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Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

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:30 Seconds Over Tokyo - TuneIn Radio

Flew off early in the haze of dawn
In a metal dragon locked in time,
Skimming waves of an underground sea
In some kind of a dream world fantasy

Sun a hot circle on a canopy,
'25 a racing blot on a bright green sea
Ahead the dim blur of an alien land,
Time to give ourselves to strange gods' hands

Dark flak spiders bursting in the sky,
Reaching twisted claws on every side
No place to run,
No place to hide,
No turning back on a suicide ride

Toy city streets crawling through my sights,
Sprouting clumps of mushrooms like a world surreal
This dream won't ever seem to end,
And time seems like it'll never begin
30 seconds,
And a one way ride
30 seconds,
And no place to hide
30 seconds over tokyo

Before the Ramones recorded their debut album, before the Sex Pistols were a glimmer in Malcolm McLaren's eye, and before fellow Ohioans Devo helped usher in the age of synth pop and MTV, Pere Ubu had already formed their own label and released the seminal art punk single "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." Appearing in the fall of 1975, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" was clearly the work of a garage band, yet its arty dissonance and weird experimentalism were startlingly unique for that setting; it would take American underground rock years to catch up. "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" relies more on atmosphere than melody for its impact, but its lurching guitar riffs and cacophonous noise are a perfect match for singer David Thomas' apocalyptic visions. His lyrics take a pilot's-eye view of the atomic bomb attack on Japan, couching it in offbeat, vividly nightmarish imagery ("dark flak spiders bursting in the sky"; "sprouting clumps of mushrooms like a world surreal"). The song truly does create a surreal world, not only in the lyrics -- which make repeated references to being stuck in a dream, outside of time -- but in the sonic environment. The opening guitar riff throws the listener off immediately -- it's obviously played in a steady rhythm, but when the band chimes in at first, it's with free-form ambient noise. Eventually, it becomes clear that the chords in the riff are sounding between the downbeats, not on them. It's joined by a descending, counterpoint line whose heavy chromaticism becomes a complement to the seasick feeling of Thomas' flat, quavering vocals. There are a couple of instrumental breaks during which the off-the-beat rhythm of that opening riff becomes the only anchor; the rest of the band seemingly comes close to dissolving into chaos around it. The sense of foreboding explodes into a full-on freakout in the middle of the song -- the rhythm stops and fades into a dissonant, noisy free-for-all, while the bass plugs away in a deranged country/polka beat. The original song structure eventually finds its way back out of the murk, and after one last verse, a new, almost Black Sabbathy chromatic riff crawls up. Singing through a distorted microphone, Thomas mumbles the title over and over as though it's the mantra of a shell-shocked vet with a tenuous grip on sanity. Effect-laden guitars, EML analog synth noises, and bursts of feedback color in the space behind him, and the song almost stumbles to its close, as though there was no definite stopping point. Ultimately, it's yet another freely structured moment in a song that helped pioneer the use of those tactics in underground rock.

30 Seconds Over Tokyo - Pere Ubu | Song Info | AllMusic

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  • 30 Seconds Over Tokyo by C D on Prezi

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    Flew off early in the haze of dawn
    in a metal dragon locked in time,
    skimming waves of an underground sea
    in some kind of a dream world fantasy

    Sun a hot circle on a canopy,
    '25 a racing blot on a bright green sea
    Ahead the dim blur of an alien land,
    time to give ourselves to strange gods' hands

    Dark flak spiders bursting in the sky,
    reaching twisted claws on every side
    No place to run,
    no place to hide,
    no turning back on a suicide ride

    Toy city streets crawling through my sights,
    sprouting clumps of mushrooms like a world surreal
    This dream won't ever seem to end,
    and time seems like it'll never begin
    30 seconds,
    and a one way ride
    30 seconds,
    and no place to hide
    30 seconds over Tokyo