with overwhelming amounts of soul.

That brings me in some way to what I’m addressing in the title of this blog entry. As I’ve alluded to throughout this post, these guys are filthy. In fact, Sony had to cancel the release of one their albums because they took issue with the lyrics. While I cannot understand all of their songs, I can understand a handful of them, and they are vulgar. But if that wasn’t enough to convince me that this band has their mind deep down in the gutter, just take a look around their official site for a little while, or watch this video. Actually, you don’t have look much further than their name to see that these guys are far dirtier than most Japanese pop acts.

A number of Omokage’s songs are stories that seem to center around sex, broken relationships, and the various lame facets of Japanese middle class life. The word “pachinko” rears its head more than a few times in their latest album, Whydunit?. They do from time-to-time cover seemingly random subjects, like one song which focuses around a man trying to woo a Filipino girl who can only speak Tagalog, and another song that I can only assume is a parody on sports manga. Actually, just to give you an idea as to the types of subject matter these guys cover, I’m going list off specifically what happens in some of these songs.

  • Annani Hantai Shiteta Otou-san ni Biiru wo Tsugarete: A teenager impregnates his childhood friend.
  • Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De: A woman has an abusive relationship with a sleazeball, but can’t leave the relationship.
  • Atashi Yuube H Shinaide Nechatte Gomen Ne: A woman begs her lover desperately not hit her, leave her, or dump her because she didn’t have sex with him last night and instead fell asleep.
  • Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni Umarete Mamonai Musume wo Kuruma no Naka de Shinaseta… Natsu: A man lets his baby daughter die because he left her in the car while he was playing pachinko.
  • Kore ga Kore na Mon De: A man quits smoking, drinking and pachinko to take on an awful job he hates for the ones he loves.
  • Tokyo (Ja) Naitokurabu (Wa): Something about nightclubs in Tokyo.
  • Ore no Sei de Koshien ni Ikenakatta: The aforementioned manga parody. Specifically, it’s the main character’s fault that they can’t go to Koshien.
  • Hyakuman Nin no Poruno Sutaa: “1 Million Porno Stars”.
  • Kyuuryoubi-san: “Ms. Payday”.
  • Naka ni Dashite Ii yo, Naka ni Dashite mo Ii yo: “It’s Okay, You Can Cum Inside”.

It’s plain to see that these songs cover not-so-savory ground. In some cases, these situations are downright depressing. And while they are sometimes treated with some degree of gravity, (Annani Hantai Shiteta is somewhat serious-sounding.) a lot of these songs have very energetic backing. Pachinko Yatteru Aida ni is probably the most upbeat song the band has to their name, but the subject matter is hopelessly pathetic and depressing. Atashi Yuube H Shinaide has some of the most utterly pathetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, and its slow and somewhat dopey instrumental backing drives that lameness home with scary levels of proficiency. Even an otherwise serious sounding piece like Kanarazu Onaji Tokoro De is prefaced by a hilariously overdone skit depicting a man beating a woman for money.

Another strange aspect of Omokage’s songs is that male vocalist Acky often sings from the point of view of a woman. This can be heard in Natsu No Arashi’s opening, as well as a handful of the band’s other cuts. It’s not unusual for him to use the female pronoun “atashi”, use feminine words such as “kashira” and end sentences with “wa”. He will at times sing from the point of the view of a man, and use the masculine “ore”, like in Ore no Sei de Koshien ni Ikenakatta.

All of this coupled with the fact that the band goes out of their way to be as shamelessly vulgar as possible only leads me to believe that this all one big joke. One giant lampoon on the Japanese middle class, and anything else that happens to cross their mind. I can’t say any of this for certain as my Japanese isn’t badass enough to pick up any subtle nuances, or even understand these songs 100%; but from what I can see, a lot of these songs are dripping in irony.

While I do enjoy lots of fluffy anison, J-Pop and Natsutaka-produced electronica, Omokage is particularly interesting not only for their distinctive funky sound, but for the kind of statement they’re trying to make. They’re a small group, so you probably want to support them by throwing some money their way. But since Amazon Japan is kind of pricey here in the US, I’ve put out some torrents which will be seeded again when I get the chance. I won’t link to them directly, but if you know where to look, you’ll find them. But do buy their CDs. I haven’t yet, sadly enough, but doing so is one of the first things on my list when I find employment!

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9 Responses to Omokage Lucky Hole is perhaps the most ironic thing I’ve seen come out of Japan

  1. Sushi D says:

    Overall a solid article. I can see why you wont shut up about it. :I

    That’s why i like smaller groups like this. They don’t go out of their way to try and appeal to the mainstream crowd and can just concentrate on doing their own thing no matter how grimy it is. Even though i can barely understand the lyrics, from the songs you posted, you can really feel emotion behind it. A sign of a great vocalist.

    Isn’t putting up torrents a little too much, though? Even considering they’re sort of hard and very expensive to acquire, it seems kind of tasteless. Then again. “Pot calling Kettle black”. etc. etc. Although, I’m surprised you don’t already own it. :U you should at least get a part-time job, even flippin’ burgers (if you have to) to fund your exploits. Being a NEET is not fun.

  2. digitalboy says:

    These guys sound completely boss. I’ll be giving them a listen for sure.

    Listening to them, I don’t know about funk. I think it’s more like all of their stuff is a bluesy RnB stuff going on the stuff you linked.

    But nonetheless, it’s very nice.

    Oh and the music video for あたしゆうべHしないで寝ちゃってごめんね is too freaking much XD

  3. Martin says:

    Hmm, that PV is kinda disturbing…the imagery of the pantsu shots used against the laid-back musical style makes it feel much more serious. If they’re a humorous band, their humour is very dry and very dark I think.

    I don’t normally listen to this sort of stuff so it’s a refreshing change. I’m sure I’d appreciate it even more if I could understand the lyrics but yeah, that guitar is smooth~. Thanks for sharing! ^_^

  4. wah says:

    >>Sushi D

    It is tasteless. But I had the torrents up well before I wrote this article, and it’s the easiest way to get the stuff out there. Also, considering I hadn’t even forked out money for Atashi Dake Ni Kakete when it was 600 yen, I’d feel weird telling other people to buy when I (like a DICK) pirated.

    That said, I will get their CDs. Probably new, too, so the money can actually go to them and not some reseller or BookOff.

  5. schneider says:

    >>a man trying to woo a Filipino girl who can only speak Tagalog
    what is this i don’t even

    Well, pretty interesting actually.

  6. wah says:

    Well the song is all about how he’s trying to learn Tagalog just so he can understand and speak to this girl. At least what I can understand of it.

  7. digitalboy says:

    Haha apparently one of my friends started listening to these guys when you started talking about them a couple of week ago, and now I just put on あたしゆうべHしないで寝ちゃってごめんね and he’s sitting here singing along, the bastard. Oh and if you were the one seeding the albums on nyaatorrents then you have his thanks.

  8. mako says:

    I was blown away by the Natsu no Arashi OP too; I made a mental note to look into the band, but never got around to it. So thanks for putting together this overview.

  9. Glo says:

    These guys are awesome! That OP for Natsu no Arashi might be one of the best I’ve ever heard….I was obsessed with it for a time.