(Sponic no. 14) After making the obvious decision to hunt down copies of ½ Gentlemen/Not Beasts and Charmed Life, most recent converts to the Half Japanese school probably give one look at the rest of Jad Fair’s discography and let out a long sigh. A couple dozen full-lengths, collaborations with folks ranging from Moe Tucker to God is My Co-Pilot. It’s certainly a crapshoot. And if you believe the talking heads in the documentary, “The Band That Would Be King,” approaching this catalogue with any caution is blasphemy. But truth be told, mad geniuses like Jad Fair have ups and downs like anyone else. I pity the fool who pays full price for the 1997 album Bone Head, and Strange But True is hard to sit through twice. With all that on the table, Superfine is a definite high point worthy of some of your spare cash. The lyrics are extra witty, the instrumentation is wild, and the overall mood is pure riot. On top of that, it clocks in at about 4 hours, thanks to 135 (!!) MP3 bonus tracks. These aren’t Beck-style “bonus noises.” They’re actually 135 fully conceived tunes, ranging from one to five minutes long, and many of them are among the best on the disc. The music beds on these tracks are laid down by Half Japanese regular Jason Willett. While some collaborations with Jad seemed forced, Willett sounds like a good match for him. He backs him up nicely with faux-Mariachi horn blasts, straightforward guitar rock, and complete noise. The production is warm and upfront, and some of the arrangements are mind-boggling. Lyrically, Jad is ripe in a way that brings to mind career highlights like “Stripping for Cash.” This cheekiness is evident from the first few moments of “Movies” and its warning, “Movies can be fun/Don’t mix popcorn with gum.” Jad also proves he’s still the king of pointed socio-sexual commentary. On the song “Big Star” he whines, “I want another chance/Give me some of that damn romance.” Sandwiched between catchy tunes, the anarchy of early releases is also echoed in pieces such as “Punk Rock 1996 Pt. 6” and “Give it a Go.” Just grading this on its core 20 tracks, Superfine easily lives up to its name. Well worth your time, from completist to casual listener. - Jason Henn
(Mundane Sounds 2/17/2004) I like consistency. Do something well, do something right the first time, and you'll always want to go back. Why mess with the formula if it works? Such is the way of life; you can't argue with results, and you'll never convince me that it's not okay to sometimes set the old creativity on autopilot. You wouldn't want to fly the plane all the way, of course, but sometimes an artist should stick to what they do best. Such is especially true when dealing with Jad Fair. To say he's an acquired taste is not merely an understatement, it's actually part of his appeal. The guy's a bit silly, okay? Nothing wrong with that. His music crosses the line between auteur and self-indulgent, but in only the best possible way. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a lot of his Half Japanese releases, but, to be fair, I haven't really liked a lot of his more recent stuff. That's okay, I like my world with a little Jad in it, and the occasional record is better than none at all. Besides, when he gets hooked up with the right collaborator, the results are excellent; I wouldn't trade his records made with the Pastels or Daniel Johnston for ANYTHING. (Still, I wonder why he never hooked up with the Sebadoh guys...always seemed like a natural thing to me.) Because I haven't really kept up with Jad Fair in a few years, I'll admit I wasn't sure of what to expect from Superfine, his second collaboration with Jason Willett. I'll tell you why it works, and it's quite obvious: Jason Willett produced and wrote all the music. The music itself is pretty unique; from lo-fi cowboy ditties ("Take Your Place") to crazy jazz rhythms ("Movies," Superfine"), difficult indie-rock ("Give It A Go"), utter weirdness ("Hooray For Life") and just downright silly songs ("Summer Sun"), it's good to hear that not only has Fair not ceased to be weird, he's also got a really good musical collaborator, as Willett's music really gives Fair's lyrics a depth they've not had in ages. It's good to hear Fair working with someone that can both rein in his more self-indulgent moments that have plagued the past, all the while giving him the ability to grow as an artist and experiment with different musical accompaniment. But, of course, I must mention to you that I've only been able to listen to the first twenty songs on the record. See, there's 135 more songs on here, stuck away in the multimedia section, all in mp3 form. Wow! Other than the song that sounds like an answer to a Daniel Johnston song ("Walk Your Own Cow"), I really can't tell you much about these songs, but I can see one obvious theme, as many of these songs are given the names of really bad b-movies---many of which were featured on a famous little comedy show. Is it possible that Jad and Jason got together one weekend, drank a bunch of coffee and Mountain Dew and had a MST3K marathon? I really wouldn't put it past him... - Joseph Kyle
