The Yellow Monkey
|The Yellow Monkey|
|Also known as||Yemon|
|Genres||Hard rock, glam rock, alternative rock|
|Labels||Nippon Columbia, BMG Funhouse/Ariola Japan|
|Past members||Kazuya Yoshii
The band's name was derived from the ethnic slur that Japanese people look like monkeys, and that Asian people are said to be "yellow" in skin color. The Yellow Monkey is considered an important rock group of Japan, having achieved major success and selling millions of records. The group took part in the first Fuji Rock Festival in 1997, their song "Kyūkon" reached No. 1 on the Oricon weekly single chart in 1998, and in 2003 were ranked number 81 on HMV Japan's list of the 100 most important Japanese pop acts. Outside Japan, the band is best known for their song "Tactics", one of the many ending themes of the Rurouni Kenshin anime.
1988–1994: The Beginning
The group has its roots in 1988, formed by Kazuya Yoshii when his previous band Urgh Police, a hard rock/glam rock group, disbanded. He, originally playing bass, switched to guitar when he recruited Youichi Hirose, Eiji Kikuchi and several other members and they began to play in the live houses of Tokyo. When the vocalist left, Yoshii took over that position and recruited Eiji's brother Hideaki as guitarist.
The Yellow Monkey started to play in the underground circuit, being well known for not only their latent songwriting quality, but also because of their live performances, which would soon become the main characteristics of the group. A December 28, 1989 show at Shibuya La Mama is regarded as the first with these four members. The fans of the band grew vertiginously, preparing the band for their first studio work.
In 1991, the band finally launched their first indie album, Bunched Birth, which had seven original songs. It was an album with raw sonority, with many influences from hard rock, and containing well-shaped but peculiar lyrics (all of them written by Yoshii). The work was very well received by the public, opening the doors for their major label debut album, The Night Snails and Plastic Boogie, of 1992. The new album brought eleven songs more elaborate than the first work. The band had a considerable increase in popularity, which added to single "Romantist Taste" and to the ballad "Pearl Light of Revolution", that already gave samples of the potential of Kazuya in composing powerful ballads.
In 1993, the band launched their second major album, Experience Movie. The songs had a better production and care with the sonority. The songs of the album were very strong and with high emotional text. The band also started to be admired for their live performances, due to the band's charisma and Kazuya's extreme performances. However, the band had not yet become a large public success in Japan.
In 1994, they released the album Jaguar Hard Pain, a conceptual album which tells the saga of Jaguar, a World War II soldier who dies in combat and comes back to life trying to find his love, Mary. This was the last album from the first period of the band, when their songs did not have as much popular sound appeal.
1995–2000: The Success
By the year 1995, The Yellow Monkey had already become successful in Japan, playing their first show at the Nippon Budokan on April 11. They released the album Smile, which was another critical and public success, and the band released the single "Love Communication". Other songs that became classics of the band are "Nagekunari Waga Yoru no Fantasy", "Nettaiya", the powerful ballad "Hard Rain" and "Venus no Hana". The tour for this album in Japan booked more than 40 major shows.
When it seemed that the band would rest, at the end of that same year, they released the album Four Seasons, which was recorded in London. The album reached No. 1 on the Oricon charts. The album had more-accessible songs, and reached a warm reception by the fans. There were also fans of anime because the song "Tactics" was used as the first end theme of the anime Rurouni Kenshin / Samurai X, becoming their most successful single up until then. Many other classics were already identified, such as "Taiyou ga Moeteiru", the good rock-and-roll track "I Love You Baby" and songs such as "Father", "Tsuioku no Mermaid" and "Tsuki no Uta". Despite the thundering success of the record, the Yellow Monkey continued being a cult band, since the lyrics and live performances remained consistent. On May 5, 1996, The Yellow Monkey performed in London with The Spiders from Mars.
After two back-to-back record releases, the band decided to take a break for one year. The decision was aided by Kazuya's stress from the constant and exhausting work of the two previous albums. At the end of 1996, however, the band put on a special show, the Mekara Uroko 7. It was a concert for the oldest fans of the band, in which they had played older songs from before the Smile album. Many of these old fans considered those songs to be mainstream and pop in excess. An unforgettable part of this concert was the moment where they played "Pearl Light of Revolution" with an orchestral arrangement. This according to Kazuya, was one of the best moments in his career.
