Half Japanese - Hear the Lions Roar - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Half Japanese - Hear the Lions Roar

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2017-01-13

After four decades in ‘the business’ there remains something beautiful, innocent and incorruptible about the songs of Jad Fair. Hear the Lions Roar will be the bands sixteenth studio album yet you can still hear Fair’s giddy enthusiasm for his art and the wonky, weird pop music of Half Japanese.

Fair has a songwriting style that appears effortless; the music is often deceptively simple while the lyrics are open, honest and direct. Back when the band released their debut LP they were known for their noisy, no wave discordance while many of their subsequent albums revealed a soft, dangerously melodic underbelly. It’s this more accessible, pop orientated Half Japanese that we find on Hear the Lions Roar.

There’s a loose horror film/ b-movie theme running through a number of the songs on the records first side and it’s a lyrical focus that leads to some suitably surreal imagery from Fair, not least the brilliantly bizarre ‘Attack of the Giant Leeches’.  ‘It Never Stops’ finds Fair singing about an unstoppable, rampaging wolfman while ‘The Preventers’  sings of “low-life zombie hippies”. The latter track is strangely affecting, the unexpected addition of Sophie Bernadou’s cello adding a haunting and somewhat mysterious quality.

Alongside a number of musicians who played with the band in the nineties, it’s contributions from Bernadou and horn player Lydia Fischer that add further colour, depth and vibrancy to the band's template. Just listen to the layers of sound and the amount of ideas packed into the melodic, carefree rush of the beautifully breezy title track.

The record shifts away from the werewolves and zombies for the second side, focussing more on Jad Fair’s romantic leanings. When it comes to matters of the heart you’re welcome to keep Chris de Burgh and his lady in red, you can even keep the Walrus of Love himself, Barry White, as they simply haven’t got a thing on Jad Fair.

The likes of ‘Do it Now’, ‘On Top’ and ‘In Our Time’ simply ooze openness and positivity. It’s not easy to write songs that sound this free, this unfiltered. Where other writers would perhaps repeatedly go over something, making the end result seem laboured, Half Japanese record that initial draft and retain that sense of fun and spontaneity in the process. As indie Glaswegians Orange Juice once sang, this is the sound of happiness.

There’s perhaps nothing that quite matches the bands finest albums, I’m thinking of Charmed Life and The Band that Would be King but it’s hard not to be enamoured by Hear the Lions Roar. A charming and unapologetically positive album, if Hear the Lions Roar doesn’t put a spring in your step then nothing will.

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