As Byron Coley says in his entertaining piece in the liner notes, "They have no hits by standards that Howard Cosell would appreciate." But by the time Greatest Hits
came out, Half Japanese
had gained an international fan base, released more records than many well-known bands have ever done, and had Kurt Cobain singing their praises. So even if the title is curious, the impulse behind the collection isn't and, given the scattered discography of the band, Greatest Hits
is the perfect place for a neophyte to take the plunge. Two discs packed to the brim with Jad Fair
and company's particular rock & roll vision means a lot of listening, but there's no pretense at any one way to give the release an ear -- there's no chronological order, just a slew of songs that one can dip in and out of at leisure. Pretty much every album up to that point is represented at least once, from the original 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts
set to 1992's Boo!
and, while lineups and fidelity fluctuates wildly, not to mention the particular styles tried out, it's all clearly one particular approach at heart. Jad Fair's love-it-or-hate-it voice (and sometimes David Fair
's more conventional approach) tackles everything from "My Sordid Past" to "Salt and Pepper" and back again, and his fluctuating crew keeps everything a ragged delight. For the hardcore, five otherwise unreleased tracks do surface. A cover of Jimmie Rodgers' "T for Texas" features Eugene Chadbourne as a duet partner, while the on-the-face-of-it surprising 1993 remake of Primal Scream's "Movin' on Up" becomes an enjoyable rave-up in the band's own garage-y way. "King Kong" makes for an amusing biography of said character, while "Amazing Clock" and "Identical Twins" are also enjoyable. David Fair's enjoyable and encouraging essay "How to Play Guitar" makes for a great final touch.