Atarashi Gakko! – Tokyo Calling

10th February 2024 · 2020s, 2024, Music

Girl groups are not normally my thing, especially those “idol” groups who dress up, dance and sing. But I can make an exception for Atarashii Gakko! Because while they are girls, and they do dress up and dance and sing, AG! are a kind of anti-girl-group girl group.

While most J-Pop female idol groups have squeaky voices, perfectly synchronised dance moves and a pure and innocent image –
“kawaii” – AG! satirise the entire phenomenon.

From their stage outfits – a deliberately demure take on the Japanese sailor-fuku school uniform beloved of porn fantasies – to their satirical lyrical content and aggressive and expressive self-choreographed moves, they refuse to be objectified.

The group call themselves as alternative ‘Japanese Youth Representatives’ – their motto is spelt out on their knee socks when they’re not giving their stage uniform a sci-fi twist for American TV – and this song, Tokyo Calling, is a robust critique of the workaholic culture of Japan and the harsh monotony of life in Tokyo.

It’s also a whole bunch of fun, which is the main point, and their dance routines are simultaneously impressive and amusing in equal measure, while their musical hybrid of punk, J-pop, rap, metal and synth pop is nothing if not refreshing.

I don’t think I’ve heard a Japanese group singing in Japanese before, apart from the one time I went to Japan and saw a rock group called X at a festival. They also performed in fancy dress (resembling Kiss, as I recall, which kinda makes sense given their name).

Perhaps it’s compulsory.