Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vinyl/CD Lust: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Here's a story that should serve as a reminder as to why music fans should continue to patronize record stores in the internet age: you never know what treasures you might stumble upon...

A few weeks ago, I stopped by a Japanese used CD/bookstore in midtown to kill some time during my lunch hour (and basically get away from the crazies at work) and decided to check out their J-POP section (which is separate from their selection of US and European CDs), just in case they had anything by the few Japanese ska bands I've heard of. (You never know, right?) As I'm trying to figure out how things are alphabetized (the few section dividers that are in English don't follow any set pattern that I can discern--I am told later by one of the staff that it's organized according to the Japanese characters--d'oh!), I come across a cover that features its motley crew of band members as cartoons, with a speech bubble over one of the figures stating, "We don't know what ska is!" I take a closer look and it turns out to be the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra! And then I realize that there is a whole SECTION that contains most of their back catalogue--and all of the CDs are $5 to $10 (except for their newest one, Perfect Future, which is $30)!?! Holy High Priestess of Ska! I end up grabbing six CDs for $35 (Wild Peace, High Numbers, Stompin' on Downbeat Alley, Grand Prix, Tokyo Strut, and We Don't Know What Ska Is!), which would have ended up costing me a small freakin' fortune if I ordered them from Japan or here as an import.

Okay, I know that picking these CDs up in a used shop (even though they were new, still in their factory shrinkwrap with their OBI cards) isn't actually supporting the band (i.e.: they're probably not making royalties off my purchase, sadly) and that this business is not really the kind of independent record store that I'm urging us all to be patronizing...but you get my point, right?

So here's my plea: go to a store and a) actually buy music so that a band can try to make some bucks against all odds--and can afford to keep doing what we want them to do, and b) support independent retailers of music before they become completely extinct.

Best of all, when you go to a real live record shop, you can discover a CD or LP that you would never thought of searching for on the internet--and most of the people in indie shops know their music and can answer your questions and make great recommendations (unlike the drones at Best Buy, etc.).

More rants about the current state of the music industry to come...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Where is this store, I must go!!

-Andrew

Steve from Moon said...

Andrew,

It's called Bookoff and it's located at 12 East 41st Street(between 5th Ave & Madison Ave).

Have fun!

Steve from Moon

Chris Da Maddog said...

Book Off has a fair amount of other J-Ska on hand, if you know what you're looking for.

I've picked up stuff from Kemuri, Gelugugu, Ska Ska Club, Pot Shot and more there.

I even picked up a TSPO DVD there once. I tell people about this store all the time, though sadly, most people tend to forget, or simply just choose not to go.

For the record though, all the TSPO stuff that I've seen there was approx $15 per disc (except the new one, and the new best of collection).

If you're looking for NEW japanese movies, music, books, etc, there is a genuine first hand japanese book store whose name escapes me at the moment, right on the other side of bryant park. It's litterally a 5 minute walk around the park on 6th (i think.. whatever the west end of the park is) between 40th and 41st (maybe 42nd street... I'm not sure if that side of the street is split into one or two blocks as the park takes up two.

Drop me an email if you'd like some more info.

chrisdamaddog@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Steve,

thanks for pointing the place out I picked up 8 TSPO CDs at $5 per disc. Great place. I'll have to check out the other J-ska bands mentioned in the earlier post. Didn't Moon put out J-ska comp?

-Andrew

Steve from Moon said...

Chris da Maddog: Thanks for your comments. Next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'll look for that other Japanese music/DVD store. (And for the record, many of the TSPO CDs that I picked up at Bookoff really were $5.00-they were mostly from the mid-1990s, but they were cheap!)

Andrew: Glad you found the store and picked up some TSPO at a steep discount. Moon did release a great Japanese ska comp: "Land of the Rising Ska" (also known as "Nihon Ska Dansu"). I may have a few copies kicking around if you don't have it...

Chris Da Maddog said...

Steve:

I recently visited this store again, and yes, they did cut the price on a bunch of their TSPO cds. I think mostly because they have such a large volume of some of those cds (High Numbers, Pioneers, Arkestra, We Don't Know What Ska Is and their first full length come to mind). They used to be $15, but after a few months of them not selling as well as when I and a few of my friends were buying them, I could see them dropping the price a bit to move them. In addition to this, I've found their most recent DVDs there as well (the Wild Peace tour video and the Documentary: Smile). I'm glad to see that people are continuing to find TSPO there. I've definitely bought more than my fair share at book off.

Also, I'm glad you're shining a spotlight on the NYC SKA LIVE album this week. One of my band's (Bigger Thomas) are celebrating our 20th year anniversary this weekend at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick NJ, and any boost in visibility for that show the better! I'm a more recent additon to the band having put in just over 3 years at this point. Hopefully we'll see you there! I play trombone in the band. Say hi if you can make it!

Cheers,
Chris

Steve from Moon said...

Chris:

Thanks for your comments! I'm not going to be able to make the New Brunswick show, but congrats to the band all the same! Next time you play in NYC, I'll try to make it and will introduce myself.

The Bookoff TSPO prices are really good--especially compared to how much these releases cost on say Amazon. I remember back in the 90s how hard TSPOs release were to come by...wild that they are in a cut-rate shop in midtown. What other Japanese ska releases did you find there (apart from those that you mentioned in your earlier posting)?

Cheers,

Steve from Moon

Chris Da Maddog said...

Hey Steve,

Sorry I forgot about this conversation for nearly 6 months... things have been a bit nuts...

Book off's whole deal is that they're a 2nd hand store. So everything they sell they get used, thats why the prices are so good. I'll go through my releases a bit later, but I know Ive picked up almost a dozen TSPO releases there, a kemuri record or two, a polysics record (not at all ska), ska ska club's 12 ways to go record, I <3 ska by Gelugugu (sp?) and a record by P'EZ (Jazz)

Chris Da Maddog said...

Almost forgot, theres a first hand japanese bookstore on the opposite side of bryant park that also has some TSPO releases. Their prices are at FULL (if not inflated) import price though and they carry more mainstream japanese books, music, and movies. I actually have a feeling that a lot of their inventory winds up there after people buy it and either copy it or are otherwise through with it.

Also I picked up a punk ska/jpop release or two by the band Snail Ramp at Book Off. I forgot about that one before.