Bubblegum Octopus
Bad Happy


4.5
superb

Review

by Kubrick USER (3 Reviews)
April 9th, 2011 | 37 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An uncompromisingly experimental 8-bit extravaganza that blends the most unlikely elements to create something that transcends its own insanity.

Matt (the c@) Morden is quite an interesting fellow. As the sole member of the chaotic and often downright schizophrenic Bubblegum Octopus, you would probably expect Matt to personify his music to at least some degree. Yet watching Matt in an interview presents a disconnect between the creative force and his spastic product. He sits in his purple room adorned in neon-colored clothes and surrounded by hordes of stuffed Pokémon, Nintendo hallmarks, and plenty of pink (presumably gummy) octopi. And against this vibrant backdrop that reinforced all of my preconceived notions about Matt, he shattered those notions with a calm explanation of his struggles with self-image and anxiety (all while absently stroking his beloved cat). At first these words seemed so contradictory amidst the numerous scenes that depict him performing in front of twelve of his most loyal fans in what looks like someone’s living room, belting out his lyrics and shaking his mop without a second thought. Clearly there's more to Matt than meets the eye, and his music follows suit.

Bad Happy is Matt's follow-up to his first album, The Album Formerly Known as "8-Legged Dance Moves", which was preceded by an unofficial compilation of demo tracks that make up the album presently known as 8-Legged Dance Moves. It's all very confusing. Anyway, the core sound on Bad Happy is largely the same as it was on the aforementioned albums. Like the album title, the music features many contradictory elements that include screamed/growled vocals paired with high-pitched falsetto, pummeling blast beats alongside contemplative ambience, and frantic, disjointed rhythms neighboring groovy, melodic dance tunes. Adding to the insanity is the fact that the album is largely performed within the 8-bit medium, giving the whole thing a retro, arcade aesthetic. The quality of the music on display here is truly fantastic. Matt has an uncanny ability of creating tons of memorable 8-bit melodies that all sound completely unique and fresh within the context of the album. From the instantly catchy rhythm and melody of "Loud Noise in My Room," to the high-speed, industrial theme of "Beautiful Little Towne," to the bubbly, carefree tune that enters shortly after the opening of "We ARE Sick" (which incidentally evokes images of Pokémon frolicking in a daisy-spotted meadow), the album consistently provides moments that burn themselves into your brain. This supports the sporadic nature of the music because, even though things are constantly changing and alternating between many different moods and styles, all of them provide something worth hearing and contribute to the memorability of the album.

There are also some notable improvements over the first album, one major example of which is the production. Bad Happy is much more layered and effects-laden than The Album Formerly Known as "8-Legged Dance Moves" and, frankly, it just sounds a lot better. The dichotomy between the loud, heavy sections and the soft, melodic sections is so much more poignant here than on his last album because of this. On his first album, everything sounds about the same in terms of depth and intensity. The heavy sections don't so much forcefully shock you out of the melodic, bubbly sections as they just play alongside them. On Bad Happy, however, the heaviness often erupts in a fury that dwarfs everything else around it. "Shovel Piledriver" unleashes a power unlike anything Matt has previously created and carries a sense of weight and intensity that just didn't totally translate in his first effort. This song also highlights another extreme improvement: the vocals. Perhaps the most polarizing thing about Bubblegum Octopus is the very high-pitched falsetto vocals matched with the guttural growls and shrill screams that would be right at home on a death or black metal album. Matt really sells this combination better than he did the first time around. The vocals on his first album are novel due to their originality, but they lack a certain amount of polish and often times come off as a bit goofy or ridiculous. Bad Happy shows that Matt's delivery has vastly improved and his vocal variety has increased tenfold. His growls are more devastating, his falsetto is refined, and he even provides plenty of unexpected turns, including a percussive vocal section on "Tibulidentata" that would make Mike Patton himself crack a smile.

What ultimately makes Bad Happy a great album though isn't the production, the genre mashing, or the vocal acrobatics. What makes it great is that, just like its creator, there is more to it than meets the eye. Beneath the flowers, bubbles, twinkling stars and rainbows that adorn its cover lays a solemn, pensive undertone. There is a distinct sense of contemplation and longing that reappears throughout the album and often acts as a bridge been the thunderous chaos of the heavy sections and the danceable catchiness of the melodic sections. These moments provide a catharsis where the listener can step back from everything that is going on and get a sense of what Matt is really trying to say with his music. Slightly after a minute into "Goodbye Light (God's Fake Laser)", the music abruptly transitions into a shimmering, astral clearing where a lonely synth note carves a beautifully mournful path. There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and longing here, as if Matt wishes he could somehow find a place where his friendly melodies could coexist peacefully with his harsh outbursts, or perhaps, his fond memories of childhood could be rekindled within his anxious and stressful adult reality.

