Just 'cause The Man says you have to learn how to play your instrument before you join a band doesn't mean you have to listen. Jad Fair and his ever-morphing group, Half-Japanese, have spent more than 20 years gleefully flaunting their disrespect for the conventional trappings of music.

Whether through hour-plus-long songs, stream-of-consciousness babbling or a three-album boxed set as a debut, Half-Japanese can seem like an earnest, wide-eyed eight-year-old or, just as often, an act that perpetually tests your patience about the sacredness of musical expression.

Fair has pushed it most of his career with surprising success. It takes no small amount of charisma to carry off the stunts he tries. But his nasal voice, which wavers like an April butterfly, coupled with poppy, atonal banging, makes Half-Japanese sound like it really has something to express -- instead of just being a bunch of guys who suck and can't get around it.

Fair's favorite topic is love in all its various excesses, and on a good night he can impress upon the listener that he really has just discovered the emotion for the first time. On the other hand, "music" like this is always in danger of wearing the audience out and serving only the performer. That's a warning.

Spirit can go only so far. After that, knowing a chord or two could come in handy.

Half-Japanese performs Friday, January 28, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh, at 10 p.m. Danny and the Nightmares and Adult Rodeo open. Tickets are $7. For more information, call (713)521-0521.

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Justin Wolske