Need to Know: Japanese Rocker Enigmas ‘Man With a Mission’

When Olivia Rodrigo’s now massive single ‘Good 4 U’ first hit the airwaves last May, it was almost jarring to hear a song on pop radio with actual…guitars. Rock guitars. And in fact when the Billboard Hot 100 was released at the end of last year, it was the only thing even vaguely resembling a rock song amongst the entire lot.

Into this unparalleled low for the state of rock & roll comes Japan’s Man With a Mission, who are arriving on our shores armed with roaring big rock riffs and, well…wolf heads on human bodies. Their somewhat confusing backstory goes that they were actually created by the late Jimi Hendrix, but then frozen in the ice in Antarctica – though they one thing they could still do is listen to music.

Climate change, of course, melted the ice, and in 2010 they emerged to form the aforementioned and curiously named Man With a Mission. (Are they men? Are they wolves? How did they end up in Japan?) They have since racked up five straight gold albums at home, plus sixteen top ten singles. The most recent of those gold records is the enigmatically titled Break and Cross The Walls I, which came out this past November, but will be digitally released internationally on January 28 (a part II is due out in spring). And perhaps in hopes of conquering the rest of the musical world, it features a very high profile and very human Western collab – ’86 Missed Calls’ – with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.

And seriously, with its rousing glam rock riffs and big, shouted choruses, the track quickly lodges itself in the brain, and as far we can tell will be stuck there for all eternity.

The lyrics seem to be about trying to maintain one’s self belief on the road, especially when there are those who would threaten that belief.

“And all your little words are like gasoline
Every step I take the road just breaks apart behind
Miss another train and I wave to the riders
I won’t let you threaten me out of my dream”

The album is packed with stormers, with other standouts including the steamrolling ‘Change the World,’ and the jagged-grooved ‘Into the Deep’. It’s enough to make you believe that MWAM might just actually get people excited about rock & roll again.

“We never stopped during COVID and progressed step by step,” enthuses vocalist/guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny, “resulting in a big gift of a two album series for our fans. For now, here is the first album – we are very happy with the result, including the track listing. Hope you enjoy it.”

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