Thursday, February 23, 2012

KOREAN ROCK: The Ju Ju Club (1996~2000) (3)

"Ranisanisafa": Incomprehensible or undecodable?

In 1997, the Ju Ju Club (or the Juju Club) came back with their second album, “Ranisanisafa” (라니싸니싸파) only three months after their first (successful yet controversial) album was released (Oct. 1, 1996).  It was a trend in the Korean music industry back then that new bands or singers release a record album every year or so in order to expand their territory and make themselves familiar to listeners.  Even so, however, it seems quite implausible that the band was able to put out their second album in such a short time while promoting their debut album at the same time.  In a promotional interview for the album, Ju Seunghyeong (lead guitarist and song writer) said they had carefully selected only the best thirty out of all pre-written songs by him and eventually eleven songs had been chosen to be recorded. (Source)  The album was released simultaneously in Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Even though their first album, a once thought masterpiece, was tarnished by allegations of plagiarism, the Ju Ju Club is still regarded as one of the innovators of Korean modern rock.  The band was always one step ahead of the pack, the crowds, and the trends.  Without fail, they came back stronger with more innovative, experimental songs but was not well-received by the audience.  If my memory serves me right, they were the first Korean rock band that ever borrowed from rap for their song Supil Leobeu (수필러브, "Love Like a Love Essay") while Seo Taijiwa Aideul (Seo Taiji and the Boys or The Taiji Boys) the first Korean rap/dance band that ever rocked in the song, Hayeoga (하여가,"The Whatever Song");  Supil Leobeu can be classified as electronic punk rap or electronic rap core and  Hayeoga as rap metal.  One thing noteworthy is that the Ju Ju Band had brought in the legendary Korean bassist Lee Tae Yoon (이태윤) as a session bassist to record their first, second, and third albums.  Lee had added resounding depth, flow, texture, and richness to every track on those all three albums.

[MV] The Ju Ju Club: Supil Leobeu 
(Love Like a Love Essay, 1997)

Don’t you think this song still sounds as fresh and relevant as today?  I just luuuuurve it!  Unfortunately, back then, it was considered too offbeat and much less palatable to mass audiences than the songs on their debut album.  Their music was just as incomprehensible or undecodable as the name of their album, "Ranisanisafa," to ordinary listeners.  Frustrated with the poor reception of their first promoted song on the album, Supil Leobeu or “Love Like a Love Essay,” they quickly ditched it in favor of the fourth track, “Sentimental,” the style of which closely resembles their mega hits on their debut album, and it turned out to be the right move.

The album’s front cover featured a cartoon of the band and Batman.  The band members were shown in color while the rest including Batman was illustrated in black and white – as if they were following Batman into the comic book. And not surprisingly, so were we as we listen to the 27-second-long first track, Godamssiti (고담시티“Gotham City”), which opens the album with sound effects of a man screaming, gunshots, and glass shattering. (Listen)

Ranisanisafa: The second album by the Ju Ju Club
(Release date: 01/01/1997/The Rock Records)

And then it smoothly leads well onto the next track, Baeteumaen (배트맨, “Batman”) (Sample).  The narrator of the song talked to her boyfriend, commenting on his lanky physique – 137 lbs (62 kg) and 5’ 10’’ (180 cm).  She asked him to sign up for fitness and boby building classes so that he could build muscles to be a new Arnold Schwarzenegger; for she wanted a man that was able to protect her as the world was too dangerous and threatening to live in for a girl.  So she wanted her man to make her feel safe and protected wherever she went, whenever he was around with her. – FYI, it was not until the early 1990’s that issues female sexual abuse victims (either by strangers or by immediate family members or someone very close to the family) began to surface as a real issue of public concern in Korea due to the Kim Boeun–Kim Jinkwan case (1992).

The third track, Nae Moseup Geudaero ( 모습 그대로, “Just the way I am”), is about a woman who was feeling suffocated or smothered in a relationship with a man trying to change her and disapprove of her; hence she was wondering if he was fed up with her being herself (Sample).  And in the next track, Ssentimental (센티멘탈, “Sentimental”), a woman (maybe the same woman in the previous track?) felt “sentimental,” being mad at yet missing her now-aloof boyfriend:

[MV] The Ju Ju Club: Sentimental (1997)

And here comes the title track, Supil Leobeu or “Love Like a Love Essay,” in which Supil literary translates to “miscellaneous writing” but most Koreans use “essay” as its English equivalent.  The narrator of the song yearned for true, reciprocal love that is often portrayed as real by so many writers of romantic stories. The more romantic her dream of love is, the fiercer her frustration is and the wilder her expression is.  It’s quite ironic that the sounds are explosive and striking when the song is about poetic, ideal love.

