By Tanner Bidish, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” “The Preventers,” “Do It Now”
Half Japanese is known for their persistent unmusical style and upbeat punk jams. On their 16th full-length release, Half Japanese ironically shows that their long career is key on consistency. Hear the Lions Roar is a journey through sci-fi and thriller movies, joyous bops and romantic wonderings. Half Japanese doesn’t break the mold with this release, but turns over something very much at home in their discography.
The album features fun instrumentation throughout: rolling percussion, plucky and sliding guitars and really thumping bass lines. Jad Fair’s vocals are atypical of most rock singers, but incredibly suited for his own songwriting. The album has moments like in “On the Right Track”, where he sounds vaguely reminiscent of Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, in the way their voices slur into the music itself.
Hear the Lions Roar never comes across too seriously, and is fully aware how playful it is. Monsters even run as a bit of a motif on the first half of the record. “Attack of the Giant Leeches” is prime example, setting the stage with a science class gone wrong where mutant leeches now run a mock. In the same vein of a monster movie tale is “It Never Stops.” This track is an odd love ballad with the “the hangman’s daughter” going out to take down the wolf-man. “Zombie Hippies” are the strange, other-worldly aggressors of “The Preventers,” which is a musical high point of the record.
The back half of Hear the Lions Roar is sadly repetitive. The title track resets the momentum in the same way the opening track builds it up. After that, runs a train of love songs. The first of which, “Do It Now,” is the best of them. Satisfying bass and surfy guitar licks culminate for a sensual romantic jam. “I love the way you smile, and I love the way you are,” Fair muses. The following two tracks just don’t do love as good as the first time around.
“This is What I Know” comes second to last, but feels like the album’s climax. It builds on themes from previous songs as a final call to embrace the moment; “Our time, our day, our century! Let’s make history!” Following this is “Super Power;” if “This is What I Know” is the climax, “Super Power” is the ending credits song. It’s upbeat, lighthearted, and slightly out of tune in classic Half Japanese fashion.
Nothing here overwhelms the listener, but everything entertains and does so well. Hear the Lions Roar may slip your mind in a few months, but it stands currently as a solid early entry of the new year.