Personnel: Jad Fair (vocals); John Sluggett (guitar, keyboards, drums); Mick Hobbs (guitar, keyboards, percussion); Gilles-Vincent Reider (keyboards, drums, percussion); Jason Willett (keyboards).
Audio Mixer: John Dieterich.
Recording information: Russian Recording; Studio De La Trappe.
Long seeming perversely proud of the fact they could barely play, Half Japanese have belated developed some impressive skills after a mere four decades in the game. John Dieterich of Deerhoof brought an unexpected level of cohesion and clarity to Half Japanese with his production on 2014's Overjoyed, but 2016's Perfect proves that Jad Fair and his brother David Fair have transformed their group into a scrappy but engaging combo whose simple but muscular guitar work, low-budget keyboards, and pounding drums reveal they've become America's oldest but most passionate garage band. The chattering electronics of "That Is That," the off-kilter rhythms of "We'll Go Far," and the junkyard percussion of the title cut are on hand to remind us this band has not lost touch with its defining eccentricities, but on Perfect the more coherent backings match the heady joy of Jad Fair's vocals and his fierce embrace of the positive, the latter no small accomplishment after spending decades obsessed with horror movies and women who didn't pay attention to him. Fair may be an unlikely candidate to embrace the power of positive thinking, but his lyrics on Perfect are the thoughts of a man whose optimism is hard-won, and he seems entirely sincere as he celebrates life's victories, big and small, not to mention the power of a good cup of coffee. And if Perfect is a tighter and better-focused album than one would have expected from Half Japanese in the '80s or '90s, miraculously it still sound like them, wild but fully engaged, and you'd be hard-pressed to name a band that not only sounds fresh but is still finding new creative paths close to 40 years after it began. Rave on, Jad! ~ Mark Deming