Sunday, February 27, 2011

½ Japanese
"Little Animals"

½ Japanese
½ Gentlemen / Not Beasts
(self-released, 1979)

½ Japanese are, in my opinion, the best band ever in the history of music. They took rock'n'roll and stripped it down to its basest elements: vocals, rhythm, noise. Where The Velvet Underground grooved out on two chord throbbers like Sister Ray, and the Modern Lovers took it down a level to one-chord wonders like She Cracked, ½ Jap stripped it down even further, to no chords. They had words, they had rhythm, why bother to tune the guitar? Just turn it up as loud as it will go and play it like you mean it.

I wrote a tiny bit about the history of ½ Japanese when I posted Jad Fair's Another Silent Night a few months ago. This particular song, however, falls into a sort of lost era of the band.

After moving to Maryland in the mid-70's, the Fair brothers, Jad and David, released their first two records, 1977's Calling All Girls EP and 1978's No Direct Line From My Brain To My Heart single, as a duo. Or, if you prefer, I believe Byron Coley referred to them as a two-man noise Howitzer in an issue of Spin back in the 80's. Their next vinyl release came in 1980: a massive, triple-LP, box set called 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts. The first two discs were home studio recordings, including some of the songs from the two 7"s (some re-recorded), whereas the third was a live disc, featuring two different gigs with John and Rucky Dreyfuss, of the incredible DC art punkers the Chumps, joining in on sax and drums.

Prior to the triple-LP, however, 1979 saw two self-released cassettes: ½ Gentlemen / Not Beasts (note the use of the ½ character and additional spaces in the title) and ½ Live. The former featured material to later end up on the first two discs of the triple-LP, and portions of the latter appeared on the third disc in the set. Observant owners of the triple-LP and/or double-CD sets may have noticed there are printed lyrics to some songs that do not actually appear in studio versions. One of those songs is today's selection, Little Animals. It does appear, albeit briefly, on the live recording from Baltimore, but it appears on the tape in a studio version, along with a bunch of other songs that also did not make it onto the triple-LP set. As far as I am aware, it's never been released anywhere other than this tape. As you can hear, someone is playing bass, tunefully even, so it's obviously not a duo recording. My copy of the tape was missing all the inserts, so it has no credits, or even song titles. I'll hazard a guess that John and Rucky are on sax and drums, but I don't want to risk improperly guessing at the bassist.

3 biased opinions:

Brushback said...

Ha-- I was just listening to the copy of Human Music that you gave me, with "Charmed Life" on it

Biki Honko said...

not a total disaster, but not totally rulez either. kinda fencing on this one. but i do love the rawness of it.

Post-Materialists said...

hello and thanx for this one!!!
can u rip'n'share this cassette please? wanna hear more early and rare HalfJap songs.