Not for everyone but this rules baby
Chris bct | San Diego, CA USA | 12/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the late 80's the only copy of this I ever even saw was the one official tape release version I got of this. I've cherished it always. Since then it's finally been reissued on CD with a bunch of extra trax. According to the booklet 60 or so songs were recorded and only 30 some were originally released with 10 or so added on the reissue. If you don't know HJ, well, this band is definitely like no other. If you do, you know what I'm talkin' about.
Jad Fair is almost always the lead vocalist. They typically have git, maybe 2, drums, bass and you never know if they'll have a sax or some other horn and maybe something else like the rare keyboard (I don't know about that). What I do know is that it's clear they've decided to not play by the standard musical rules, punk or radio. It's a cacophony, that is, dissonance which is at the heart of their music. All the instruments are goin' along in the same general path, but not in your sweet, known format. They're each like jazz improvisors, 'cept it ain't jazz. And they go all out, often.
It appears, after listening to, I believe, every single HJ LP/CD ever made and a few 7"s and comp tracks, that Jad Fair is a prolific song writer. To me, virtually all his solo or with a partner releases are indulgent and from only mildly satisfying to raw indulgence and barely listenable. But most HJ releases are at least lovely, often touching, he typically has love lyrics, tho not in the usual presentation. And this LP/CD (along with Music to Strip By, Charmed Life and Sing No Evil) are their most accessable and just plain enjoyable. They take you on such a journey, here's the thing: most music, even the greatest stuff out there, I have to lay off if for a few months or even years. I couldn't listen to the BEATLES for like 10 years cuz I had the songs wired. I just don't get off musically on hearing the same exact version of a song over and over again. I need a break. It's the reason I like outtakes/demos/live versions/and even quality covers. But HJ (and PERE UBU for the same reason) are so disjointed, so unexpected, so unpredictable in their music that I rarely have to turn away from them, or, at least, let's say I am able to listen to them more consistently over the last 2 decades than just about anyone else (TOM WAITS' 70's material gets in there for me, along with some of the hours of outtakes/demos/live material by JIMI HENDRIX but, obviously, that's a different story).
There's no converting anyone to this music. Particularly as the vocals are, as with PERE UBU and the UNDERTONES, quite, uh, out there, different. I believe you either dig them or you don't. And if you never get into the particular sound of that vocalist, you ain't never gonna like the band. I'm glad I like Jad's vocals cuz the music is incredible. My only complaint of them is that there's not enough songs with sax in 'em. To me, this is one of the finest LPs/CDs of all time, top 5 for certain. firstname.lastname@example.org"