Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: Joyful Noise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
Long seeming perversely proud of the fact they could barely play, Half Japanese have belated developed some impressive skills after a mere four decades in the game. John Dieterich of Deerhoof brought an unexpected level of cohesion and clarity to Half Japanese with his production on 2014's Overjoyed, but 2016's Perfect proves that Jad Fair and his brother David Fair have transformed their group into a scrappy but engaging combo whose simple but muscular guitar work, low-budget keyboards, and pounding drums reveal they've become America's oldest but most passionate garage band. The chattering electronics of "That Is That," the off-kilter rhythms of "We'll Go Far," and the junkyard percussion of the title cut are on hand to remind us this band has not lost touch with its defining eccentricities, but on Perfect the more coherent backings match the heady joy of Jad Fair's vocals and his fierce embrace of the positive, the latter no small accomplishment after spending decades obsessed with horror movies and women who didn't pay attention to him.
Perhaps it could be said that people, in general, could be divided like this: those who like Half Japanese and those who have never heard of them. True, band leader Jad Fair’s vocal style is less than conventional, and sometimes the melodies on which the band’s music are hung are not so easily decipherable. However, if you’re someone who is entrenched enough in the world of music, obscure or not, there is something immediately lovable about the band.
“We’ll stand up and we’ll stand pat. We’ll stand tall for this and that,” Jad Fair sings on “We Cannot Miss”, the second cut on Perfect, Half Japanese’s 14th studio album and second in as many years. With that, Fair hits upon his band’s long-running musical mission statement. He and his brother, David, started Half Japanese in 1975 with hardly a shred of musical know-how and even less of a care in the world.
Forty years on, the romantic vision that fuels pioneer art-rocker Jad Fair’s legacy project, Half-Japanese, shows no sign of burning out. Perfect, Half-Japanese’s fifteenth full-length album, is the latest addition to a discography that has grown sporadically, in both size and lasting influence. Half Japanese is one of those rare bands whose output must be taken as a whole to be fully appreciated.
Beginning a fifth decade, Half Japanese no longer seem like abject outsiders. The unpolished avant-rock they pioneered has redrawn the boundaries of convention to a point where their music fits squarely within an established rubric. Perfect acknowledges this predicament with full-bodied arrangements and a sharpening of local principal Jad Fair's worldview.