(Signal To Noise no. 30) Anything and everything ever done up to now regarding bonus tracks needs to be filtered through this fact: Superfine is a twenty song album with 137 bonus songs! (provided as MP3s). Jad Fair and Jason Willett have been working together for a handful of albums already. Their method incorporates a fair amount of improvisation - in fact the bonus section favors many assorted instrumentals. Not to be confused with the free playing borne out of sixties jazz explorations, their music can more more accurately be called ditties. Yes, ditties - and that's a good thing, improvisationally embellished ditties. As always Jads songs celebrate romance, movies, and monsters, with love taking the spotlight for most of the set this time out. With over a thousand songs under one banner of another, Jad Fair has stayed remarkably true to his original impulses for nearly twenty-five years. The studios and the character of his collaborators have shifted over the years, but Jad has remained Jad. And, as I said above about ditties, that's a good thing. - David Greenberger.
(Blow Up no. 62/63) Il multistrumentista Jason Willett é il miglior compagno di merencle che Jad Fair abbia mai incontrato nei corso della sua lunga carriera (escluso, naturalmente. il fratello David), tant'é che qualche anno fa se l'é portato direttamente dentro gli Half Japanese. Ma non 6 con la sigla della band che i due strampalati musicisti hanno realizzato le loro cose migliori; per quelle cercate "It's All Good" (Megaphone 1996) e 11 seguente "Enjoyable Songs" (Alternative Tentacles 1999), che sono proprio delle cose dell'altro mondo oltre che la dimostrazione che Dio c'é e ci vede e guida. Immaginate quindi il mio entusiasmo nel saperli di nuovo in azione: vado, vedo, compro e... mi trovo con un mostro- autentico Bra le mani At 20 pezzi -or mali'se ne affiancano altri 135 (dico centotrentacinque) in MP3! Se tanto mi dà tanto la durata complessiva di questo disco potrebbe essere di 5 ore e 38 minuti. Quindi si tratta dell'album più lungo nella storia della musica occidentale... Aehm... Prima di andare controllare meglio ascoltando gli MP3 (abbiate pietà di me se lo faccio dopo aver recensito I disco) vi dico che le musiche sono tutte composte da Willett mentre Jad canta e canticchia e vi ricordo one i frammenti e gli screzi e scherzi che sapete se conoscete almeno un po'gli HJ e Jad Fair ci sono sempre tutti a occupano sernpre lo stesso posto e le stesse posizioni di sempre, tanto la loro gamma d'azione è così ampia (punk, funk, traditional, jazz, blues, noise, elettronica, cabaret, avant, no wave assortite) che dire che i due cambiano genere sarà sempre e solo tautologico. Perdonatemi, adesso ho una certa fretta... - Stefano I. Bianci
(Summer of Hate) Two members of HALF JAPANESE, vocalist JAD FAIR and multi-instrumentalist JASON WILLETT have their second album out. This was recorded between 1995 and 1998, but released in 2003. Take Your Place has an accoustic guitar falling all over the place and Apple Apple Peach sounds like TOM WAITS playing a V8 engine. Other songs like Transform has music based on noise and feedback. The last time I reviewed them I said one of their songs sounded ''like an 80's Speak And Spell toy directing square dancers''. This is pretty simular to their earlier stuff, but maybe a bit more blues rooted. Most of the laid-back vocals are distorted and the majority of the songs are sort of in-your-face. Hooray For Life is a strange rythmic number where the vocals sounds like someone is trying to silence the singer, putting a hand across his mouth. Now, how 'bout this? The album contains 20 tracks, which is quite a few already. Then there are the bonus tracks. Granted they're only MP3s but there's 135 of them. 155 songs total. There's more than 5 hours of music on this one. Though not all of the songs are great I find myself listening a lot to this CD. It is not punk rock or even rock'n'roll, but you should check it out anyway. Pretty cool. - Karl Backman
