In the late 90s, I started a lifelong fling with Pizzicato Five when my Japanese bud Hitomi gave me an enthralling introduction to their album Happy End of the World.
The group formed in the 80s, and their membership fluctuated in the following years, but P5 is best known as a duo of Maki Nomiya and Yasuharu Konishi. Along with Flipper’s Guitar and Original Love, they are credited as the leaders of the shibuya-kei genre in the Japanese pop music scene. (The Shibuya-kei movement saw its beginnings in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, considered to be one of Japan’s fashion centers.)
Overall, P5’s sound is infused with danceable, uptempo beats that recall French New Wave cinema, Pop Art, cocktails, mod fashion, etc. Their kitschy, retro-lounge grooves are mixed with electronic tunes, giving it a modern feel—even futuristic.
I have not listened to P5’s full discography, which would be a taxing feat, but “The World Is Spinning at 45 RPM,” “It’s A Beautiful Day,” and “Baby Love Child” stand as my favorite songs from these artists. The first two, which are featured in Happy End of the World, are like motivational ditties for those who day-to-day readily steer through a bustling world. In contrast to the swift pace of these songs, Baby Love Child is a gentle yet upbeat serenade about carefree romance, liberating lovers from sullen isolation and a frenzied life. (“Baby Love Child” has been played on two episodes of Futurama.)
Although P5 disbanded in 2001, they remain influential in the J-pop music world, and of course, they have a permanent home in my music library.