Half Japanese: Overjoyed (Joyful Noise, 2014)

August 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Half Japanese: Overjoyed

Half Japanese: Overjoyed

Half Japanese (who formed in Ann Arbor in the ’70s) have been one of my favorite bands ever since I started listening to them when I was in high school. This is their first album in 13 years, but their first album that I’ve actually heard since 1997’s epic Heaven Sent (which consists of an hour-long song, plus several brief variations on its theme). It’s been said that Half Japanese songs are either about monsters or girls, but most of Jad Fair’s work is simply about his pure, unbridled enthusiasm for life, and that’s entirely what this album is about. Instead of the cacophonous teen-angst noise freakouts of their debut 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts, or the tender, heartfelt love songs of albums like Charmed Life, this album mostly consists of musical pep talks from Jad as he encourages you to live life to the fullest. The lyrics are typically off-the-cuff, and the music is simple, straightforward, and usually rocking (“The Time Is Now” is slower and stretches out to almost 6 minutes, a few other songs are slower too, otherwise it’s mostly mid-to-uptempo). Maybe it’s just because I’m so familiar with Jad and his work, but I just can’t help but be entertained by anything he does, I think his enthusiasm is just so infectious, rather than cloying or gimmicky. It feels geniune, he’s just being his own joyous self. So he can get away with saying things like “purrrr-fect, said the cat”, as on “We Are Sure”, in which he also refers to himself in third person as he tells you that you are great and you shouldn’t fear success, you should just do it because you’re on the right track. He can write songs about jumping into bodies of water made of chocolate as a metaphor for falling in love (as on “Each Other’s Arms”), because why not? Love is a sweet feeling. I’m happy that Jad Fair is still doing his thing after 4 decades, and that he’s still overjoyed about life, and I’m excited to see him again next month (9/7) at Trinosophes in Detroit.

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