February 17, 2004

Jad Fair & Jason Willett "Superfine"

I like consistency. Do something well, do something right the first time, and you'll always want to go back. Why mess with the formula if it works? Such is the way of life; you can't argue with results, and you'll never convince me that it's not okay to sometimes set the old creativity on autopilot. You wouldn't want to fly the plane all the way, of course, but sometimes an artist should stick to what they do best.

Such is especially true when dealing with Jad Fair. To say he's an acquired taste is not merely an understatement, it's actually part of his appeal. The guy's a bit silly, okay? Nothing wrong with that. His music crosses the line between auteur and self-indulgent, but in only the best possible way. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a lot of his Half Japanese releases, but, to be fair, I haven't really liked a lot of his more recent stuff. That's okay, I like my world with a little Jad in it, and the occasional record is better than none at all. Besides, when he gets hooked up with the right collaborator, the results are excellent; I wouldn't trade his records made with the Pastels or Daniel Johnston for ANYTHING. (Still, I wonder why he never hooked up with the Sebadoh guys...always seemed like a natural thing to me.)

Because I haven't really kept up with Jad Fair in a few years, I'll admit I wasn't sure of what to expect from Superfine, his second collaboration with Jason Willett. I'll tell you why it works, and it's quite obvious: Jason Willett produced and wrote all the music. The music itself is pretty unique; from lo-fi cowboy ditties ("Take Your Place") to crazy jazz rhythms ("Movies," Superfine"), difficult indie-rock ("Give It A Go"), utter weirdness ("Hooray For Life") and just downright silly songs ("Summer Sun"), it's good to hear that not only has Fair not ceased to be weird, he's also got a really good musical collaborator, as Willett's music really gives Fair's lyrics a depth they've not had in ages. It's good to hear Fair working with someone that can both rein in his more self-indulgent moments that have plagued the past, all the while giving him the ability to grow as an artist and experiment with different musical accompaniment.

But, of course, I must mention to you that I've only been able to listen to the first twenty songs on the record. See, there's 135 more songs on here, stuck away in the multimedia section, all in mp3 form. Wow! Other than the song that sounds like an answer to a Daniel Johnston song ("Walk Your Own Cow"), I really can't tell you much about these songs, but I can see one obvious theme, as many of these songs are given the names of really bad b-movies---many of which were featured on a famous little comedy show. Is it possible that Jad and Jason got together one weekend, drank a bunch of coffee and Mountain Dew and had a MST3K marathon? I really wouldn't put it past him...

--Joseph Kyle

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