Beat Happening could be one of the most essential indie bands to come out of the 1980's. When looking at the trio they just look like three normal dudes that play in a typical high school band. Beat Happening obviously did not care of what others thought about them, or at least they didnít care when they released their self titled debut. The album consists of twenty four songs and a good chunk of them fail to reach two minutes or even a minute and a half long. Thatís not the only reason but you will realize why this indie-pop group didnít really care throughout the course of the review.
The music presented on Beat Happening
is extremely simple and it almost sounds effortless. The guitar playing is comprised of three chord riffs, easy going scales, and some folk influenced plucking also comes up here and there. The drumming sounds like it is coming from an old plastic kit that has been sitting in an attic for ages. The percussions only purpose is to create a poppy beat for the various guitar jingles that take place. A distorted, fuzzy, and raw atmosphere is presented to you when listening to each song, it feels like Calvin Johnson is sitting there mingling with his guitar right in front of you. Half of the time these songs sound like they were thought up in two minutes and the same formula is used over and over again. This is usually a bad thing but the trio's songs are so brief that it is hard not to enjoy them while they last. To sum things up Beat Happening are instrumentally similar to the Beach Boys only they posses a much rawer and lazy sound.
The most interesting aspect about the trio is how they alternate vocalists. Itís intriguing just because the songs sound so different when Heather, or Calvin are in charge. When Heather takes over the lead singing job the songs contain an upbeat and quirky feel. This is were the poppy guitar riffs come in along with the upbeat drumming. Heathers whimsical and childish voice accompany the instruments perfectly making the music feel like itís coming straight from a garage pop band. Now, when Calvin Johnson decides to take over the sound of the album completely changes. While you may not believe me when I tell you this Calvin sounds like a mentally challenged deadbeat that has had a major hangover from the night before. His deep, droning, and off pitched voice will sound like complete slop at first but as you invest more time in the album his vocal delivery is quite charming. His voice is also very lazy and monotone, itís almost like he is walking through a concentration camp. Some people find his voice to be a complete disgrace to music but it fits in with the carelessness of the music and the atmosphere.
The upbeat and quirkiness of the music really shows itself off on a lot of these songs. Whatís Important
is just an easy going guitar riff over a melodic drum beat. Heathers childish voice makes it feel like an old 60's pop single. Almost all of Heathers songs follow this same formula. The following song, Down at the Sea
contains another jingly guitar riff, but the percussion is less of a factor. Itís really difficult to explain why Beat Happening
is such a special album when you take out the influence. Most of these tracks sound identical and the only thing I can say about the songs that Heather controls are that they are charming and mindblowingly catchy while still containing a raw feel.
For me the albums strong points lies within Calvinís droning voice. The opening track, Our Secret
sounds like an old Egyptian folk song, itís snake like guitar line and Calvinís droning yet somewhat melodic voice make it a catchy pop gem. Songs such as Honey
and In Love With You Thing
are all out vocal tracks simply relying on randomness and the songs just put a smile on your face. To give you a better feel for the music Beat Happening sound like a lazier version of Beckís Loser
with a more raw and even a more careless feel.
Well ladies and gentlemen thatís all I really have to say about Beat Happenings self titled debut. Charming pop songs, simple instrumentation, and two vocalist that are exact opposites. There is no doubt about it, Beat Happeningís music is very catchy and addictive but you can only digest so much of this album in one sitting. The lazy and uninspired atmosphere shows throughout the course of the album. Most of these songs feel unfinished and drowsy but they still embrace a loveable and cute sound. Beat Happening may not show good musicianship or even talented instrument playing but they sure do know how to right loveable, charming, and lazy pop gems.