(Independent Mind 7/4/2003) Those familiar with the past 20 years of Jad Fair's prodigious musical output (with his band Half Japanese and a wide expanse of solo and side projects) will already know pretty much what they're getting into here. The music on this disc rarely strays from the Half Japanese formula. Those unfamiliar, really ought to make themselves familiar with one of rock music's great eccentric outsiders. To put it simply, if you're into songs covering such subjects as monsters, candy, fruit, and love songs to fictional characters, and you want to get in touch with your mentally ill side, or just like your music a touch wild and crazy, Jad Fair's your man. Jason Willett is a multi-instrumentalist recent Half Japanese member, as well. If forty-four minutes of Jad Fair's playfully crazed ramblings and Jason Willett's big top caco-rock backing tracks aren't enough for you, you're in luck, friend. In addition to the twenty proper tracks on the Superfine CD, computer literate listeners will also find an additional one hundred thirty-five (135) bonus tracks in MP3 form. Yes, one hundred and thirty-five (135). All told, that's one hundred fifty-five (155) tracks, clocking in at nearly five and a half hours. And that's a lot. - Ed McElvain
(All Music Guide) One of the claims Jad Fair and Jason Willett¹s old group Half Japanese made was that they released more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. The pair sure are prolific songwriters, although the term "song" always sounds a bit awkward when it comes to their noisy anthems. Well, Superfine adds -- count Oem -- 155 songs to their book! The album itself consists of 20 tracks and is 44 minutes long. But an enhanced portion of the disc contains 135 bonus songs in MP3 format, for a total duration of over five hours. And each piece is as screeching, entertaining and disposable as the others -- and that¹s what makes the music of this duo worth hearing. Willett seems to be endlessly resourceful, playing all kinds of instruments (including but not limited to all kinds of guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion and noise-makers), assembling his tracks to create an infernal clitter-clatter. His mutating noise pop is full of surprises on its own. Fair adds his rants (spontaneous or not, maybe it¹s better we don¹t know), delivered through cheap microphones to give them an enhanced sense of urgency. His topics go from the trivial ("Movies," "Big Star") to degenerate fake love songs ("Candy Kisses" and a bunch of tracks titled with girl names) and a fascination for cheap sci-fi and horror ("Devil Girl from Mars," "The Crab Monsters"). Fans of the band will already have noticed a strong similarity with the group¹s previous effort, 1999¹s Enjoyable Songs. The truth is, the recipe has not changed, there is just a lot more of it to chew. Fun, irreverent or puerile? You will have to figure that out for yourself. - François Couture
(Vital Weekly no. 378)Jad and David Fair wrote history with their band Half Japanese. Their importance cannot be denied. I don't know what David is doing these days, but Jad still continues on the road Half Japanese once paved. It was already in the days of Half Japanese that Jad started to release solo stuff. His solo-output is of a considerable quantity now. Not all of it is okay, off course. I still like 'Best Wishes' from 1985. But several months ago I was greatly dissappointed by a cd by Fair and R.Stevie Moore. One of his mates for many of his solo work in the last few years is Jason Willett with whom he released several albums (see catalogue of the Megaphone label). By the way, output by Jason Willett is dominant on this Megaphone label. We come across Willett as a member of The Dramatics, The Pleasant Livers, The Can Openers, The Jaunties, The Attitude Robots, The Recordings and The Dentures. But for this new collaboration, Public Eyesore was chosen to release it. The cd features 20 songs, plus 135 MP3 bonus songs!! Songs in the tradition of Half Japanese. Punky, trashy and noisy. Bizarre and eccentric. We hear Jad Fair doing all the vocals as only he can do it. With over the top singing, screaming out his bizarre fantasies. Willett signs for mix, production and music. I'm not sure but it seems Willett plays all instruments. We hear a great variety of instruments, objects, etc. So I suppose it was quite a job for Willett to produce this album. This way each song has its own characteristic. Well done! At least what the 20 songs on the cd concerns. I cannot judge about the 135 MP3 songs, because I have no facility to play them at the moment. Fair and Willett must have a great joy in playing together. 135 songs! What a exuberance. I suppose they continue their extravagant punk journey - Dolf Mulder
