The music of Half Japanese remains the sort of thing that defies any current trends. These tunes are oddly timeless, ridiculously large things that seem simultaneously frivolous and fraught with meaning. The band's newest album, Invincible, drops on Friday on Fire Records, and it's a special record.
Long-time fans of Jad Fair and Half Japanese will find lots to love here just by scanning the song titles. And, trust me, "Return of the Vampire" and "The Puppet People" more than live up to their titles when heard. Elsewhere, "It's Here" is a boisterous racket, while the lovely "Swept Away" suggests the generosity of spirit Jad Fair has always shown as a performer and song-writer. "All at Once" marries a faint Mod-stomp to one of the most direct compositions here, while the elegant "Forever in My Heart" unfolds with a deliberateness that adds momentum to the music under the vocals. The players here -- Jad Fair, John Sluggett, Gilles-Vincent Rieder, Jason Willett, and Mick Hobbs -- attack these tunes with a nice blend of indie-pop chops and a near-improvisational flair.
And while so much of Invincible is likely to feel familiar to long-time fans of Jad Fair, there's nothing here that feels lazy. If anything, Jad sounds invigorated throughout, or lost in the joy that the lyrics are trying to convey. There's an insistence within the grooves on stuff like the twang-y "Love Explosion" that is infectious, even as the title cut and "Indestructible" modulate the pace a bit. Still, Invincible remains an ebullient record, and the sort of thing that is easy to love, for new fans of Jad and old.
Invincible by Half Japanese is out on Friday via Fire Records.
More details on Half Japanese via the band's official Facebook page.
[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture from the label]