Half Japanese: "In Its Pull"

from Overjoyed (Joyful Noise; 2014)

By Maura McAndrew | 1 August 2014

The greatest bands are those that seem to come out of nowhere: no expectations, shrouded in mystery, not bolstered by buzz. It’s an indescribable feeling to put on that first wild recording by a great band you’ve never heard, never seen; you don’t know where they’re from or how old they are, whether they’re completely mentally ill or just putting you on.

Even for a band that started forty years ago, like Half Japanese, it can still happen. There are plenty of music fans out there that have never heard 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts (1980), never seen The Band that Would Be King, never knew what it meant that Kurt Cobain was wearing a t-shirt reading “Half Japanese” when he died. And of those people, I’m jealous. Because they still get to hear Half Japanese, in all primal, untethered, hilarious-scary glory, for the first time.

And they’ll get to hear new Half Japanese at that, as Jad and David Fair have gotten the band back together, at least an incarnation of it, for this September’s Overjoyed, their first record in thirteen years. And judging by first single “In Its Pull,” it’s Half Japanese as classic as they ever were, albeit lacking the extreme lo-fi sound of their most famous recordings. According to the website for the band’s label Joyful Noise, on Overjoyed “they neither attempt to recreate their old sound, nor are they aware of current musical trends and conventions.” Awesome, but also: I’m highly dubious that anyone can be completely unaware of “current musical trends,” though I’m willing to believe the Fair brothers—very special creatures indeed—might just be the exception.

If they are secretly up on the trends, “In Its Pull” doesn’t give them away. Over a surprisingly meaty guitar riff, Jad Fair sputters and gushes as only he can about one of his favorite uncool topics: happiness. “It’s happiness or bust,” he declares, tossing off “yeahs“ as guitar clangs over uneasy percussion. It’s silly and stream-of-consciousness, stupid enough but not too stupid, awkward but still catchy. “Good luck had me in its pull,” Fair chirps, “Good luck had me in its mitten.” What does it all mean? It means that Half Japanese is back. And they’re still the weirdest band you’ve never heard.