(PopMatters) Jad Fair began his spazz attack on the conventional pop song form in 1980, when his band Half Japanese released 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts, which was one of the earliest attempts to emulate the naive genius of the Shaggs and produce music unhampered by musical training. Best appreciated as an homage to outsider art, the noisy, shambling, primal album set the pattern for Fair's entire career as a puckish provocateur who dares you to take his frequently silly, willfully untutored music seriously. Planting himself squarely on the fine line separating innocent wonder from mental deficiency (and seeming always to make the implicit argument that these are the same thing), Fair conveys the sense that he lacks some crucial restraint, some basic awareness about what constitutes normality. Though later Half Japanese efforts would feature more competent playing, from a shuffling roster of guest star players, Fair never abandoned his idiot savant persona, wherein he deadpans his simplistic lyrics about some of his favorite things: wrestlers, UFOs, monster movies, Pete Rose, and, of course, girls. The best songs on Half Japanese's best album, Charmed Life, are those blunt confessions and invitations to love, like "Penny in the Fountain" and "Miracles Happen Everyday", which blunt the edge of his faux-retard pose and make it seem artlessly charming. Similarly, the best moments on Superfine are unaffected love songs: "Diamonds and Rubies" and "I Dream of Angels" are straightforward statements of affection with some of Jason Willett's more cohesive musical backdrops, drawing equally from the Velvet Underground (a long-time fixation of Fair's) and Captain Beefheart circa Lick My Decals Off, Baby. These songs provide entry into this difficult, diffuse album, which runs the gamut from confrontational noise to ambient soundscape to John Zornesque anti-music to heavily distorted sludge to Residents-style conceptual art. Considering that the disc has 155 songs on it if you include the bonus MP3s, you have to figure Fair and Willett were trying to pull off a stunt worthy of the Residents, and their pioneering Commercial Album, whose forty one-minute songs called into question the formulaic production of jingle-like music by an entertainment industry that worked along the same lines as manufacturing plants. Often Superfine makes the same point; you become overwhelmed by short, similar-sounding songs all anchored by a clanking, mechanical beat and shaped by atonal, arbitrary-sounding guitar squawks, evoking the incidental rhythms of a factory floor. But the superfluity of songs is more likely meant to demystify the songwriting process, to make the well of songs seem inexhaustible, and to make creativity seem always immediately accessible. Emulating the outsider artist aesthetic he has always admired, he doesn't distinguish between the will to create and the actual act of creation; he makes a point of demonstrating through his prolificacy the fruitfulness of having no inhibitions. While this is not an album to listen to for a sense of careful craft, many of Willett's musical compositions are startling, diverting, and rich with the kind of nuance that seems more than a product of mere chance, even if we can't be sure they're not. They have some of the qualities of action paintings in that the traces of the gestures that made the music and the evidence of the energy embodied in those gestures are more important than the actual sound those gestures produced. You enjoy the convulsive drumming and the hyper-kinetic guitar strumming not for their own sake, but for their visceral projection of the musicians' investment and commitment. Still, many songs feature interesting shifts in tempo and instrumentation that make them interesting as sound as well as symbol, and the sheer variety here makes it impossible to anticipate what's next, no matter how many times you've listened to it. And while not every song works -- for every successful experiment with guitar layering and sound-effect looping, there's a failed one, and in many songs Fair's screaming and ranting are downright irritating -- there's the luxury of having an almost endless number of songs to click through looking for one that captures your attention. And in our ultimately being satisfied by some segment of this surfeit lies the album's greatest gift: Fair gives hope to the untalented, proving that if we refuse to edit ourselves and refuse to be discouraged, we'll eventually, inevitably, begin to please people, even if it is by accident. - Rob Horning
(Neo-Zine) There are 20 songs on this disc, and 135 MP# bonus songs. I’m not going to listen to 135 MP3 songs, so this review will just cover the CD proper. Something this crazy has got to be improvisation. It doesn’t make sense, but it makes for a lot of fun (and that’s what really counts.) Its very junked up, but there is a sense of something well done behind the trashy hodgepodge of chaos and hilarity. There are cartoon effects on the vocals, very juvenile (on the spot) lyrics, and a carnival free time lights and fantasy feel that brings out the kid in you. I’ll listen to this again. - C.H.C.
