Half Japanese, the guys whose entire musical library, stretching back to 1975, consists of “either monster songs or love songs” have returned with an action packed release. From their early years of proud, defiant absolute musical incompetence, they have (perhaps unwillingly) come a long way. The guitar remains horribly out of tune, though, just like it’s supposed to be.
Often called “art punk”, this could just as well be described as chaotic rock music. There’s a whole lot of riffing going on, but there’s usually some structural error or peculiarity in the arrangement that makes listening either annoying or interesting, depending on how you see things. Vocals vary from punk-like, to rock-like to pure spoken word, and associations abound. The first time I heard the opening guitar chords of the album, they awoke memories of Swedish “gender rockers” Onkel Kånkel and the Finnish punk act Klamydia in me. Listening to “Of course it is”, I unwittingly came to think of “Skinhead” off of the Romper Stomper soundtrack. None of this makes much sense, except to illustrate how useless it is to list references and possible influences for a band as idiosyncratic as Half Japanese.
Lyrically, Hear the Lions Roar is absolutely spectacular, with the rock’n roll poetry largely based on cheap horror and Sci-Fi films (when not about love). In “The Preventers” we are told that “hippie zombies can only be stopped by… Stopped by the Preventers!” This reviewers favorite line by far, though, is:
“Giant leeches as long as your arm. If you’ve got an arm that is thirty feet long.”
Wanna reconsider that Bob Dylan Nobel Prize?
From a purely musical standpoint, “On Top” is probably the most interesting tune, combining spoken word, a catchy rhythm and psychedelic elements to make you feel like you’ve stumbled into some far left drum circle party that smells an awful lot like oregano. If that’s not your thing (beer man myself), stay anyway. For the girls, for the drinks, for the music of Half Japanese.