The One about Discovering Japanese Music: Mr. Children’s “Atomic Heart”

I remember when I was sent a tape by a friend featuring the CD single for “Cross Road” and I was instantly hooked.

I just remember watching their brief music video clips on various Japanese music shows and just felt that the music was well-sung, felt unique compared to other music at that time and the vocals were just awesome. Especially the lyrics to the songs. Just awesome!

I received “Atomic Heart” as a gift from my friend Hiroshi when we were in college and both Hiroshi and I were just passionate about the music of Mr. Children and would play the guitar and sing the songs.

And to this day, it’s an album that I have treasured for so long.

Mr. Children is a rock band that consists of lead vocalist Sakurai Kazutoshi, guitarist Tahara Kenichi, bassist Nakagawa Keisuke and Suzuki Hideya on drums.

Also, the band’s music would feature a longtime friendship and collaboration with Sakurai and producer/musician Kobayashi Takeshi (Southern All Stars, My Little Lover and many more).

“Atomic Heart” was the band’s fourth album and would feature two CD singles “Cross Road” (4th CD single) and “innocent world” (5th CD single). “innocent world” alone that would dominated 1994 with over 1.9 million copies sold and by the end of 1994, the band would win the 36th Annual Nihon Record Taishou’s coveted Grand Prix Award for best artist of the year (which they would win the coveted award again ten year’s later in 2004).

The two CD singles help create the Mr. Children phenomenon and “Atomic Heart” to be one of the most sold albums by the band.

The first track “Printing” is more or less a short intro with sounds of printing that would lead into the second track “Dance Dance Dance”.

I loved this song like crazy that I would play it over a million times as it featured an upbeat sound that would feature cool lyrics and vocals by Sakurai and Kobayashi’s experimental music used in the background. The lyrics “give me love, give you up, give me one true” sung throughout the background and the enjoyable music just created an electric atmosphere. Overall a fantastic song from the band.

The third track “Love Connection” featured another collaboration with Kobayashi and had this Billy Joel rock diddly. Very cool song and had this jazzy/rock feeling to it.

The fourth track “innocent world” is one of my favorite Japanese songs of all time. Sakurai Kazutoshi has penned many awesome classic hits but this song (and “Tomorrow Never Knows”) will be in my playlist for many more years to come.

Awesome arrangement, cool lyrics and Sakurai just sings this song beautifully. Magnificent song!

Another track that is poetically written by Sakurai, a style that he’s known for. Here are excerpts from lyrics from “innocent world”:

Itsu no hi mo Kono mune ni nagareteru merodii
(This melody which is always flowing within me)
Setsunakute Yasashikute Kokoro ga itai yo
(Tryingly and gently, this heart is in pain)
Hi no ataru sakamichi o noboru Sono mae ni
(Before ascending the hill, to the road which is bathed in sunlight)
Mata dokoka de Aeru to ii na
(It would be good if I could meet you again somewhere)
Sono toki wa waratte Niji no kanata e hanatsu no sa Inosento waarudo
(At that time [I hope] you’ll be smiling into the rainbow [in this] Innocent world)
Hateshinaku tsuzuku Inosento waarudo
(Carrying on endlessly [in this] Innocent world)

The fifth track “Classmate” is a very cool ballad and what I enjoyed with tracks like this, especially classic Mr. Children songs is the brass arrangement. Another cool track!

The sixth track “Cross Road” introduced me to Mr. Children and another classic and was an interesting song because it was featured on the drama “Dousoukai” but a song that lingered on the Oricon Charts for a long period of time and eventually became the band’s first million copies sold single. A beautiful and awesome song!

The track featured references to Beatles songs with words such as “Ticket to Ride”, “Winding Road”, a song that showcases Sakurai Kazutoshi’s lyrics that are quite poetic:

Tsumetai kaze ni fukarete Tatazumu materiaru waarudo
(Being blown by the cold wind, the material world stands still)
Tachidomaru cross road Samayou winding road
(The cross road which is standing still, the winding road which is wandering)
Kizutsukezuni wa aisenai
(I cannot love without hurting [you])

The seventh track “Jealousy” is another collaboration track with Sakurai and Kobayashi. And Kobayashi’s experimentalism is employed in this track with the electronic drums and synth feel of the overall track.

The eighth track “Asia” is an interesting track featuring music by Mr. Children drummer Suzuki Hideya and in a style and sound that would feature a string arrangement but a rock sound that would become more prominent in later Mr. Children songs.

The ninth track “Rain” is a 20-second clip featuring the sound of rain and would lead up to the tenth track “Ame Nochihare” that would feature another collaboration with Sakurai and Kobayashi.

The song would feature another experimentation in sound and music, especially with guitars and beats for the overall track. Another cool track on the album.

The eleventh track “Round About ~孤独の肖像~” (or Round About ~Portrait of Loneliness) is a very cool rock ballad and cool arrangement by the band, music by Sakurai and brass arrangement by Yamamoto Takuo (who did the brass arrangement for “Love Connection”).

The twelfth track “Over” is a breakup song that never was released as a CD single but yet is known by many Japanese and featured on various Japanese music show segments of songs to listen to after a break-up.

A very cool ballad and where their love ballad “Dakishimetai” was about love, Sakurai pens a ballad which is more or less saying goodbye to a person you once loved.

As for the CD insert, the insert features the lyrics to the songs, pictures (not of the band but scientific theories, outer space, hands, eyes, etc.) and production credits.

“Atomic Heart” is simply a classic. The album featured two of the songs that helped catapult Mr. Children to the top and would be the beginning of their awesome career.

An album that would not showcase awesome music, awesome vocals but music and lyrics that coincide like a work of art.

An album that deserves to be in the collection of Mr. Children fans. More than a decade later, this album is still highly recommended!