Half Japanese

Fire in the Sky

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This 1993 recording from Jad Fair's Half Japanese is the album that pushed the group from the obscure fringe of the U.S. post-punk underground into a full-blown indie rock legend. Aided by the fact that Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and Teenage Fanclub were all singing praise for the group, it was now finally time for a wider public to grasp the concept of one of the greatest unsung heroes of American underground rock. The 1989 documentary film about the group, The Band That Would Be King, is a must-see that has the ability to make even the curious listener fall in love with the band. For Fire in the Sky, Jad Fair enlisted guitarist/producer Don Fleming, bassist Jason Willett, and longstanding drummer Gilles Rieder on what was the band's most straightforward pop album to date. "Eye of the Hurricane" is one of Fair's shining moments, which is utterly infectious, as is "Turn Your Life Around," which features a guest appearance from Yo La Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan. Amongst the songs is a handful of covers, including Daniel Johnston's "Tears Stupid Tears" and Roky Erickson's gorgeous "It's No Wonder." Fire in the Sky is an excellent place to start for those curios to explore the expansive catalog of Half Japanese. While it is one of their more delicate and precise performances, it's not by any means indicative of the earlier period of the band, where their approach was more ramshackle noise- and punk-inspired improvisation. The CD version contains a bonus track -- a version of "I heard Her Call My Name," in which Jad Fair proves himself to be the most qualified heir to the Velvet Underground's sound.

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