Review Summary: Happy, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy!
Take a ride in the Tardis back to 1980s Britain and you will soon conclude that, all in all, it's a bit ***: we're in a major depression, the Conservatives are in power (ruled by the devil incarnate) and, possibly worst of all, this reviewer has not been born yet. A time machine is not necessary to understand this of course, even a history book isn't particularly needed. Instead, a cursory glance at one half of the contemporary music (The Smiths
, The Specials
etc.) will make it pretty bleeding obvious that people weren't exactly cheerful. What the music also shows us, however, is a dichotomy: as well as this sullen, depressed tones there's also a strong centralised opposition. One made up of equal parts glam rock, disco and romanticism; solely about drowning out the crap by having a ridiculously fun time. Delusion? Perhaps, but it's hard to argue against it.
Thirty years on, we begin again: we're in a major depression, the Conservatives are in power and for all this reviewer knows he could be a father within the next decade. Pop culture is infested with your Radioheads
, Snow Patrols
and white rappers recalling harsh life on "da streetz" of Cambridge or wherever it is they come from... so where's the happy bunch? Mainstream rap/pop/rock has taken on an isolated life of its own; now more about imaginary relationships and personal disputes than anything important. Dubstep? Maybe, but it's not inherently happy. It would be easy, then, to think that there's no one. A recent dance trend argues otherwise and has produced this, Heartbeats
, by a to-this-point unheard of Scottish producer, Grum
personifies everything about 80's feel-good disco: whether this be from a very retro-esque soundboard or the distinct lack of any dark undertones. It's music that blanks out the world's troubles and, at the risk of losing its personability, focuses on having a damn good time
. It even manages to cover a startling variety of styles: from the growling, euro/power pop on display in Fashion
to the bouncing, old night-club feel of Want U
. It's only the presence of some more modern uses of bass that reminds the listener that they're not hearing a best-of-80's-dance compilation.
However, the most striking thing about Heartbeats
is how well it transfers this 80's disco feel to a home environment. Despite the pop-length tracks, there's more than enough charm, detail and depth to make the LP an interesting listen with the unusual ability amongst dance albums to get better
with each progressive listen. The sugary-sweet nature of this style of dance music is tactfully restrained, while still inducing the kind of giddy happiness that most people are embarrassed to admit to.
While taking the best from pop and dance music, Grum
manages to avoid getting carried away. His debut is an intelligent, nostalgic (to some) and, most of all, exciting
contrast to the overwhelmingly depressing landscape that is modern music. The effect this has on anyone who listens to it is so profound that his fans are convinced that instead of the repeated hook "Heartbeats"
in the title track, it instead says "Happy!"