Unicorn were often labeled "prog rock" in their heyday, but never in the King Crimson sense: the band became the definitive J-rock group of the late '80s/early '90s by packing a wide array of influences into their songs, which ranged from rockabilly and ska to punk and new wave. Strong hooks, an authentic Japanese vibe present on later albums, and insane live energy and a sense of humor also factor into their superstardom, which was big enough to propel the band's reunion album to the tops of the charts 16 years after they split.
The group was founded in 1986 in Hiroshima by Teshima Isamu (guitar), Nishikawa Koichi (drums), Mukai Midori (keyboards), Horiuchi Kazushi (bass), and Okuda Tamio (vocals/guitar). By 1987, they were picked up by CBS/Sony, on which they debuted in 1987 with the glossy new wave record Boom, which wasn't very cutting-edge at the time, but helped the band advance. They moved to Tokyo the same year, changed keyboardists in 1988, adding Abi Yoshiharu to the lineup, and released their second, much more realized album Panic Attack, which paved the way for the big breaktrough Hattori (1989), a wild hodge-podge of styles. It sold twice as many copies as its predecessor, but then Unicorn topped themselves commercially yet again with Kedamono no Arashi, which benefitted from a more focused sound, and scooped a number of awards in 1990; the band swiftly followed it with a pair of EPs, Odoru Kame Yapushi and Have a Nice Day (both 1990), later re-released on a single CD, and put out the fifth full-length Toge to Boin in 1991. But then different musical interests finally began to pull Unicorn apart, and in 1993, after releasing Springman, they called it a day. Tamio and Kazushi proceeded to work solo; Koichi joined Vanilla, and Yoshiharu worked with a bunch of projects including Abex Go Go, done in collaboration with Sparks Go Go. Unicorn got together once again in 2009 and released the album Wao. ~ Alexey Eremenko