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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
If these guys lived in NYC they'd probably have less innocent, love based lyrics for some songs. But the music is right outta Mars and DNA from the No New York album. In fact, this record predates that by 2 or 3 years. Humm... This is not the Half Japanese of the 9 or so albums that came out in the 80's after this debut record. Those records have various members of the band besides just the two Fair brothers. And they make magnificent music together. It's (the later albums) a far fuller sound, it's real recordings by a real band playing this skewed music that Jad Fair writes. I dunno if his brother co-wrote with him for this album but here's what it sounds like, as if somewhere in Maryland (regardless of where they're really from just cuz it feels East Coasty to my ears) a coupla guys went into the basement after their older brother's band left behind their instruments and started playing cuz, "Hay, I've written some songs." If this material was first written in 1975 it predates most punk. The Pagans started in 1974 (awesome classic snotty band, check 'em out). Punk is musical freedom and probably freedom from having to or trying to make money from your band and this music reeks of it and the nice baked fish I had and the sharp Provelone I brought home recently also reeked, but, as with this music, it's a great reeking. Course, my wife freaked over both smells and I played her the last song on the second disc of Half Japanese Greatest Hits and she's pretty sure she got her DNA re-arranged. She was begging me to turn it off after mere seconds and after I got to drive alone I revisited the song and the double album and knew the songs that were most fierce, most grating, most unwelcome for mass market radio and dove into some and shielded myself from others only because, what? I'm so old now (58) and I have limits from my youth and, on occasion, Half Japanese, particularly on this album, can go too far. But oh what a joyous too far it is. Really, this 3 LP set reminds me a lot of the Clash's Sandanista 3 LP set in that there's some real hits on it (course, there's actual hits on the Clash album that could be proudly played on the radio even today but these hits are for the avant garde punk, for the No Suburban punk and that ain't everybody). I caught one lyric sentence, "I don't wanna be bored by TV". Yup, the American experience, Western life, spit out on grating guitar, juvenile vocals and lyrics and drumming that's better than the White Stripes drummer (ok, well, all drummers are better than her or at least more expressive and alive musically, sweet thing). This is like, Jad and I guess his brother felt that there was music to be made here. There's a few songs that use some sort of electronic device and it's easy to call it experimental. They remind me, all through Half Japanese's career, of Pere Ubu, making their own darned music with their own off kilter vocals and unconventional musical delivery but it's got a beat man (to paraphrase David Thomas of Pere Ubu). There's also the use of some found objects like possibly a type writer and a few other items on some of those experimental songs. If you played this for your mom, or dad, or most folks, they'd go, "Agh, turn it off!" This is not for the faint hearted. I am so pleased to hear that Fire Records is going to reissue the Half Japanese catalog and started with this record that goes from 50 songs to 86 of previously unreleased tracks. Can't wait to hear those unreleased songs though I'm far more ready to hear unreleased tracks from the albums after this one (aside from their, in my opinion, their only bad album, well, the last one they did. The rest all rule, in fact Music to Strip By and The Band That Would Be King are, to these ears, two of the finest albums ever made by anyone and all the stronger with the extra tracks on later issued cd versions. Stunning. And all Half Japanese is basically better than almost all Jad Fair solo records which is just as great as Half Japanese, same song writing and so forth, same innocence and simplicity and wreckless musical abandon, but without 2 to 6 strong backing band members his solo records rarely swing like Half Japanese albums do. This is a singular album as it was initially issued as a 3xLP, their debut album after a few 7"s and some cassette releases. Amazing someone in England could tell that this was worth releasing. Keep in mind, that's pre CD era. There's a whole live show on his album, nicely recorded with an appreciative audience which musta been around 1977. There are some folks who can bear this and, indeed, find some musical delight. I'm a huge Half Japanese fan and this is the album that I have the greatest difficulty listening to just cuz of the strip down element to it of it being just the two brothers. What's remarkable about Half Japanese music, to these ears, is that I can enjoy a huge range of music from the Sex Pistols to the Beatles to Santana to Steel Pulse and Joni Mitchell and Ray Charles, Minor Threat and Alberta Hunter (check her out singin' snappy blues in her 80's!). But rarely can I just dive back into albums by various groups and continue to be musically challenged, surprised at so many musical turns, left with unanticipated musical twists and turns even after having heard the Half Japanese albums over the years because of their dense musical approach, of their unconventionality, of often stark and driven musical accomplishments. They have John Zorn on sax on some albums, really making it feel to me like avant gard jazz punk rock man. Stand by for the reissue on Fire Records and the new cd in that set of extra tracks from this period. And do not forget to scarf up the reissues of their albums after this one especially the two I mentioned above cuz they RULE! Splendid hits. Oh, and btw, they can do songs that are not grating. I played about 3 or 4 songs from the Greatest Hits 2xCD release for my daughter when she was about 20 and I just played the gentle ones and I was rewarded by hearing her say, "I like Half Japanese." Little did she know the intense, chaotic, No Suburban sound of most of their songs and I'm a gonna leave it that way for her. God bless kids.