Here’s the Tweezers one and only LP “Already,” originally released in 1997 but now remastered on CD with added bonus tracks.
As I recall, the Tweezers were formed around 1995. Wow, already more than twenty years ago. You could call them sort of a super group for the scene based around Teengenerate. It was Fifi from Teengenerate, Tomoko from Supersnazz, Ozaki from Samantha’s Favourite, and Uganda from the Pees. The Tweezers were a really important band for this scene that you could say took power pop from the late 70s and early 80s and gave it an update and working over. And they were a kickass band everybody loved and that hasn’t changed at all over the years.
In the 90s, when you talked about “power pop,” it meant a certain branch of alt-rock. There weren’t any bands like the Tweezers who’d gone back to the source and reinterpreted the original power pop, with roots firmly in rock and roll. But at the time, just like kids were going back and rediscovering 70s garage punk like the stuff on the “Killed By Death” comps, there were kids going back and discovering the power pop of old.
You could think of it as a kind of spiral staircase. The original power pop bands took 60s rock and reinterpreted it. It wasn’t a carbon copy but an update and it was infused with a little punk rock. In just the same way, Tokyo bands in the 90s took that reinterpretation, and took it up another flight of stairs to create a new kind of power pop. The bands that did this were bands like the Tweezers, More Fun and Samantha’s Favourite. They paid loving homage to the power pop Greg Shaw advocated in BOMP! Magazine but put their own stamp on it.
I don’t know the exact specifics of the Tweezers coming together, but back then, every weekend, everybody would go to shows and then drink together afterwards, mostly talking music. Band people and non-band people alike would head to record stores, buy some vinyl, and take their discoveries to somebody’s house to listen to them. They’d make tapes or MDs and exchange them with each other. Everybody was discovering all kinds of stuff. Used records were cheap and especially power pop records. You could build up quite a power pop collection without a lot of money. With all of this collecting of records and sharing of sounds, there was fertile soil for a band like the Tweezers to gain a following. We were excavating all the old power pop, just like the punkers and garage rockers were doing.
This is the environment where the Tweezers were born. I remember that at first they were called the Sires. They were going to be a cover band that just played songs off the Flamin’ Groovies’ Sire albums. It was just a fun side project, with no plans to write songs or put anything out. I clearly remember them doing “Shake Some Action” live. At some point, they were christened “The Tweezers” for reasons nobody remembers by the band’s friend and fellow power pop maniac Magari.
Fink wrote most of the songs for Teengenerate, so Fifi had tons of stuff for the Tweezers. The MO of the band from early on was to have as much fun as possible and that was reflected in their songs, which were clearly power pop but also unique. These tunes made the band much more than just a Teengenerate side project.
One of the greatest moments in the band’s history was when they served as backup band for ex-Flamin’ Groovy Roy Loney in Japan. There were a lot of people at the show. Of course their records were release in Japan, but it was just astounding how many old Flamin’ Groovies fans were at the show. But that’s not the point. It didn’t matter how much “exposure” the band got; what was important was that they were playing with a member of the Flamin’ Groovies, one of the bands they loved most and one of the first power pop bands. Like the Groovies, the Tweezers were really a rock and roll, and not just power pop.
Somewhere around this time, they put out “Already.” Most of the songs were live set staples everybody knew and loved. The main songwriter was Fifi, with Tomoko writing some tunes and some collaborating between her and Ozaki. It also had a cover of the Kids’ “Someday.” The kids were a fast and loud punk rock band but this song is from their poppier era. Teengenerate also covered the Kids so it seems like there was some meaning here, as if to say, “Teengenerate was punk, we’re pop.” But in his typical fashion, Fifi denies it and say it’s just a good song.
“Already” was engineered by Tsutomu Oikawa, who worked on a number of records for the K.O.G.A. label. When I first heard it, I didn’t feel like it had enough of a 70s power pop sound, but now I can see that was some power pop mania bullshit on my part. In the end, it was a good mix. Uganda’s long-time friend Shutaro Tagami from TGMX and Scafull King makes an appearance on trumpet. Tommy from Tokyo’s premiere power pop band at the time, More Fun, also appeared on the album.
The cover was Fifi and Tomoko’s idea. Shot by Jimbo of the Titans and Firestarter, it shows a pile of records from the likes of the Nerves, Flashcubes, Flamin’ Groovies, and the Raspberries. On the back cover, Roy Loney’s autograph on Tomoko’s necktie is clearly visible, and the bridge of “Walking With A Radio On” is basically a list of the most essential power pop bands. Okay, it was probably a bit much, but it was something of a manifesto and that’s what Tokyo bands were into doing then. Plus, Fifi was always associated with Teengenerate, so maybe they wanted to announce loud and clear that this was something different.
The album was put out by Time Bomb Records and this really helped to spread the name. They started touring and Ozaki quit to focus on Samantha’s Favourite. His replacement was Uganda’s friend Kaku (Hige). He was a blues guitarist who didn’t know much power pop, but this added a little something different to their live sound. Around this time, in 1998, my label Target Earth released a Tweezers 7-inch. Kaku doesn’t appear on the 7-inch but he’s on the jacket. Produced by Fink, the sound was closer to what I wanted the first album to sound like. Looking back now, I think that their true sound falls somewhere in between “Already” and the 7-inch. The songs off the 7-inch and some demos from Ozaki’s vaults recorded around the time of “Already” are the bonus tracks on this CD.
I went with the Tweezers a number of times when they toured the Kansai Region. It didn’t matter whether there were people there to see them or not, traveling with the Tweezers was always a good time. It was a great experience for me and I got to meet a lot of people and bands all over Japan.
They toured and played shows like crazy but at some point around 1999, the Tweezers decided to call it quits. I think there were lots of reasons but a big one was that Fink had joined Firestarter and they were starting to play more. Firestarter started to incorporate the same power pop elements and then the line between the two bands got kind of blurred. For example, the first Firestarter EP, which I put out on Target Earth, had a re-recorded version of “Walking With A Radio On” and at some of the Tweezers’ last shows, they were playing Firestarter’s “Trashy Dreams.”
So, rather than making a big deal out of their final show, they just played the last one they had planned, and that was it.
The Tweezers got back together a number of times. The first time was to open for the Sprague Brothers on their 2001 Japan tour at Shinjuku Jam. Ozaki came back for their later reunion shows. They played a number of wedding parties and one of them, in 2011, was at the same time that Paul Collins Beat was playing in Japan, so they ended up opening for them. This was just about a week before the big earthquake. The Paul Collins Beat show kick-started the band again.
But it was a little different now. You could say it was the Tweezers 2.0. For one thing, Fifi couldn’t play guitar anymore, so they got Hirotaka Tamagawa (ex-Hipgellow and Commonville) on guitar, who was playing in a country band called the Bucketeers with Tomoko and Uganda. With Firestarter playing less, the Tweezers started playing more and this led to another change. In September, 2016, Uganda quit the band and was replaced by Greg from Supersnazz.
I hope they start writing new songs and put out some new releases, but for now, here’s to having such a kickass power pop band playing again.
Masao Nakagami (Target Earth Records)
October 18, 2016
(Translated by Greg Snazz)