Half Japanese: Overjoyed

The legendary US art punks return after thirteen years in the rough.

- One of America’s most endearing and enduring exponents of art punk, Half Japanese were forerunners of a particularly unhinged style of outsider rock n’ roll that would go on to influence the likes of Daniel Johnston and Kurt Cobain.

On Overjoyed, Half Japanese’s first album in thirteen years, the band return with energy to burn, sounding like a work horse that’s been put out to pasture for too long and driven crazy from inactivity. Those who aren’t fans of brothers Jad and David Fair’s idiosyncratic songwriting and performance style may find it difficult to break into Overjoyed, with the band immediately falling into familiar territory.

For those who know what to expect, there is a welcome return to the no-wave absurdity of Half Japanese’s first album Half Gentlemen/Not Beasts on tracks like Do It Nation, an enjoyably monotonous rock and roll jam that sounds a little like Roadrunner being blasted from a beat up Excel on the Warrego Highway. Songs lock into repetitious, meandering jams that are both hit and miss, sucking the listener in on Magic Band-esque opener In It’s Pull but falling short on tracks like Each Other’s Arms.

The production quality of Overjoyed is first rate, thanks to John Dieterich of Deerhoof fame, with Half Japanese sounding at their most hi-fi in their entire career. It is refreshing to hear a band renowned for their punk roots and outsider status play with such authority, with the quality of musicianship verging on the virtuoso; at least in an indie-pop context. In saying that, Overjoyed does hit a lull by the halfway point. Whether it is the persistence of Jad Fair’s nasally, collegiate cum beatnik delivery, or the constant ambling explorations of the band, Overjoyed falls short due to its lack of diversity.

At the end of the day, the beauty of Half Japanese lies in the fact that the band has always made music for the joy of creation and self-exploration. In listening to Overjoyed, there is a palpable sensation that Jad and David Fair couldn’t care less if you like their album or not.

- Dusty Anastassiou.

Album Details

Album Title: Overjoyed
Artist: Half Japanese
Record Label: (Joyful Noise)