Entry updated 11 October 2021. Tagged: Music.
American lo-fi punk band (sometimes written as ½ Japanese), formed in 1974 by the brothers Jad and David Fair. In their early days they were a shambolic but enthusiastic duo, comprising drums, electric guitar and strangulated vocals, with songs usually 1-2 minutes long; their first vinyl release, the 45rpm "Calling all Girls" (1977), had eleven tracks. Gradually they became more polished – or more studiously shambolic – adding further band members and longer songs; though Jad Fair's vocals retained their distinctive frail whine. David Fair ceased to be a regular member from the late 1980s.
In the first few releases the sf content was limited to the back sleeve of their second single "No Direct Line From My Brain To My Heart" (1978) which observed "I'd have to be half crazy to get Cloned. I mean. If his butt itches. You have to scratch your butt. Or if someone kicks him in the butt then your butt hurts." (see Scientific Errors). However, from the 1980s most releases contained one or more genre-related tracks, usually influenced by sf-related Horror movies. For example, the Horrible EP (1982) included "Walk Through Walls", with the lyrics "[it] opened its eye, twice: once to look for me, twice to look at me ... [and now] I walk Through walls", explaining a scientist had "put his own head in a jar ... [so] it needed a body – and I am it" (see Brain in a Box). The EP also had "Rosemary's Baby" (see Rosemary's Baby) and "Vampire" (see Vampires).
Other examples include the album The Band That Would Be King (1989), containing "Deadly Alien Spawn" which concerns "deadly alien spawn, they landed in the dead of night, from planets yet unknown: they are us and us are they", with the narrator now unsure of his own Identity: also on the album were "Werewolf" (see Werewolves), "Frankenstein Meets Billy The Kid" and "Curse of the Doll People". Fire in the Sky (1992) includes "UFO Expert" ("bet they're already here") and "Hangar 18", which was inspired by the film Hangar 18 (1980). Bone Head (1997) has "A Night Like This"; whose meaning is obscure, but whose chorus includes "Mary Shelley had a night like this", whilst the next track "Sometimes" has the line "Frankenstein made a monster, Frankenstein made a man" (see Frankenstein Monster); the words of another song "Intergalactic Aliens" (see Aliens) are unclear.
Hear The Lions Roar (2017) features "Attack of the Giant Leeches" ("Giant leeches as long as your arm, if you have an arm that's 30 feet long ... leeches got loose in the science room, got hold of a secret growth serum"). Crazy Hearts (2020) includes "A Phantom Menace" ("Phantoms from a phantom planet ... with only one thing on their minds: procreating with shapely young coeds" – see Sex) and "Late at Night", about "Insane Zombies with insane ways and no moral conscience and poor personal hygiene".
Jad Fair has also released numerous solo albums and collaborations with other artists (including Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground, John Zorn, Teenage Fanclub and members of Sonic Youth). These sometimes have sf references, in particular Monster Party (1991) as by Jad Fair and Gilles-V Rieder; "Monsters, Lullabies... And The Occasional Flying Saucer" (1996) as by Jad Fair and Phono-Comb, which includes "Object: To Serve Man", influenced by the Damon Knight story (probably via The Twilight Zone); "Strange but True" (1998), as by Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo, whose songs are based on newspapers' "Strange But True" columns, e.g. "Texas Man Abducted by Aliens for Outer Space Joy Ride" and "Helpful Monkey Wallpapers Entire Home"; and "Enjoyable Songs" (1999), as by Jad Fair and Jason Willett. Jad and David also released several albums together without the Half Japanese band name – again these often have SF or related songs, most notably Monster Songs For Children (1998; vt Sing Your Little Babies To Sleep), all of whose tracks are genre, from "Jabberwocky" (see Lewis Carroll) to "Invisible Man" (see H G Wells) and "Rodan" (see Radon).
The music of Half Japanese and other Jad Fair projects might be described as nerdy lo-fi art-punk: it is typically jagged, loud and gawky, though some polish and variety has been added over the years; the lyrics – and the music – sometimes seem semi-improvised. It is very good.
A documentary, Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1993) has been released. Some of their releases have been from 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts Records (aka 50 Skidillion Watts), a label originally founded by the brothers but now owned by a fan, the stage magician Penn Jillette. [SP]
works (selected; albums unless otherwise stated)
- "Calling all Girls" (single) (USA: 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts Records, 1977)
- "No Direct Line From My Brain To My Heart" (single) (USA: 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts Records, 1978)
- Loud (UK: Armageddon Records, 1981)
- "Horrible" (EP) (USA: Press Records, 1982)
- Charmed Life (USA: 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts Records, 1988)
- The Band That Would Be King (USA: 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts Records, 1989)
- Fire in the Sky (UK: Paperhouse Records 1992)
- Bone Head (USA: Alternative Tentacles, 1997)
- Hear The Lions Roar (UK/USA: Fire Records, 2017)
- Crazy Hearts (UK/USA: Fire Records, 2020)
other Jad Fair releases
- Monarchs (USA: Iridescence Records, 1984) Jad Fair solo
- Roll Out The Barrel (USA: Shimmy Disc, 1988) as by Jad Fair and Kramer
- Monster Party (Switzerland: Kitty Kitty Records, 1991) as by Jad Fair and Gilles-V Rieder
- U.F.O. Catcher (Japan: Time Bomb Records, 1993) as by Mosquito (a Jad Fair band member)
- Monsters, Lullabies... And The Occasional Flying Saucer (Canada: Shake The Record Label, 1996) as by Jad Fair and Phono-Comb
- Strange But True (USA: Matador, 1998) as by Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo.
- Enjoyable Songs (USA: Alternative Tentacles, 1999) as by Jad Fair and Jason Willett
- Monster Songs For Children (USA: Kill Rock Stars, 1998; vt Sing Your Little Babies To Sleep) as by Jad and David Fair
- Half Japanese at Discogs
- Jad Fair (including collaborations) at Discogs
- Jad and David Fair at Discogs
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