(KZSU Zookeeper) Here we have some great noisy hilarious songs – 155 songs, 20 in CD audio format, another 135 as mp3! – from this cult legend of the late 70s DaDa group Half Japanese. Jad Fair also toured and sang for Yo La Tengo not too long ago, where he really let his Lou Reed voice fly, only more nonsensically. For the sake of argument, I also think of the same experimental spirit and zest for noise of early 80s No Wave, only without any pretense of social or philosophical meaning, and definitely with no desire to be more punk than thou. Think also of older Ween. - Johnn
(Eld Rich Palmer no. 12) Let me start with the fact that must be brought up in every review of this CD: “Superfine” consists of 20 audio tracks and 135 bonus MP3 tracks, totalling over 5 hours' worth of music. Not bad. Admittedly, I only managed to go through the audio tracks, which was right enough for me to enjoy it and not to get overloaded. Jad Fair & Jason Willett are a part of Half Japanese, an outfit quite renowned in the world of the so-called ‘exploratory' rock and like most bands of that genre, they prefer short forms. 20 pieces in 45 minutes translates into concise yet substantial contents. Stylistically, it's quite diverse, though still within the bounds of rock music, from sour-sweet songs, through bitter, slightly ironic tracks to punk rock stampede. Willett's exceptional skillfulness at the instruments is matched by Fair's equally flexible voice, whose range of vocal expressions is simply impressive. There some guest appearances too, but it's hard to track their input. It's an ambitious yet humorous music which makes me think back to the times when I avidly listened to Doctor Nerve, Pere Ubu, or Biota. Throw in The Residents and even Big City Orchestra as the patrons of anything mocking in rock music in the last three decades to get the complete picture… As in case of Wright & Marsh's release, it's a treat for the veterans in this end of rock music. I appreciate its worth but stand aside as it isn't my favourite aesthetics. - Krzysztof Sadza
(Slippytown) Way fine super rock from Jad Fair and current Half Japanese collaborator Jason Willett. Jad Fair's spontaneous word'n'tongue action is as joyous and madmanic as ever. Willett's music is wound up, slinky, drivin', rootsy but chaotic. Besides 20 slices of superfine to play on your reg'lar ol' CD player, these busy boys have added 135 (!) MP3 bonus songs to pump through your computer speakers. - Eddie Flowers
(Chain D.L.K. 8/12/2003) Half Japanese guru Jad Fair teaming up with Jason Willett (The Dramatics, The Pleasant Livers, The Can Openers, The Jaunties, The Attitude Robots...) in this perfect monument to human folly and exhuberance. 20 audio tracks on the cd + 135 (!!!!!) mp3's as data part, so it's like, 5 hours of music, and it IS worthwhile if you can stand the experience. As crazy as the music itself: Fair sings and Willett plays all instruments, and the result, while being adequately trashy and lo-fi, is also incredibly rich and solid - 99% of boring lo-fi slacker balladeurs should study this by heart and try to learn something. Short blasts of deranged creativity, like having Captain Beefheart at a funfair with the Residents, or Alfred Jarry writing folk songs for Syd Barrett to sing. Everything is joyous and out of focus, as in the haze of wine and fever combined. Hand this out if you ever have to explain no wave to somebody. Plus, the layout alone, obviously courtesy of Fair himself, is worth buying the cd. - Eugenio Maggi
(Ampersand Etcetera np. 2003 h) Fair and Willett are a prolific duo, and revel in the catalogue-size of some of their projects. And this one fits in with the 'more is good' philosophy: in addition to the 20 songs in 44 minutes making up the album, there are an additional 135 (yes 135) songs on an MP3 component to the disk adding an extra 4.5 hours to the projects. I would imagine this must be about the longest album in history, and perhaps should look towards the Guinness Book. But size ain't all – what's the quality? To be honest I haven't listened to the whole MP3 bit, and think it would be a chore to go through from go to whoa. But. Willett writes and creates all the music (bar a very few guests) and Fair does the lyrics and sings. They are a lo-fi-ish set up, guitar and drums but with a surprising amount of processing and other messing around, and there are some reference points. The most obvious is Captain Beefheart – I haven't heard much but this reminds me of Doc and The Radar Station – in both delivery and music, at times Ween popped into my head, Lou Reed in one lyrical track and so on. Fair has a generally nasal drawled delivery, slow but with speed and volume where necessary. This set has more variety than I expected when it arrived and I first put it on – there are a few basically instrumentals between the tracks for diversity, and the songs themselves are different and worked out. Running through 20 sings, let alone 155, would be a bit tedious – they all fall within the broad genre constraints, but with variety. 