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Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1993)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 209 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 7 critic

From their underground days recording songs in their bedroom to their rise as one of rock music's most alternative bands, this documentary chronicles Jad and David Fair's formation of Half Japanese.

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Title: Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1993)

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Credited cast:
Byron Coley ...
Himself
David Fair
Jad Fair ...
Himself
David Greenberger ...
Himself
Maureen Tucker
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A documentary covering the rise of extremely alternative band Half Japanese: from the early days when Jad and David Fair recorded loud music in their bedroom for distribution via mail order cassette tape, to their contemporary incarnation after David's departure for married life and Jad's increased stature among musicians and critics. Includes interviews with Jad, David, Mo Tucker of Velvet underground fame, and Penn Jillette, who produced an album of theirs. Written by James Meek <james@oz.net>

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independent film

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7 October 1993 (USA)  »

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Great story of a great band!
26 September 2000 | by (Portland, OR) – See all my reviews

This is an excellent documentary detailing the genesis and ill-rewarded career of Jad and David Fair, and their pursuit of becoming the best rock and roll band ever.

Half Jap fans will love the behind the scenes stories of how the band came to be, including an amazing vignette about how they signed their first record contract.

But the viewer totally unaware of Half Japanese and the strange influence they've had on American underground culture will also appreciate this film for the story of two goofy, naiive kids who decided they could make music, regardless of everything but intent.

There are some nice appearances by Velvet Underground founder Mo Tucker, Penn Jillette, and the guitar superhero Don Fleming. Sorely missed, however, are comments from jazz sax vanguard (and frequent Half Japanese contributor) John Zorn and Half Japanese's finest producer, Kramer.

The only weak spot in the whole film is the slightly tedious yammerings about poisonous major record labels by kooky music savants Gerard Cosloy and Byron Coley (Coley, who seems to imply that the major labels had somehow gotten their compeuppance in the post-Dokken junkyard of the early 90's.) Clearly Half Japanese is superior to the mind-numbing crap spewed onto the airwaves, but turning Jad into the poster child for independent label struggles is probably not a good fit. Jad himself has his eyes set on writing the most popular rock song ever, which would be hard to do in a 3 person mail room at some indie label hangout.

Indeed Jad and company deserve far more recognition than they ever have gotten in this country. It's sad that we need an excellent film like this to certify Half Japanese culturally, as if without it Half Jap would fade away into oblivion.


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