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Book Review: Kamikaze - Japan’s Suicide Samurai

by Lang Reid

I have remained confounded and confused by suicide bombers, so the title Kamikaze - Japan’s Suicide Samurai by Raymond Lamont-Brown (ISBN 0-304-35200-4) caught my eye. Published by Cassell Military Paperbacks in 1999, it was reprinted the following year, and is claimed to be an examination of the psychology, myths and realities of the Japanese Kamikaze programme.

Right from the Prologue, Lamont-Brown bombards the reader with facts that were not known to this reviewer, such as that there were four distinct groups of Kamikaze’s - the Patriotic Crusaders, the Nation’s Face Savers, the Young Rationalists and the Appointed Dare-devils. All of these were separate sociological groups, but with the same aim.

The complex history that produces a society that accepts suicide as being a ‘noble’ ending is touched upon, and how the Japanese took existing societal mores and modified them to suit Imperial Japan. Interestingly, the Japanese did not want these to be called suicide missions but were described as the result of moral and spiritual convictions. Indeed, propaganda films began to be shown, with the noble pilots singing on their way to their plane’s last mission (and theirs). Schools were also told to praise the men who were to bring joy to noble Japan.

There is so much detail contained in this relatively slim volume, that this is not a weekend read. Apart from the fact that there is the problem with unfamiliar names in Japanese, there is the attention to the minutiae of detail which elevates this from an overview of the Japanese society to a historical factual examination of the Kamikaze movement itself. While the word “Kamikaze” brings the suicidal air-strikes to mind, what also should not be forgotten were the countless suicides of Japanese non-combatants, as an “apology” to the Emperor for losing the war!

The book also shows insight into the western powers and their prejudices, which initially ignored the Japanese air threat because they considered that the Japanese pilots were short-sighted and their equipment third rate! Ah, the benefits now of 20/20 hindsight!

I found the book fascinating, probably particularly so because I have never considered suicide as a ‘viable’ alternative for anything. However, the Japanese have. It is too facile or glib to say that this was a waste of the lives of the young Kamikaze pilots. They did not think so, their society did not think so, and their country showered honours on their memory. Looking at it that way, rather than from the Judeo-Christian ethos, also explains the recent outbreaks of suicide bombers in the world today. Western peoples do tend to believe that they are “right” and everyone else is “wrong” when actually they should understand that what is being looked at are differences, not absolute truths.

Returning to the book in hand, I would have liked more photographs with the book, and quite frankly, it deserves a better format than the paperback as presented. It is a reference work and needs to be able to live on the shelves for many years. The review copy was made available by Bookazine and it had an RRP of B. 350.

Music CD Reviews:King Crimson The ConstruKtion of Light

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Before you all reach for paper and pen, there is not a spelling mistaKe in the title, that in Crimson-speaK is something done as a joKe, very highbrow humor, which is also translated in their rather quirKey music.

As King Crimson went into their third decade of maKing music, all under the leadership of Mr Robert Fripp (now in his seventh decade), they showed with this marvelous album that they had lost none of their relevance in today’s progressive-rocK scene. This was the first studio album from this lineup since losing the services of Bill Bruford on drums and Tony Levin on bass guitar. Not that this was too much of an inconvenience to the band. As before they had been what Fripp cheerfully called a double trio with two drummers, two bassists and two lead guitarists. (Get the live album “Vroom Vroom” to hear this lineup in all its live magic). So, pairing down to a simple four piece was not much of a problem, especially when you have the caliber of musicians that were left.

Over the years a succession of musicians have gone through the ranKs of King Crimson (maKing Bob Fripp the progressive rocK equivalent of John Mayall in his BluesbreaKers), many going on to superstardom in bands such as ‘Asia’, ‘Yes’, ‘Emerson, LaKe and Palmer’, ‘Bad Company’, ‘U. K.’, ‘Foreigner’, and ‘Roxy Music’. Always leaving Bob Fripp to carry on with the band in his own style, obviously a style that fits in with Adrian Belew very well, as he has been playing guitar, writing, and singing the lyrics for over twenty years.

On stage Adrian Belew has the pleasure of being center stage and focal point of attention, as the man in blacK (Robert Fripp) has always preferred to watch over his musicians and play from a seated position either at the side or bacK of the stage, well away from the front lights.

As well as these two, we have two other musicians featured on this album, Pat Mastelotto and Trey Gunn. Pat Mastelotto holds down all the drum parts with renewed enthusiasm, never letting you once yearn for the times of Bill Bruford, replacing power with power. Trey Gunn positively relishes being left alone to hold down the complicated rhythm bass worK that needs to Keep the music nailed down; his best worK being heard when Belew and Fripp fly off in different tangents mid-song leaving the rhythm section to go off in a completely different direction till all four musicians come crashing bacK together. Although all four are now veterans of the rocK scene, they have lost none of their love of good, violent, eccentric, precise, exciting, adventurous music.

“The ConstruKtion of Light” starts out with the rocKer “ProzaKc Blues” in a similar fashion to “21st Century Schizoid Man” on King Crimson’s debut album “In the Court of the Crimson King” way bacK in 1969, with its heavy rocK guitar tearing riffs out in heavy metal style; with its treated vocals similar to “Iron Man” from BlacK Sabbath; its humorous vocals a fine way to start any album.

Next up is the title song, which comes in two pieces and allows the guys the chance to show off their musical bangs on this nearly nine minute long opus, before jumping out of the frying pan into the fire with another classic piece of Crimson mastery. Then with a clever twist Fripp delves into his own past and reconstruKs an instrumental from Crimson’s 1974 album “Starless and Bible BlacK’’ and we get ‘FraKtured’, the center piece of the album, in which all the musical sKills of the band are laid out for your admiration.

Adrian Belew gets the chance to sing the superbly ludicrous “The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum”, which hears more tongue twisters than round ‘Superstar Table’. The Big guns are then rolled out for nearly ten minutes of “LarK’s Tongue in Aspic - Part 4" (Parts 1 and 2 can be heard on Crimson’s 1973 album “LarKs Tongue in Aspic”, whilst Part 3 is on 1984’s “Three of a Perfect Pair”), where you are privileged to hear some of the most sensational lead guitar ever laid down in a studio as the band build to a crescendo of musically orgasmic proportions, before the album’s properly laid to rest with the closing “Coda: I have a Dream” a beautiful conclusion to any collection of music.

After the recording of this album the band then went out on the road and toured the world; the results of which can be heard on the triple CD Collection “Heavy ConstruKtion”, which includes extended versions of all these songs with a stunning version of Bowie’s “Heroes” as the encore number. Fantastic Stuff.

Added on to the end of this collection is a song from what is called ‘Project X’, which is the same band jamming on what Crimson fans call FrippatroniKs. The band gets away from traditional song structures and lay bacK into the music with startling results. Lately a lot more of this Kind of music has been coming out of the Fripp mind. His recent bacK catalogue is well worth having a gander through for the more discerning punter, but for those of you who prefer the more traditional King Crimson - there will be a new album in 2003.


Robert Fripp - Guitar

Adrian Belew - Guitar and Vocals

Trey Gunn - Bass Guitar, Touch Guitar, Baritone Guitar

Pat Mastelotto - Drums


ProzaKc Blues

The ConstruKtion of Light

Into the Frying Pan


The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum

LarKs’ Tongue in Aspic -Part 4

Coda: I Have a Dream

Project X Heaven and Earth

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]