1/2 Japanese – Armageddon Records – 1981

My Concentration / Oh No / 2 Hearts=1  If My Father Answers / Scientific Devices / Gift / Dumb Animals / Popular / I Know How It Feels Bad / Perfume / New Brides Of Frankenstein / Forgot You / Loud Louder Loudest

Spy / No Danger / Love Lasts / Forever Sometimes / Nurse / Only Dancing / Bad To Your Best Friend / Baby Wants Music / High School / Tonight

A fine second LP by this noisy bunch, text below courtesy of allmusic.com.

Few of punk rock’s founding fathers could have anticipated the extreme to which Half Japanese took the music’s do-it-yourself ethos. Founded by brothers Jad and David Fair, Half Japanese was quite probably the most amateurish rock band to make a record since the Shaggs, all but ignoring musical basics like chords, rhythms, and melody. However, the brothers made that approach into a guiding aesthetic, steadfastly refusing to progress in their primitive musicianship over a career that lasted decades. David Fair’s article “How to Play Guitar” outlined the Half Japanese philosophy: if you rejected conventional ideas about fingering, tuning, and even stringing a guitar, there were no limits on how you could express yourself on what was, after all, your instrument. The band’s proponents (who included Kurt Cobain) saw them as the epitome of a pure, unbridled enthusiasm for rock & roll, the ultimate expression of punk’s dictum that rock should be accessible to anyone who wanted to pick up an instrument and play. Detractors found them gratingly noisy, borderline unlistenable, and too self-conscious and willful about their naïveté. That naïveté extended to their lyrical outlook too, not just their technical abilities; when they weren’t singing about horror movies or tabloid headlines, most of their songs were about girls, veering between innocent longing and wounded sexual frustration. Early on, with less outside influence, their work was more chaotic and cathartic; as time passed, David Fair became a sporadic contributor, and the prolific Jad built a core of semi-regular backing musicians who brought a rudimentary sense of songcraft to the proceedings. Jad and David Fair formed Half Japanese in their bedroom in the mid-’70s. Accounts differ as to exactly when (somewhere around 1975-77) and where (either Michigan or their eventual base of Maryland; the family apparently moved around a lot). It is known that the brothers made their first home recordings in 1977, issuing their debut EP that year, Calling All Girls, on their own 50 Skidillion Watts label. Several homemade cassettes circulated in the underground, which resulted in a deal with the small British independent Armageddon. In 1980, Half Japanese became the first band in history to release a three-record box set as their debut album; 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts collected some of their earlier home recordings, while throwing in barely recognizable covers (the Temptations, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan) and sound experiments cobbled together from guitar noise, electronics, and odd effects. Yet their primary influences were clearly the minimalism of the Velvet Underground and the innocence of Jonathan Richman, with some Iggy Pop angst at times. Over the years, 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts became something of a cult legend (helped out by its scarcity), and foreshadowed the lo-fi movement of early-’90s indie rock. A second album for Armageddon, the aptly titled Loud, followed in 1981; it matched the brothers’ atonal squall and stream-of-consciousness compositions with a supporting cast of free jazz musicians. The Horrible EP — a collection of songs paying tribute to horror movies — followed on Press in 1983.

  1. Steve
    September 14, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Does anybody know who ran Armageddon Records? Any label that kicks off with a Half Japanese triple LP box set gets my vote. They also put out that Last Words LP which was very kindly linked to earlier.

  2. mister caz
    mister caz
    March 29, 2009 at 6:25 am

    excellent. thanks

    i saw these guys live once in the middle of dupont circle in Wash DC.
    they cooked !

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