Tin Drum (album)

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This article is about the album. For the novel, see The Tin Drum. For the film based on the novel, see The Tin Drum (film).
Tin Drum
Studio album by Japan
Released 13 November 1981
Recorded 1981
Length 37:49
Label Virgin
Japan chronology
Gentlemen Take Polaroids
(1980)Gentlemen Take Polaroids1980
Tin Drum
Oil on Canvas
(1983)Oil on Canvas1983
Singles from Tin Drum
  1. "The Art of Parties"
    Released: May 1981
  2. "Visions of China"
    Released: 6 November 1981
  3. "Ghosts"
    Released: March 1982
  4. "Cantonese Boy"
    Released: May 1982

Tin Drum is the fifth and final studio album by English band Japan, released in November 1981 by record label Virgin. It peaked at No. 12 on the UK charts, and featured the top 5 single "Ghosts." It has received acclaim as the band's best work.


Tin Drum continued the band's now-established mix of electronic elements with traditional instrumentation, but leans far more towards Far Eastern and Orientialist influences than any of their previous albums. Guitarist Rob Dean had left by this point and vocalist David Sylvian had taken on his duties, which had been very greatly reduced by the band's change of musical direction. Writer Paul Grimstad described the album's sound as a "mannered cubist pop."[4]

The opening track "The Art of Parties" is a re-recording of the song which had been released as a single in April that year.[5]


Tin Drum was released on 13 November 1981 by record label Virgin.[6]

Four of the album's eight songs were released as singles in the UK—"The Art of Parties", "Visions of China", "Ghosts" and "Cantonese Boy"—whilst a live version of "Canton" was issued as a single to promote the Oil on Canvas live album in 1983. Of all the singles the most commercially successful was "Ghosts", a minimalist, drum-free song which reached No. 5 in the UK. "Visions of China" reached No. 32 and "Cantonese Boy" made the UK Top 25. The album itself peaked at No. 12 in the UK,[7] and was certified "Gold" by the BPI in 1982.[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[10]
The Guardian4/5 stars[11]
Smash Hits8/10[12]

The Quietus called Tin Drum "unique in pop history, a fearlessly ambitious, unusual and conceptual work of art that defies genre categorization."[13] AllMusic retrospectively called it Japan's "most unique, challenging, and striking album".[9] Trouser Press wrote: "Tin Drum presents Japan at peak form".[14] Writing in Smash Hits, critic David Bostock announced that, "Japan have made their best album yet".[14]

On 6 September 2011, BBC Radio 6 Music awarded Tin Drum a 'Goldie' award for the best album of 1981.[citation needed]

In 2000 Sylvian re-recorded "Ghosts", using the original Japan backing track, and this version has been included on his compilation albums Everything and Nothing (2000) and "A Victim of Stars 1982–2012" (2012).

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Sylvian, except where noted.

Side A

  1. "The Art of Parties" (re-recorded version) – 4:09
  2. "Talking Drum" – 3:34
  3. "Ghosts" – 4:33
  4. "Canton" (Jansen, Sylvian) – 5:30

Side B

  1. "Still Life in Mobile Homes" – 5:32
  2. "Visions of China" (Jansen, Sylvian) – 3:37
  3. "Sons of Pioneers" (Karn, Sylvian) – 7:07
  4. "Cantonese Boy" – 3:44

Note: The bonus tracks were included only on the limited edition two-disc version of the album. The single-disc version features no bonus tracks.



Additional personnel[edit]

  • Yuka Fujii – backing vocals
  • Simon House – violin
  • Steve Joule – design
  • Steve Nye – engineer
  • Phil Bodger – assistant engineer
  • Fin Costello – photography


  1. ^ Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, May 30, 2014. ISBN 978-1-78099-226-6
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Josh. "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  3. ^ "new 33 1/3 title coming spring 2018: tin drum". 333Sound. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Grimstad, Paul. "What is Avant-Pop?". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 1 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "Song – The Art of Parties". musicbrainz.com. Retrieved 2016-05-31. 
  6. ^ Melody Maker. London, England: IPC Media: 29. 24 October 1981.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Japan albums Official charts
  8. ^ British Phonographic Industry online database
  9. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Tin Drum – Japan". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  11. ^ Sweeting, Adam (5 September 2003). "Pop on the verge of a nervous breakdown". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ Bostock, David (12–25 November 1981). "Japan: Tin Drum (Virgin)". Smash Hits. EMAP Metro. 3 (23): 25. 
  13. ^ Burnett, Joseph. "Thirty Years On: Japan's Oil On Canvas Revisited". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Robbins, Ira; Aswad, Jem. "TrouserPress.com :: Japan". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 

External links[edit]