Happyness - Weird Little Birthday (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
EVEN as concept albums go, the debut album from Happyness, Weird Little Birthday, is pretty out there.
Thematically, the LP is about a boy who shares his birthday with Jesus Christ, who eventually is driven insane with jealousy. It was largely recorded in the band’s own Jelly Boy Studios, after a brief session recording first track Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy) in an abandoned church was cut short by the bitter cold and an unconvinced congregation of the dead.
The record was then mixed by Adam Lasus (Yo La Tengo, Daniel Johnston) and features Ed Harcourt with vocals on Pumpkin Noir. While easy to label slacker rock by virtue of its easy comparisons with the likes of Eels and Jesus & Mary Chain at various points, there’s a lot more going on too.
The central concept, for example, keeps you hooked, if only to see how they keep the story running across 13 tracks. But the sudden bursts of energy that break up the slacker tendencies are also capable of delivering short, sharp shots of exhilaration that propel them more into post-punk territory.
Taken as a whole, the album is flawed. There are, arguably, one too many low-key slacker moments that tail off, sometimes infuriatingly so. Take, for example, the almost title track Weird Little Birthday Girl, which is a repetitive almost instrumental that follows the spiky energy of Anything I Do Is All Right with something a little too laidback.
Conversely, Anything I Do Is All Right is a riot of energy and gritty guitar hooks that could even draw favourable comparisons with Dinosaur Jr, while Naked Patients hums along like classic Jesus & Mary Chain and is another of the album’s genuine pleasures.
Orange Luz is a trippy moment to savour, complete with a deliciously woozy electronic hook and off-kilter lyrics that proclaim “you are so ugly when you’re smiling” and Refrigerate Her is another rock-out that should have you strumming along in air guitar, head-nodding mode.
Another summer cool cut is It’s On You, which really feels like an Eels moment (complete with chirpy woo-hoo harmonising), while Leave The Party even has a touch of the ’80s and the grunge about it.
Indeed, it’s during its very best moments that this album really feels like a glorious throwback to days gone by, albeit laced with some very dark lyricism. It’s just a shame about those occasional lulls.
Download picks: Refrigerate Her, Naked Patients, Anything I Do Is All Right, It’s On You, Leave The Party