The Forgotten Arm: Half Japanese

Unless you’re particularly keen on your lo-fi history which, let’s face it, isn’t as expansive as it could be, the music of Half Japanese is probably unfamiliar to you. Formed by Jad Fair and his brother David, the group began as an experimental pop duo, with each brother switching between drums and un-tuned guitar duties. As they played more, the duo soon expanded to a full-fledged band, adding more eclectic instruments and featuring Jad in a stronger leadership role.

To say that Jad wrote a lot of songs is a grand understatement. For one, many of the songs were short bursts of inspired punk-pop energy. Though many of their songs were of average length, sometimes a minute or less would do. Half Japanese also worked their own set of covers, from old blues numbers to songs by contemporary artists like Primal Scream and Daniel Johnston. The band is still technically around, though Jad remains the sole constant member.

Their success may have been limited (if event that), but Half Japanese’s influence was quite far-reaching. The Fair brothers freed untrained musicians from the pressures of adhering to conventions by showing that great songs can be written without dwelling over time-honored compositional traditions. Bands like Beat Happening and Nirvana would cite Half Japanese as favorites (Kurt Cobain had Half Japanese open for Nirvana on a 1993 tour). Magician and music enthusiast Penn Jillette released a number of the band’s albums on his own label, as did ex-Dead Kennedys leader Jello Biafra. A documentary about the band, Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King, was released in 1993.

ListenHalf Japanese – “Said And Done” from Charmed Life (1988)

Half Japanese – “Said And Done” by theericschuman

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~ by E. on February 11, 2011.

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