When a band comes back with an album after so long, it usually stirs up images of said band trying desperately to get the final sip from the fountain of youth, or, going after that last pay check quicker than a greyhound on speed.
Half Japanese made their name as noise rock innovators, and thankfully with Overjoyed, there are no such feelings like the ones aforementioned.
What first springs to mind with Overjoyed is John Dieterich’s production, following on from previous album Hello, the wiry and coarse sound that was dominant on their earlier bedroom recorded material has been swapped for a cleaner sound.
Ultimately, the refined sound brings a more accessible listen. But fear not, there are more than enough of the noisy and idiosyncratic elements that make a band like Half Japanese so enjoyable.
Opening track ‘In Its Pull’ features a mechanical bass line paired with call and response stabbing chords. Jad Fair sings the lyrics ‘Refresh the life that you now have/and be the best that you can possibly be’ with that off beat delivery that filtered through to pretty much every 90s noise band ever.
However, Fair does it with a sense of optimism, as if he is an overly positive P.E teacher with a megaphone. There is a feeling here that he is giving you a life lesson. Which leads me to wonder, after all the inspiration and invention Half Japanese have done, does Fair feel as though he has some form of wisdom to pass on?
You get the feeling Fair is taking on different voices with each track, ‘Do It Nation’ is ‘In Its Pull’s’ unhinged twin. With a fairly straight-laced instrumental backing, the heavily distorted vocal becomes an instrument in its own right, ranging from frenzied screams to low-end snarls which pull you inside out.
Fair has you like putty in his hands, with the sound dragging you from one end of the room to the other.
‘The Time Is Now’ is a discordant love song, on one side there is the notion that Fair is taking on the role as bearer of wisdom or instructor with the lyric ‘Don’t let your time ever pass you by/and don’t ever get stuck with that stupid word why’ and on the other side, with the lyric ‘Lets put apples in the lemon pie/And more put rainbows into our blue sky’. There is a carefree feeling, as if Fair wants to seize the day.
‘Our Love’, ‘Shining Star’ and ‘Each Other’s Arms’ continue the streak of optimism that ebbs and flows through the album while throwing in shrill chords and reverse guitar solos.
Overall, Overjoyed might not feature the no wave styling heard on 1/2 Gentlemen Not Beasts and it might not have the free jazz dissonance of Loud. But it is by no means stale and by no means not unique.
What it does do is take bits and pieces of Half Japanese’s style, throws them into a noise rock cauldron and ends up coming out with an arguably less innovative record, but one that is solid, great to listen too, accessible and joyfully upbeat.