1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 55

Tokyo Jukebox, by Marty Friedman
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki

I know Marty Friedman from his tenure as the lead guitarist of Megadeth. He doesn’t play on my favourite album – Peace Sells But Who’s Buying? – but he does play on the glorious Rust in Peace and a slew of supplemental albums released throughout the Nineties.

At that time, as I’ve mentioned, my interest in the metallic arts was on the wane. Consequently, the career of Marty Friedman has never been a source of wonder to me. As far as I cared, he was still playing for Megadeth, bickering with Dave Mustaine about who has the frizziest hair.

About halfway through this album, I thought I’d check Wikipedia, searching for the salient facts with which I can pepper my review. I’m glad I did, because what I learnt was very cool.

Marty Friedman now lives and works in Japan. He’s appeared on over 700 TV shows, such as Rock Fujiyama and Jukebox English. He’s released thirteen solo albums, including this one: 2009’s Tokyo Jukebox, an eleven-track collection of cover songs originally by Japanese artists, which Marty has arranged for instrumental guitar.

Knowing none of this as I entered the fray, and expecting speed-metal fast fret fapping aplenty, my misgivings felt initially confirmed with the opening track. Tsume Tsume Tsume is pop-thrash in a nutshell, with a progressive feel, and while it grew on me during its tenure, it felt nothing special. Sure, the guitar was flawless, but that’s a given.

The next song, Gift? It blew me away.

For the rest of the album, I felt like dancing.

I’m on record as professing a deep mistrust for instrumentals, but this was not the case here. Maybe this is because, I assume, the guitar arrangement of these now singer-free covers were designed to carry the weight of the lost vocal melodies. They do that with aplomb, with a sound that is so joyous it’s almost diabetically sweet. I smiled early on in my listen, and I’m smiling still.

Toyko Jukebox is perfectly named, as that Japanese Pop sound cuts through every track like a lightsaber. It’s a cultural soundtrack, for a subset of that culture. It’s every anime, every computer game, every cheesy late-night Japanese game show. The songs are full of energy, dexterity and boundless charm. I love Japan, so it stands to reason I’d love this without quarter.

There’s depth here too, from the thrashing opener to the slower tracks such as Tsunami and Romance No Kamisama. On second listen – because I did return to it once the album had finished – I felt Tsume Tsume Tsume was a grand opening salvo in a collection that feels almost perfect.

I swayed between 8 and 9 for Tokyo Jukebox, but I’m going with 9/10. It may be an acquired taste for some, but it presses a lot of my buttons. Any album that make me feel so happy deserves a day in the sun. While I can’t be sure that Marty’s other non-cover albums will be similarly engaging, I have high hopes for Toyko Jukeboxes 2 and 3.

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