'Superfine' for example is rhythm and melody guitar with noises (such as computer games) and a strange dialogue while 'Superfine pt.2' closes the album with a piano-based song. 'Punk rock 1996' has a noisey shouted part 1 and a fast and furious but restrained part 2. There is a poppy feel in the restrained 'Diamonds & rubies' while instrumentals like 'Take your place', Diamonds & gold' or 'Hooray for life' are looped and layered, demonstrating Willett's skills. Among the varied highlights are the sampled musical in 'That's a promise' and groovy loops in 'Movies', the lyrical 'I dream of angels', the guitar and cats of 'You and I', the grinding atonal underbeat from 'Summer sun'. Yeah, each little fragment has unique surprises, so I could go on! As I said, it would probably be a bit overwhelming for 5 hours, but in album sized bursts this is a very enjoyable and entertaining surprise. - Jeremy Keens
(Stylus 8/14/2003) In sincerity, this review cannot answer the typical “critic” questions. I will not evaluate Jad Fair’s progression or analyze Superfine’s purpose – doing so would be a truly irrelevant (and very laborious) exercise. Fair will neither change his style, nor attempt to reach a different fan base with Superfine. After 20+ years of idiosyncratic noise making, expecting any sort of transformation would be more naïve than Fair’s charmingly simplistic lyrics. Most likely, Fair’s fan base will not transform with Superfine’s release, either, unless readers had not yet heard of the man All Music Guide labels “the greatest American rock primitive.” So, the only questions worth answering relate to the quality of the songs. Are they good enough for fans to be happy? Could they possibly bring in new fans simply by virtue of their accomplishment (because it isn’t their sound that’ll do it, otherwise these listeners would have been fans years ago)? Unsurprisingly, Superfine is all over the place, but it succeeds more often than not. There is definitely enough worthwhile material to satisfy fans, but newcomers will surely opt for one of Fair’s more firmly established successes. Actually, considering the album’s 135 bonus MP3s (four-and-a-half hours’ worth), there’s enough sheer length to please any fan. Few of the songs are actually good, and attempting to listen to them all at once is a near-impossible process, but gems do pop up (“Open the Door” and “Orange Sunshine” are a couple I can remember), albeit at a much slower rate than on the album itself. The album opens up with ridiculous horns and a series of hilariously absurd and difficult-to-follow rhymes, most of which relate very indirectly to the song’s title, “Movies.” To give you an idea of the cognizance of most of these lyrics, “Movies can be good/ Movies can be fun/ But please, oh please/ Don’t mix popcorn with gum” may be one of the more logical lines. And all the songs are equally nonsensical, whether musically, lyrically, or most often, both. The most bizarre highlight probably comes with “You and I”, which I’ve struggled to describe for quite some time now. Um…the guitars are discordant…the drums and bass are just sort of doing their own thing in the background…and Fair screams who-knows-what until he ends up in a desperate howl of “Love me! Love me!” “Big Star” is the closest the album comes to a great pop song, with relatively standard structure and generally compromising interaction between the instruments allowing for a more conventional and cleaner result, which works impressively. Only “Superfine, Pt. 2” is similar in its ordinariness…I shouldn’t be saying ordinariness, but this uses really piano chords and everything…it sounds so normal compared to everything else! And it’s actually a phenomenal closer, possibly the best song on the album. Obviously, there’s more than a fair share of utterly worthless tracks, which provide plenty of mess but no hook at all. That’s to be expected; just be thankful for the highlights and the brevity of these tracks. The ratio of good to bad is quite pleasing, though, so Superfine is a commendable album. But for fans only. - Kareem Estefan
