Half Japanese – Why Not? Review

Jad Fair is back with another record. Why not?
Fire Records, 2018
Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon

6.5 / 10

Half Japanese have been around forever, releasing fractured jangle pop since the 70s. At this point in the game, we see that Jad Fair is more of a Robert Pollard than a Steve Walker. In other words, these releases are like Guided By Voices‘ new records: reliable and mostly fine. He’s content to stay in his lane and pump out tunes not too out of character for his 90s work. Or 00s work. Hey, why not?

That’s the pessimistic interpretation of the album title: the answer to the question of why does this album exist? At its worst, Why Not? is another inconsequential collection of songs; songs that won’t move you or stay with you. They’re solid in the moment, but the lack of killer melody or thoughtful lyrics mean that these impressions are only momentary. That’s been Half Japanese’s modus operandi for some time now – why change the formula?

But there’s also an optimist interpretation. Half Japanese is often playful in its frayed edges. Out of tune guitars, lyrics about cryptozoological phenomena, hey, why not? This ultimately propels the record (and Half Japanese) as a band. Instruments don’t NEED to be perfectly timed to get your point across, just like albums don’t need to be some vessel for grand statements or ideology. Music can just be low-stakes. It’s allowed to be imperfect.

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