In this article today, I wish to introduce you to a band that you have undoubtedly never heard of: Kagero. Hailing from my home state of New Jersey, the “Japanese Gypsy Rock” group combines musical influences of three continents (yes, I know about the Hindu Kush origins of the Roma people) into a sublime album (also titled “Japanese Gypsy Rock”). This album’s songs are highly varied stylistically (in the sense of having different instrumentation, rhythms, and chord structures), but are tied together by a slightly melancholic mood and lyrics about love (both found and lost), the trials and tribulations of being a professional musician, and unrepentant alcoholism. Needless to say, I’m a big fan (word of advice for the approximately zero aspiring musicians that actually care about my opinion of them: rock and roll violins are a quick way to get on my good side, and this band uses them extensively).
Upon listening to that song, you’ve probably noticed that the song is rather soft and gentle, and a perusal of the lyrics would, frankly, suggest that the singer has been afflicted with a major case of “one-itis” for a woman that has ditched him. And so does the second song.
And the Fourth song. The third song, also linked below, is sung from the perspective of a man singing to his young daughter, who is pestering her daddy as he tries to have a smoke and a few shots before bed…or, as the title implies, he might be a thief giving his daughter an excuse before he goes out to dashingly pilfer items.
The fifth song takes place during a raucous night of substance-fueled debauchery and fun, while 7 and 8 seem to be sung by a man who has accepted and overcome his sense of one-itis, and is capable of self-reflection, while having a slightly nostalgic tone for days and romances gone by (also, drinking).
Number 6 is an excellent song, but it doesn’t quite seem to fit into the pseudo-concept album I have described above beyond having a vague sense of alcohol-induced mopiness (yes, there are vague references to broken dreams, lost love, lying women, defeated men, and partaking of controlled substances, but the songs with more concrete lyrics seem to be 1, 2, and 4). And frankly, in my opinion, song number 9 kind of sucks.
But an album with 8 excellent songs and one crappy song is better than most bands can claim. Sadly, as far as I am aware, that is the only album that this band has released (and their website is no longer extant)-one of the two reasons I decided to write this article was the hope of getting them more publicity-I used to be a DJ on my college radio station, and I would try to promote Kagero on my show. While I would occasionally get phone calls thanking me for introducing the listener to them (or other bands), I can’t truly gauge how effective my quixotic efforts were.
The other reason I have written this article is to discuss how, just because some types of music are soft, that doesn’t mean that music is also effete/neutered/insert-unmasculine-insult-here. And I can understand why this confusion exists.
Truth be told, a lot of soft music is not only soft, but also weak, soul-less, ball-less, throaty-male-whispering nonsense that no self-respecting man would be caught dead listening to. Take a listen:
(Out of curiosity, if somebody knows what that type of music is called, please tell me, because I’ve been calling it “throaty male whispering” for a while, and I don’t think that’s right)
Do you know what the difference is between Kagero and that crapfest I posted above? Kagero’s music, though showing vulnerability and emotion, has heart, it has passion, it doesn’t sound like a bunch of beta males slowly playing basic chords, throatily whispering about how much they hate music and how they hope that maybe if they pout and whine enough, some woman will give them a pity blowjob. If you could somehow transpose the concept of “beta male orbiting” into musical form, I think it would sound something like the above Youtube link. Kagero presumably put hours of toil and effort into their music, as gentle as it is. And I have always argued that art can be considered masculine if it showcases great skill and requires a great expenditure of time and effort (in other words, creating a legitimate work of art always takes intelligence/mastery and honor, and occasionally courage depending on the subject matter, and I’ll talk more about those masculine virtues next week), and has a subject matter that is not egregiously unmanly:
As I have stated in articles in the past, I feel that it is a good thing that men are encouraged to be stoic emotional “rocks”. With that being said, no man can possibly be emotionally stolid 100% of the time. In rare situations, a man will be vulnerable, and this is acceptable if he handles it in a relatively dignified fashion (the ideal of the stoic, unyielding brute is just that: an ideal to be aspired to, not a reality that can always be achieved).
Kagero is one of the last American bands that can maturely and realistically portray a failed romance and other broken dreams, and the emotional impact these failures have upon a man. In fact, I would go as far as to say that no American band since The Beach Boys has done so in such an effective manner(yes, I’m fully aware that they are completely different bands, in terms of musical genre). Frankly, any man that has “been around the block” will have experienced one-itis, the pain of heartbreak, and rejection at some point in their life. And you can acknowledge those feelings without succumbing to pity and weakness (ignore the keyboard alpha males that will inevitably dispute this. Those “men” have probably never spoken to a woman in their lives).
Make no mistake, I am a man that adores metal in all its forms: it is, quite simply, the only form of hard, aggressive, explicitly masculine music allowed to the Western man today. Similarly do I enjoy metal’s grandfather, romantic orchestral music, the hardest of all “classical” music (Wagner, Holst, Tchaikovsky, etc.) But these are not the only types of music I enjoy: as stated above, I am more than willing to listen to soft music, and there’s nothing wrong with that: for there is a difference between music that is soft, and music that is spineless. The next time you desire to find a new band or singer to listen to, try to listen to the softer side of music, take it with a grain of salt, and you might find you end up liking it (or at the very least, it won’t make your scrotum shrivel up at the sound of it).