(Paris Transatlantic 8/2003) In case you haven't been keeping up with the Jad Fair / Half Japanese discography (a more or less full-time job), here's something to help you catch up. Superfine contains no less than 155 (!) songs, 20 on the album itself and 135 more in mp3 format. Now that's what I call value for money. As always, Fair seems to be able to reference almost everything worth listening to in indie rock and leftfield insanity from the Residents to Devo to Contortions to Sun City Girls to Sun Ra to Hasil Adkins while always managing to sound quite like nobody else. Quite how he and Willett managed to choose what would make it to the album proper and what would remain in mp3 format is a mystery, since some of the best stuff is buried in the latter, from the fucked up 7/4 weirdabilly of "You're Out Of Sight", via the appallingly lo-fi garage grit of "Marshmallow World" to the wonderful "Hot As A Match", which sounds like a home recording of the Arkestra trying to play early Hüsker Dü with lyrics by Mayo Thompson. The recording quality is refreshingly cruddy throughout, with cheap electronics battling it out with biscuit-tin drums, touchtone phones, surfcore guitars and all manner of bleeps and gurgles. "Neon Sunrise" sounds like a medieval shawn recorded on a dictaphone, while I was understandably drawn to "Vampires of Paris". As Fair intones on "Head In A Jar", "When will we ever stop it?" His voice is as distinctive as Eugene Chadbourne's, and he's about as prolific and probably even crazier. Yes folks, there's enough on this disc to fuck you up for the rest of the year. - Dan Warburton
(Earshot 5/3/\2004) Superfine, is a super fu$*ed up, (?), i mean super fun, wait (?), or do I mean fu$&ed up, (?), hmmm, I dunno.... Anyways, this rag-tag (and it IS supposed to sound that way) collection of CD and mp3 tracks is an enormous dose of screeching outsider geek noise to swallow all at once, but with a little time, repeated challenging listens, and some sweet sweet sugar - this medicine goes down. The musical catastrophe co-ordinated on Superfine by the prolific Jad Fair (fertile solo performer, founding member of Half Japanese) and multi-instrumentalist Jason Willet (Baltimore based Megaphone Records founder, joined Half-Japanese in the eraly 90's) is a super fine mess of music that goes everywhere and nowhere all at once. It's like around the insides of Fair and Willett's heads in 80 days without stopping once to relax, rest or breathe. Superfine is like a runnaway freight train of punky out-there spazz-rock that only builds up speed and kinetic tension as it moves along. This album is quirky, full of quirks and quirked-out. I guess you could call this record an accidental masterpiece, or a way-too-noisy racket depending on how you see things. The music on Superfine sounds like alien playtime orgy and every song is an original unique colourful construction papersound cut-out. Some songs are powder blue baby elephants, others are purple crowned hearts, but most are grey fuzzy porcupines. If you feel like gorging on otherworldly outsider music, or if you just feel like annoying the easily annoyed soft-rock music lover, put this disc on shuffle and fall asleep with the volume cranked. Jad Fair’s singing style is spoken-pop poetry and his vox sound like they were recorded inside a bubble gum balloon. Willett's and co.'s backing instrumentation are the perfect side dish to Fair's quirky vocal stylings. Oh, did I mention that this album is filled to brim with quirk? It is also very funny too. The instrumentation is raggedy, fuzzy and ridiculously spontaneous. There are unavoidable crashes and creaks, hisses and hums all over this DIY-production. Yeah, spontaneous! Some songs are hits, some are misses and some are, what the..... (?), but you will have to dig through the heaping mounds produced by Fair, Willett and co., for yourself to see which numbers strike your hyper-creative sensitive fancy. Superfine is released through the Omaha-based Public Eyesore Records USA label which specializes in experimental, avant garde, and outsider music/art. - By L Pounds
(Slugmag 5/2004) Ready for something completely different? As the co-founder of Half Japanese, Jad Fair has been one of the most influential indie music eccentrics since the early 80s. This collection is all over the map, from the rambling melody “Movies” to the naïve experimental dissonance of “Lisa the Wrestler” to the sludge rock of “Apple Apple Peach.” This is fitting for someone who has worked with everyone from Daniel Johnston to Thurston Moore to Yo La Tengo and Mo Tucker. Fair is a lot of things, but serious isn’t one of them. This set is a bargain anyway you slice it, as in addition to 20 CD tracks, 135 MP3s are included, recorded from 1995 to 1998. - Stakerized!
