It isn't hard to mistake David Sylvian's portrait on the cover for a certain Nick Rhodes, the resemblance between the two is striking indeed, not just for the make-up but an overall appearance that managed to confuse me for many years earlier on, every time I'd see this album's cover. Japan's fourth studio album is now a fully realised affair. Closer to "Quiet Life" (both albums released in 1980), "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" is their debut for Virgin - released rather quickly after the group's acrimonious parting with Hansa who in return prevented the group from touring with any of their earlier album material on that label.
It didn't stop Japan though, "Gentlemen" making it all a whole new starting point, adding further more tranquillity, a sophisticated mix of ambient and melancholy. Like with previous records, one spot here is reserved for (sort-of) a cover version of theirs - that of "Ain't That Peculiar" (a Motown-penned classic), given a whole new shape with the group's established exotic touch.
With the remaining list of songs, Japan indeed found a solid new ground, reducing the sound palette in order to make it more spacious, rich and vibrant. There is not a weak track on this album - the opening title song, "Swing", "My New Career", "Methods Of Dance", the optimistic closer done in collaboration with Sakamoto - "Taking Islands In Africa" and two beautifully dormant pieces, the Satie-esque "Nightporter" (by many, already echoing in the group's earlier piece "The Tenant") and "Burning Bridges", a masterpiece intermezzo halfway down the first side of the album, Eno and Bowie would simply kill for.
Interesting note about this particular track - also appearing as a b-side to "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" on a 7" single, many still guess if there's a difference between the two versions. The answer is yes but only a slight one - "Burning Bridges" in its 7" version (popularly credited as "Sylvian mix") is actually nothing that special, except a bit more muffled and shortened in the mix, rid of the gorgeous intro that complements the original album track. The Steve Nye remix for "Taking Islands In Africa" on the other hand does give a little more to the already astonishing album version (despite it's also not that radically different).
And yes, for collectors' perversity, the mystery behind "Some Kind Of Fool" misprint - if you really want to collect the LP just for the sake of this misprinted oddity and pay a fortune, then you really are a fool. While the re-recorded version (appearing years later on Syilvian's compilation "Everything And Nothing") is as every bit worth having, "Burning Bridges" fits in much better and including the latter on "Gentlemen" was a wise move. "Some Kind Of Fool", when you listen closely is a rewrite of "The Other Side Of Life". Nothing bad about that, but not really fitting into the "Gentlemen" story.