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Japan were everything Duran Duran wanted to be. Looking like Nick Rhodes' five androgynous elder brothers, boasting cheekbones to spare and pseudonyms to match, Japan (David Sylvian, vocals; Mick Karn, bass; Richard Barbieri, keyboards; Rob Dean, guitar; Steve Jansen, drums) had only one weak suit: timing. Formed in 1974 but arriving in a puff of foundation in 1978 just as punk was obsessing over street credibility, their Roxy Music-inspired debut, Adolescent Sex, vanished without trace, as did follow up Obscure Alternatives. It took the advent of New Romanticism for third album Quiet Life to hit a nerve with both press and public. Following the success of an extraordinary cover of Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," you could almost hear the collective groan going up through the country's sixth forms as the band announced they were to split following sublime Top 5 U.K. hit "Ghosts" and landmark album Tin Drum. The four core members reformed in 1990 as Rain Tree Crow, but by then the time for their exotic combination of glamor-puss pop and Middle Eastern rhythms had passed. Still highly respected, David Sylvian has since worked with everyone from Robert Fripp to Ryuchi Sakamoto, while Japan's foppish influence can be seen in everyone from Fischerspooner to Franz Ferdinand.
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