(Shmat 6/12/2004) I think I first heard of Jad Fair by the embarassingly conspicuous route of Nirvana and The Velvet Underground and about that time I saw an ad in the paper for a documentary about Half Japanese called "The Band That Would Become King". My interest piqued, I picked up a CD of theirs, Fire in the Sky. Unfortunately, I think I sold it back nearly immediately. I just wasn't ready for that type of craziness yet. What was this unfettered noise spouting, out-of-tune everything, and melodies that ran every which way except normal? The band was based upon the DIY ethos, but they really took it to an extreme: the brothers Jad and David Fair had no idea how to play instruments and really could have cared less. I know, I know... smells like the Shaggs. But at the time I wasn't yet enamored of the potential charm that such musical naivette could offer. But anyway, I got a chance to listen to one of Jad Fair's latest concoctions, where he teams up with sometimes Half Japanese member Jason Willett. This disc is entitled Superfine. Has anything changed? I should think not! Completely insane, as was to be expected. Overdriven and warbly vocals compete with cowbells, smashing drum sounds, various clangs and clanks. This is music of the kitchen sink variety, you can just picture the overflowing dishes piled up high with unknown bits of sustenance still clinging to the plates. Not for the first time, I feel this would sound much, much better while drunk. I sort of appreciate the slightly more folky quirk pieces, like "Take Your Place". The ones where there's nothing but noise and screaming and distortion (like "You and I" and "Punk Rock 1996 Pt.6") are hard to stomach at times. I really liked the funny lyrics, arcade simulations, and lounge feel of "Big Star", that was probably my favorite track on the album. It's very difficult to focus on any one song because they are so perversely deconstructed in nature that you have to really strive to latch onto a particular riff that distinguishes one song from the other. But maybe that's the whole point? In general do not buy this CD if you have an adverse reaction to musical weirdness and insanity incarnate. Did I mention that in addition to the rather generous selection of 20 tracks to choose from on your normal CD player, you can also access an astonishing 135 extra bonus MP3 tracks from the disc? That is, what, about 10 extra CDs worth of material? I didn't press my luck investigating the MP3s, but I'm sure they are as wild and wacky as the rest of the album. Please drop me a line if I've missed out on something good... - BY
(Expose 11/2004) Fair and Willett were both members of the 70s/80s lo-fi art-punk-noise outfit Half Japanese; here they continue their mission with a CD that contains no less than 155 tracks - 40 that play on any CD player and an additional 135 tracks in MP3 files on the disc, for a total of around six hours of music. The music could be best described as intentionally primitive and amateurish, in an irreverent, charming and somewhat humorous way; it's noisy, loud and abrasive with unconventional rhythms, distorted vocals , unrecognizable sounds, and often goofy nonsensical lyrics. Most of the tracks are tracks are short vignettes of one to three minutes, extremely unconventional composition that follow no standard rules; sometimes the rhythm is irregular and haphazard, although such is not always the case. Instrumentation, mostly played by Willett, includes guitars, drums, bass, keys, electronic sounds, toy instruments, samples, found sounds, tape manipulations, and just general weirdness. The vocals are pretty bizarre throughout, spoken, sung, shouted, and heavily distorted, as though sung through a megaphone, or a really cheapo microphone. For comparisons, think of the aggressive abandon of Trout Mask-era Beefheart mixed with the primitivism and non-chops of the earliest Residents or Renaldo & The Loaf.. This is not an easy listen, to be sure, but its interesting and extremely original. - Peter Thelen