In 1974 Jad and David Fair were living in a boathouse and attending Thomas Jefferson College in Allendale, Michigan. Neither could play an instrument, but they’d started a rock band, and to name it they drew two words out of a hat: “half” and “Japan.” Brilliant and gloriously uninhibited, Half Japanese’s early recordings inspired legions of musicians with their gleeful disregard for “proper” tuning, identifiable chords, metrical stability, and any other facet of what’s usually considered technical accomplishment. In recent years the band has been the subject of a documentary film, The Band That Would Be King, and of an early Spinanes song called “Jad Fair Drives Women Wild”; Nirvana hired Half Japanese to open for its last tour; Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker toured with the band and produced one of its records; and Daniel Johnston, Kramer, the Pastels, Phono-Comb, and DQE have lined up to record with Jad. The latest fans to back him, Hoboken’s Yo La Tengo, are also the best, a spectacularly flexible combo armed with a bulging book of punk, pop, noise, and country covers, including Half Japanese’s “Ashes on the Ground.” For Strange but True (Matador), Yo La Tengo improvised 22 brief but detailed tunes to accompany David’s flabbergasting lyrics, sung or spoken by Jad and inspired by tabloid headlines. (The album is a sort of reunion for the Fair brothers; David left Half Japanese in 1986 to spend more time with his wife and son.) It’d be cruel to spoil the punch lines, but rest assured that “National Sports Association Hires Retired English Professor to Name New Wrestling Holds” lives up to its title. Don’t expect Yo La Tengo to play its own stuff tonight; the band will back Jad on songs from the new record and some old Half Japanese favorites. Louisville’s Retsin and Taipei’s Ladybug open. Thursday, November 19, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. BILL MEYER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Gail O’Hara.