Formed in 1976 and comprised of guitarist/vocalist Toshio Nakanishi, vocalist Chica Sato, guitarist Hajime Tachibana, keyboard player Masahide Sakuma, and programmer Takemi Shima, the Plastics were the archetypal Tokyo new wave band, combining a quirky, eccentric musical sensibility with sharp observational lyrics satirizing postmodern consumer culture in a way that still draws frequent comparisons with U.S. contemporaries such as Devo and the B-52's.
Beginning life as a party band, the Plastics soon found their sensibility being influenced by glam rock's embrace of superficiality and ephemeral trash culture, as well as the social critique of the emerging punk rock and new wave generation, with the electronic music of German techno-pop pioneers Kraftwerk forming the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle that made up the group's sound. While contemporaries in the Japanese new wave scene like P-Model and Hikashu were more musically experimental, the Plastics' background in fashion and design (Nakanishi was an illustrator, Sato a stylist, and Tachibana a graphic designer) gave them a conceptual edge that, combined with their sparse sound and English lyrics, set them apart. It also helped the band get its international break, when Nakanishi was contracted to design the booklet for Talking Heads' tour program and gave the Plastics' cassette to David Byrne. They were quickly picked up by the manager of the B-52's, with whom they toured following the release of debut single "Copy/Robot" on the British Rough Trade label and full-length debut album Welcome Plastics on major label Victor Music in 1979.
The album was a hit, reaching number 22 on the Japanese charts, and was quickly followed by Origato Plastico, which met with similar success, which was quickly transferred across the Pacific to the United States, where the band made a splash touring. It was short-lived, however, and the group split at the end of 1981, with Nakanishi's desire to develop as a musician conflicting with Sakuma's "amateur band" concept. Following the Plastics' split, the various members all embarked on new projects, with Nakanishi and Sato forming Melon, Tachibana releasing his solo work under the name Low Powers, and Sakuma going on to become a successful producer as well as forming the international supergroups NiNa (who also included Shima) and the d.e.p.
The band was only active for a brief period but its legacy was far-reaching, partially influencing the transformation of mainstream Japanese music from the string and brass-led "kayoukyoku" style that dominated the '60s and '70s to the more electronic-influenced J-pop style that has since come to dominate the charts. The Plastics are still revered among alternative musicians, with numerous new wave and techno-pop bands paying tribute to them, and some, like Polysics, modeling themselves on the image of the Plastics and their contemporaries to an enormous extent. ~ Ian Martin