In 1997, The Yellow Monkey came back with the album that is considered their magnum opus, Sicks. This album brought a different sonority compared to the two previous works. It was a mix of their current sound combined with that of their first albums. Bringing more complex and mature songs, Sicks, was an amazing critical success and repeated the sales of the previous album. The main characteristic of the record is the concern of the band with the arrangements, which becomes more evident already in the first track, "Rainbow Man". The only single of the album was "Rakuen", which was successful and is still one of their best known songs. Despite being a concise album, whose songs are all equivalent in quality, there are three songs that made the album legendary. The first one is the already cited "Rakuen", with a strong chorus. The second is the ballad "Jinsei no Owari (for Grandmother)", considered by many as the best ballad by The Yellow Monkey. The third song is the long eight-minute epic, "Tengoku Ryokou", again considered among the best songs of the group.
In the year 1998, the band released the album Punch Drunkard, which was a commercial success, although not to the extent of their previous album. The songs "Kyuukon", "Burn", and "Love Love Show" easily became hits. Although containing accessible songs, such as the ones cited in this article, the album used the song-writing method of the previous album, Sicks. The success of the album made it possible for the band to begin a great tour with 113 live concerts, the most of their career. They also did a small tour in the United Kingdom.
After the exhausting succession of concerts and tours, the group took a one-year break. Coming back in 2000, the Yellow Monkey released their last studio album, 8. They released many singles such as "Seinaru Umi to Sunshine", "Pearl", "Barairo no Hibi" and "Shock Hearts", all of them achieving great success. The album is considered the most occidental of the band, which was common for all Japanese bands at that time. Despite the success of the album, the group did not stage many concerts that year, already showing that the end was coming.
2001–2004: The End
In January 2001, the group announced that it was taking a break for an indefinite time, but still released the compilation Golden Years Singles 1996–2001. The members released many solo albums, with Kazuya reaching more success, now adopting the artistic name of Yoshii Lovinson, which was abandoned some years later. Hirose also obtained relative success with his new band, Heesey with the Dudes.
In 2004, the band released a large compilation Mother of All the Best, which included three discs with some singles, all b-sides, some demo-version songs and live performances. The Yellow Monkey officially announced their disbandment on July 7, and had their last live at the Tokyo Dome on December 26.
A two-disc tribute album titled This is For You ~ The Yellow Monkey Tribute Album was released on December 9, 2009, featuring artists such as Mucc, Fujifabric, 9mm Parabellum Bullet, Morgan Fisher and Kreva. Their song "Jam" was covered by Chemical Pictures on the album Crush! 2 -90's V-Rock Best Hit Cover Songs-, which was released on November 23, 2011.
A documentary film of their 113 date tour from April 1998 to March 1999 will be released in theaters nationwide, titled Pandora: The Yellow Monkey Punch Drunkard Tour The Movie (パンドラ ザ・イエロー・モンキー PUNCH DRUNKARD TOUR THE MOVIE?). It will include an interview with all four members together, the first time since the band broke up.
- Kazuya "Lovin" Yoshii (吉井和哉?) – vocals, guitar
- Hideaki "Emma" Kikuchi (菊地英昭?) – guitar, backing vocals
- Youichi "Heesey" Hirose (廣瀬洋一?) – bass, backing vocals
- Eiji "Annie" Kikuchi (菊地英二?) – drums
- Studio albums
- Bunched Birth (July 21, 1991)
- The Night Snails and Plastic Boogie (June 21, 1992), Oricon Albums Chart Peak Position: No. 79
- Experience Movie (March 1, 1993) No. 80
- Jaguar Hard Pain 1944〜1994 (March 1, 1994) No. 28
- Smile (February 1, 1995) No. 4
- Four Seasons (November 1, 1995) No. 1
- Sicks (January 22, 1997) No. 1
- Punch Drunkard (March 4, 1998) No. 1
- 8 (July 26, 2000) No. 2
- Compilation albums