     ● Track 6:  Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa (빨리 빨리 , “You, come here quick!”) (Sample)
     ● Track 7:  Epeu Eksseu-Na (Fx-, “Fx-me”) (Listen)

The song, Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa, was remade into Mandarin by Karen Mok or Mok Man-Wai (莫文蔚, 막문위), an actress and singer from Hong Kong, who was signed to the Rock Records, together with the Ju Ju Club at that time.  The Ju Ju Club arranged and also featured in her song and music video.  The cover song was titled “想一個男生” (상일개남생, “Think of a Boy”) and was also covered by Peter Pan or Pan Yu Wen (潘裕文, 반유문) who placed third in the first season of "One Million Star"(2007), a Taiwanese reality television singing competition.

[MV] Karen Mok: Think of a Boy (1997)

The eighth track, Naega Chalgga (내가 찰까, “Should I dump you first?”), became my instant favorite at first listen; for the band’s signature (feisty, gutsy, and straight-talking) lyrics and for synchopated drum beats, intricate bass lines, and Ju Dain’s peculiar voice and rapid rapping.  I think the song (and the album) was destined to be doomed as it was released too early – 10~15 years too early.  If the song (and the album) had been put out in the 21 century or even today, I’m very positive it would have been a mega hit.  The Ju Ju Club was simply way too much ahead of time! 

The Ju Ju Club: Naega Chalgga?
(Should I Dump You? 1997)

In the next track, Nan Oneuldo ( 오늘도, “Alone Again Today”) which is a modern rock ballad, she said she would give him everything and she wanted nothing from him in return even though she was alone again that day (Sample).  In track ten, Hei (헤이, “Hey”), however, she eventually left him.  She missed him a lot, wondering where he might be, who he might be dating (even though she said she didn't care). (Sample)

The eleventh track, Ssaibeo Seupeisseu (사이버 스페이스, “Cyberspace”), was again right on money, as the band’s first-ever hit “16/20,” reflecting the changes in the lifestyle changes that were occurring within Korea at that time; or the song was actually predicting the near future where a large number of people withdraw to an online environment to avoid real-life problems or are even addicted to internet.  The narrator of the song said, “Get out of my way; I gotta go home fast.  I gotta log in to my Cyberfriends because I hate to be alone.  I gotta come here fast.  I can be anything I wanna be here in Cyberspace; I can do anything I wanna do here in Cyberspace.  Get out of my way; I gotta go home fast.” (Sample)

The last track, “Ranisanisafa” (라니싸니싸파), was the title track of the album. According to a promotional interview for the album (1997), the band named the album after this song and the title was basically onomatopoeia that Ju Seunghyeong had hummed and mumbled to the initial melody lines while writing this song. Ju happened to get hold of a newspaper plastered with disturbing news stories about school violence and he just spat out the achy feelings after having read them; hence, his feelings were reflected in the onomatopoeic word, “Ranisanisafa.” (Source)  The narrator of the song saw her friend crying, presumably after having been bullied in school, expressed her desperate feeling and anxiety, and finally begged for the attention of all parents. (Sample)

I think the band’s second album was an absolute masterpiece but came around too early.  And I truly believe they should have promoted different songs, like Ppalli Ppalli Neo Wa (“You, come here quick!”) or Naega Chalgga (“Should I dump you first?”) since those songs were way better than "Sentimental" and less offbeat than Supil Leobeu ("Love Like a Love Essay").  And as mentioned above, their music overall was just as incomprehensible or undecodable as the name of their album, “Ranisanisafa,” to ordinary listeners.For those reasons, it was not as commercially successful as anticipated as it failed to reach to the heart of the mass audience.


  1. This music is amazing! Sounds better than most of today's music in North America. Only lasted until 2002. What a shame. Sounds so much better than the KPop around that time.


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