Jad Fair and Danielson have just released a terrific album, Solid Gold Heart, full of strong melodies and a Rock & Roll enthusiasm that is as ageless as Fair himself. (He’s 60, but doesn’t feel or show it.) As an anthemic affirmation of their music’s power, standout album track “Rockin’ on the Good Side” is a worthy successor to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Fair is a true cult legend, having formed the scruffy, visionary Half Japanese with brother David in 1974. Their poetic amateurism and DIY ethos helped link outsider art to Rock music and served as a pathway between Velvet Underground and Daniel Johnston, thus inspiring bands like Nirvana, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices and today’s Danielson.
While Fair’s untuned electric guitar and struggling voice — full of commitment if not polish — was never quite ready for prime time, Half Japanese has had an amazingly productive and prolific career, releasing some 20 albums. They also were the subject of one of the first and most influential “cult Rock musician” documentaries, 1993’s Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King. Director Jeff Feuerzeig went on to make the Oscar-nominated The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
But Fair, while in touch with outsider-ism as a source for truth and creativity, is himself a thoughtfully industrious contemporary artist. An all-around experimentalist, his visual art has been the subject of numerous books and exhibitions. And he has had an incredibly active music career as a soloist and in collaboration with others. He has released records with his brother, Johnston, Kramer (who will also be at the MOTR show), The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Yo La Tengo and more.