- Triad Years Act 1 The Very Best of The Yellow Monkey (December 7, 1996) No. 2
- Triad Years Act 2 The Very Best of The Yellow Monkey (April 19, 1997) No. 2
- The Yellow Monkey Single Collection (February 10, 1998) No. 10
- Triad Years Act I & II The Very Best of The Yellow Monkey (March 1, 2001) No. 25
- Golden Years Singles 1996-2001 (June 13, 2001) No. 2
- The Yellow Monkey Mother of All The Best (December 8, 2004) No. 5
- Yemon -Fan's Best Selection- (イエモン -FAN'S BEST SELECTION-?, July 31, 2013) No. 2
- Other albums
- Triad Complete Box (December 10, 1997, box set) No. 14
- So Alive (May 26, 1999, live album) No. 4
- This is For You ~ The Yellow Monkey Tribute Album (December 9, 2009, tribute album)
- Complete Sicks (January 22, 2010) No. 6
- "Romantist Taste" (Mat 21, 1992)
- "Avant-garde de Ikou yo " (アバンギャルドで行こうよ?, March 1, 1993), Oricon Singles Chart Peak Position: No. 49
- "Sad Asian Boy" (悲しきASIAN BOY?, February 21, 1994) No. 97
- "Nettaiya" (熱帯夜?, July 21, 1994) No. 59
- "Love Communication" (January 21, 1995) No. 29
- "Nagekunari Waga Yoru no Fantasy" (嘆くなり我が夜のFantasy?, March 1, 1995) No. 34
- "Tsuioku no Mermaid" (追憶のマーメイド?, July 21, 1995) No. 19
- "Taiyou ga Moeteiru" (太陽が燃えている?, September 30, 1995) No. 9
- "Jam/Tactics" (February 29, 1996) No. 6
- "Spark" (July 10, 1996) No. 3
- "Rakuen" (楽園?, November 25, 1996) No. 3
- "Love Love Show" (April 19, 1997) No. 4
- "Burn" (July 24, 1997) No. 2
- "Kyūkon" (球根?, February 4, 1998) No. 1
- "Hanareru na " (離れるな?, June 3, 1998) No. 15
- "Sugar Fix" (August 21, 1998) No. 5
- "My Winding Road" (October 21, 1998) No. 5
- "So Young" (March 3, 1999) No. 5
- "Barairo no Hibi" (バラ色の日々?, December 8, 1999) No. 4
- "Seinaru Umi to Sunshine" (聖なる海とサンシャイン?, January 26, 2000) No. 9
- "Shock Hearts" (April 5, 2000) No. 3
- "Pearl" (パール?, July 12, 2000) No. 6
- "Brilliant World" (November 1, 2000) No. 5
- "Primal." (プライマル。?, January 31, 2001) No. 3
- "Romantist Taste 2012" (October 10, 2012) No. 5
- Home videos
- Life Time - Screen ~Tsuioku no Ginmaku~ (life Time・SCREEN〜追憶の銀幕〜?, September 1, 1993)
- Cherry Blossom Revolution -Live at Budokan- (July 21, 1995)
- Clips Video Collection 1992〜1996 (March 30, 1996)
- True Mind Tour '95-'96 For Season: In Motion (October 21, 1996)
- Blue Film (November 1, 1997)
- Red Tape (December 3, 1997)
- Purple Disc (December 17, 1997)
- Mekara Uroko - 7 (メカラ ウロコ・7?, October 21, 1998)
- Clips 2 Video Collection 1996〜1998 (November 18, 1998)
- Punch Drunkard Tour 1998/99 Final 3.10 Yokohama Arena (PUNCH DRUNKARD TOUR 1998/99 FINAL 3.10 横浜アリーナ?, June 23, 1999)
- Jaguar Hard Pain Live '94 (December 10, 1999)
- Spring Tour (December 9, 2000), Oricon DVDs Chart Peak Position: No. 25
- Clips 3 Video Collection 1999〜2001 (March 14, 2001) No. 11
- The Yellow Monkey Clip Box (December 8, 2004) No. 9
- The Yellow Monkey Live Box (December 8, 2004) No. 15
- The Yellow Monkey Live at Tokyo Dome (December 28, 2004) No. 13
- Empire Live The Yellow Monkey (ライブ帝国 THE YELLOW MONKEY?, December 23, 2005) No. 82
- Mekara Uroko - Live DVD-Box (メカラ ウロコ・LIVE DVD-BOX?, December 9, 2009) No. 10
- True Mind "Naked" - Tour '96 "For Season" at Nippon Budokan (TRUE MIND “NAKED” -TOUR '96 “FOR SEASON” at 日本武道館-?, October 21, 2012) No. 161
- True Mind "Naked" - Tour '96 For Season "Proof of the Wild" at NHK Hall (TRUE MIND “NAKED” -TOUR '96 FOR SEASON “野性の証明” at NHKホール-?, October 21, 2012) No. 241
- True Mind "Naked" (October 21, 2012) No. 4
- Red Tape "Naked" (December 3, 2012) No. 5
- "Top 100 Japanese pops Artists - No.81". HMV Online (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- "THE YELLOW MONKEY Reveals Documentary Video". barks.jp. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
- "Aoi, Moran, and more to release ’90s Visual Kei cover album". tokyohive.com. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- "THE YELLOW MONKEY: “Pandora” theatrical version trailer". barks.jp. Retrieved 2013-08-18.
- "THE YELLOW MONKEYのアルバム売り上げランキング". Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- "THE YELLOW MONKEYのシングル売り上げランキング". Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- "THE YELLOW MONKEYのDVD売り上げランキング". Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved 2013-02-09.