This is a sentiment that I think everyone can relate to and gives Bad Happy substance that reaches much deeper than the 8-bit novelty and the experimental genre mashing. Sure, the album is entertaining as hell with its frantic pace, rapid stylistic transitions, loads of memorable melodies, and uncompromising experimentalism. But the glimmers of contemplation and reflection that are interspersed amongst the madness are what give the album its heart and soul that put everything into perspective. They're what make it relatable.


user ratings (32)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Kubrick
April 9th 2011


746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Here's hoping that more people give this the chance it deserves.

Counterfeit
April 9th 2011


17819 Comments


fuck yes

psykonaut
April 9th 2011


3913 Comments


...this sounds awesome

WashboardSuds
April 9th 2011


5007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i was eager for this to be reviewed, great job, pos'd
I love 8 Legged Dance Moves, really want this album


Digging: Gas - Nah und Fern

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
April 9th 2011


7110 Comments


i listened to The Album Formerly Known As once. did not have a clue what to think about it

gabethepiratesquid
April 9th 2011


4521 Comments


Holy shit this is so weird. I was just planning on downloading this and then I saw it on Sputnik. It seems really awesome from what I've heard, though. Stoked.

letsgofishing
April 9th 2011


902 Comments


Best first review I've read in forever. Take a POS.

This sounds ridiculous.

Kubrick
April 9th 2011


746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i was eager for this to be reviewed, great job, pos'd
I love 8 Legged Dance Moves, really want this album


Thanks man. This is just as awesome as 8LDM but it is much more refined and structured. If you liked his first one I have no doubt that you'll love this too. Anyone that is even mildly intrigued should definitely give it a chance (it's not something everyone is going to dig though). I really hope he gains a bit more recognition with this release.. it's a great album that really deserves to be heard.

Kubrick
April 9th 2011


746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best first review I've read in forever. Take a POS.

This sounds ridiculous.


Thank you =)

This is totally ridiculous.... in the best way possible of course.

MyDearWormwood
April 9th 2011


225 Comments


Oh my TITS this sounds amazing!!!

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
April 9th 2011


7110 Comments


honestly though has any artist ever come close to touching the epicness of zdzislaw?

dcha
April 10th 2011


990 Comments


Oh cool, circuit bent speak n' spells.

Kubrick
April 10th 2011


746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

honestly though has any artist ever come close to touching the epicness of zdzislaw?


Hahaha definitely a valid question.

Wheelah
April 10th 2011


756 Comments


This sounds cool. Will check it out when possible. Pos for you!

vanderb0b
April 10th 2011


3473 Comments


Listening to this right now, it's pretty incredible so far. Review is fantastic.

WashboardSuds
April 10th 2011


5007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"This is just as awesome as 8LDM but it is much more refined and structured."

yeah I think I read somewhere he isn't as goofy and silly as on 8-Legged, I'm interested in how this sounds

dylantheairplane
April 10th 2011


2170 Comments


This is the craziest thing ive ever heard haha

Psilocyanide
April 10th 2011


1823 Comments


Youtubed a track, interesting but I don't think I'm going to d/l.

Kubrick
April 10th 2011


746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the pos's and the feedback guys.

yeah I think I read somewhere he isn't as goofy and silly as on 8-Legged, I'm interested in how this sounds


Yeah this definitely is a lot more structured and feels like it was written to be more of an album as opposed to 8LDM which is really just a collection of awesome short tracks. It's not like he totally took a serious turn though where the music sounds a lot different. There's a lot more songs like God's Pink Laser that are a little less crazy and have more of a serious, structured vibe but there's also still plenty of randomness and insanity too haha. It really just creates a better balance between the two.

For anyone that is intrigued but isn't sure they will like it, my favorite tracks are probably "Goodbye Light", "Loud Noise in my Room", "Time Zone Proclivity" and pretty much any of the other ones I mentioned in my review (especially "Tubulidentata"). I'd say give those a listen and see what you think... they pretty much give a good summary of everything the album has to offer.

WashboardSuds
April 10th 2011


5007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks Kubrick, I'm eager to check this one out



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