In celebration of the recent Jad Fair roundup taking the spot of most popular post, I now present seven Half Japanese albums. Much has been said, written, and even filmed (make sure to watch the documentary The Band Who Would Be King) about the band, but as always, the proof is in the pudding - you have to listen to understand. I expect most readers to be already familiar with the band to some degree, but if you're a late-comer, start with the 2-CD Greatest Hits collection, which really does its name justice. It features most of the more accessible early songs, as well as some representative examples of their noisy, experimental side.
So without further rambling, here are the albums, this time in order of my personal preference:
Greatest Hits (1995) In my opinion, the one Half Japanese album that should be in everybody's record collection. 69 songs on 2 CDs spanning almost the entire career, carefully remastered, and well picked songs. It tends to feature the majority of "listenable" songs, and doesn't include a lot of the really noisy excesses, so fans of the very experimental side of HJ may feel they're getting shortchanged.
Music to strip by (1987) Probably my favorite studio album. Accompanied by Shimmy Disc's Kramer, it's quite a bit more cohesive than many eaerlier albums, without sacrifycing the spontaneous creative bursts that make Jad Fair special.
The Band The Would Be King (1989) You can probably already tell that I prefer the less noisy side of HJ. Another fairly well produced album featuring some illustrous guest musicians (Kramer and Don Fleming), that is musically quite diverse.
Bone Head (1997) An example of HJ's late output. A lot of HJ fans don't particularly like this one because of its very different sound, which stems from the fact that again some serious musicians were used and the production quality is quite high.
Fire In The Sky (1993) Despite released in the 90s, and therefore a rather late HJ album, this one sees them going back to their trashy roots. Features one of my favorite songs, the 12-minute ballad "Always".
1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts (1979) The album that started it all. 50 songs on 3 LPs that defied everything people thought they knew about music. Maybe the most trashy and inept album since the Shaggs, HJ challenged their listeners to quite some degree. To be quite honest, I can't listen to this one too often, but it sure opened my ears the first time I heard it.
Hot (1995) A comparatively boring album, bordering on alt-rock, it has some good songs on it, but is overall an unrepresentative HJ effort. Check out "Dark Night" for a rare metal attempt. Some songs try too hard to sound like early Sonic Youth, which btw isn't the worst thing to shoot for. Favorite song: "Black Fruit".