The last album with Rob Dean, Gentlemen Take Polaroids was also unquestionably the album in which Japan truly found its own unique voice and aesthetic approach. The glam influences still hung heavy, particularly from Roxy Music, but now the band found itself starting to affect others in turn. Even the back cover photo says as much -- looking cool in glossy, elegant nightwear, the quintet had a clear impact on Duran Duran, to the point where Nick Rhodes obviously was trying to be Sylvian in appearance. Musically, meanwhile, the swooning, hyper elegant Euro-disco sheen of Quiet Life was polished to an even finer edge throughout, the title track and the obvious descendant of "Quiet Life" itself, "Methods of Dance," in particular sheer standouts. Sylvian's sighing, luscious croon is in full effect on both, and the arrangements are astonishing, Karn's fretless purring between Jansen's crisp, inventive, and varied drumming, Barbieri's icy keyboards filling out the corners. What makes Gentlemen Take Polaroids even more of a success is how the group, having reached such a polished peak, kept driving behind it, transforming their exquisite pop into something even more artistic and unique. "Swing," in particular, is an astounding showcase for the Karn/Jansen team; snaky funk at once dramatic and precisely chilled, brass section blasts adding just enough wry, precise sleaze, Sylvian delivering with focus and intensity while not raising his voice at all. "Nightporter," meanwhile, is a hyper ballad and then some; a slow-paced semi-waltz with Barbieri's piano taking the lead throughout with wonderful results. Further hints of the future come with the album closing "Taking Islands In Africa," which Sylvian co-wrote with future regular collaborator Ryuchi Sakamato, and which wraps up the whole experience with a gliding, supple grace.
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