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Daydream Wonder - The pillows (lyrics available)

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About the Pillows The pillows is a long-running Japanese rock band, best known outside Japan for their music in the anime series FLCL. Early beginnings
About the Pillows
The pillows is a long-running Japanese rock band, best known outside Japan for their music in the anime series FLCL.

Early beginnings

the pillows formed in 1989 when Sawao Yamanaka struck up an unlikely friendship with one half of the legendary Japanese punk band Kenzi & the Trips. Bassist Kenji Ueda, short-lived replacement of the original Kenzi & The Trips bassist Jun Gray and original Kenzi & Trips drummer Shinichiro Sato teamed up with guitarist Yoshiaki Manabe of the hair metal band Persia and the young, charismatic frontman Sawao Yamanaka to work on what would become one of the catchiest Asian pop rock bands to cross the Pacific.

The original Coinlocker Babies made their independent debut with the five-song demo tape Pantomime. The original lineup, then Sawao Yamanaka and two other unnamed individuals on bass and drums, toured and performed for almost two years under this name and were featured on the extremely popular VOS (Video on Street) bi-monthly VHS compilation tape entitled "God Save The Punx", among others. The Coinlocker Babies were on the verge of indie success and the inevitable major label contract when the three piece split due to unknown reasons. The details behind what happened to the original lineup of The Coinlocker Babies isn't known, but in 1989, Sawao Yamanaka was already hard at work on another project. During this year, Sawao unveiled the new Coinlocker Babies, a four piece consisting of Sawao Yamanaka (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals), Yoshiaki Manabe (Lead Guitar), Kenji Ueda (Bass), and Shinichiro Sato (Drums). This name didn't stick for very long, however. The story as to where the band's odd name came about is that allegedly Sawao Yamanaka was hanging out at Yoshiaki Manabe's place and an English post punk and mod rock band compilation record entitled Pillows & Prayers hanging on Manabe's wall inspired him. The name stuck and late into 1989, the pillows were signed to Captain Records and got to work on their first official release. During the first half of 1990, the foursome toured and worked on recording another copy of Pantomime.

Stylistically, the pillows' early work differed dramatically from their best known albums, and from the alternative and hard rock bands associated with the early nineties. Between Pantomime and White Incarnation, the pillows' style could be described as a cross between sixties pop rock bands like The Beatles, and eighties bands such as The Smiths, among other influences as varied as Bob Marley. Their rather unusual stage attire further distinguished them from American grunge bands popular at the time. Although less accessible in comparison to their later releases (primarily due to Sawao's undeveloped vocals, somewhat comical stage outfits and image, and lower, but somewhat more charming production quality), the early albums are favorites among many die-hard fans.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and in 1990, the pillows jumped Captain Records and took a contract with the major label Pony Canyon. 1991 saw the release of their first full album, Moon Gold, produced by Ryomei Shirai of the long running Japanese synth pop band Moon Riders. In 1992, the pillows visited England to record their second full-length album, White Incarnation, and filmed the promotional video for their second single, as well. However, shortly after the album's completion, Kenji Ueda left the band, likely over creative differences. Ueda was succeeded by the musically versatile and seasoned studio musician Tatsuya Kashima in 1993. The extremely rare Special CD, released only to the pillows fanclub, contained their first recordings with Kashima.

In 1994 the band once again moved, this time to King Records, and released Kool Spice. With Ueda no longer in the band to combat Sawao's eccentric diversity and rapidly changing musical interests (which were particularly evident during the latter tracks of White Incarnation), the pillows' style started drifting away from their style of eclectic pop rock, and the band wildly experimented between varying genres; during this time, the band's bass driven style of music could best be described as jazz, but with the ever-present sixties pop rock influence.

1995 was the year in which the pillows released Living Field, an album that was widely ignored, but which many fans consider the most imaginative recordingd of the pillows' career. Living Field was much like Kool Spice in that it is difficult to pin a genre on the album. Swinger's Night Club shows shades of Latin jazz influence while tracks like Something Like a Romance and Angel Fish give off a vibe of the percussion-driven pop funk made popular by Jaco Pastorius and other fusion artists in the seventies. Standout tracks include the reggae song Native World, the sixties-influenced nostalgic rock jam The Killing Field, and the beautiful single track Daydream Wonder. Some fans consider the listenability of Living Fields its outstanding feature, and superior to the pillows' later works. The multi-layered acoustic overdubs, Hammond organ samples, brass, upright contrabass, woodwinds, and other various percussion instruments presented listeners with something new every time he or she listened to it. While a musically diverse and intricate album, Living Field was not a commercial success, leading some fans and critics to speculate the end might be near for the band.

Growing popularity

It was on their transitional record, 1997's Please Mr. Lostman (a play on the name of The Beatles cover tune "Please Mr. Postman";), that the pillows finally got their foot within the door of Japan's mainstream scene. Preceded by a series of relatively successful singles, and somewhat evocative of such American rock bands as Weezer and The Pixies, it catapulted the band to mainstream success in Japan. Please Mr. Lostman was undoubtedly more mellow than their previous releases, and as Sawao remarked in one interview, many fans and critics felt that such a style was the pillows' strongest suit.

By far the biggest hit off of Please Mr. Lostman and perhaps the best example of Yoshiaki Manabe's musical chops was the soft, mellow ballad Strange Chameleon. Many of the pillows' most enduringly popular songs, such as Swanky Street, were introduced on this album, and are mainstays of the band's live sets nearly ten years later.

1998 would bring Little Busters, another success for the band- for several years, it was the pillows' best selling album. The album solidly established the band into a more upbeat variation of the "90's Alternative" style, while merging again with British pop sounds of the sixties, strongly reminiscent of The Beatles, (perhaps inspired by the band's trip to England that same year, one of several in their career). Several of this album's songs would be prominently featured in FLCL several years later, but some of the band's best rock songs are also present on this album. "Nowhere", perfectly combining sixties pop rock with nineties hard rock, and "Patricia," evocative of George Harrison, were among the excellent (yet often overlooked) songs from this album.

In early 1999, Runners High was released, following the singles "Instant Music" and "No Self Control." This album shed the band's sixties influence, substituting more punk and grunge into the pillows' sound. Runners High would sadly be the last album to feature bassist Tatsuya Kashima. Late that same year, Happy Bivouac came out, and many fans consider this album to be the band's best rock-oriented project. Their style continued to evolve, and Sawao paid tribute to now-major influence Pixies with "Back Seat Dog", a song which followed nearly the exact same structure of Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man," as well as one tune named after Kim Deal.

That same year, the pillows were approached by Gainax, an anime studio famous for hits such as Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Gainax wanted to license the pillows' three most recent albums, for their latest anime, entitled FLCL. the pillows saw this as a good opportunity to get their name out and agreed, even going so far as to compose two new songs specifically for the anime. These tracks became the singles Ride on Shooting Star and I Think I Can. August of that same year saw Tatsuya Kashima's replacement by former The Chewinggum Weekend bassist Jun Suzuki.

the pillows would not release another album until 2001; the FLCL soundtracks sold well, as did their own best-of compilation, Fool on the Planet. Sawao concentrated his energies on Delicious Label, his record company side project. Manabe released a solo album as Nine Miles, continuing the reggae experimentation hinted at in earlier albums.

The band rarely makes reference to their earlier music, seldom playing any pre-"Lostman" songs at concerts but in 2004, their video documentary "Walkin' on the Spiral" was released and focused on the pillows' earlier music with old clips of live shows and interviews from various points in time while simultaneously celebrating the group's 15th anniversary. However, in a recent concert, they played a set consisting of Daydream Wonder, Tonight, Girlfriend, and Sha-la-la-lla, all older songs.
(more)

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