Review Summary: Fill my mouth with hot sand..
In the late 80’s, unceremonious cynicism and casual scorn had seemingly finally reached American colleges, and by the early 90’s, callow sarcasm had become just about the only campus flavour on offer. Beat Happening’s Dreamy
sports that patented disdain in heaps. On “Me Untamed,” Calvin Johnson sings praise to the woman who managed to curb his wildness with such detached languor, that instead of a sustained tender moment, you leave the song with a knowing chuckle. “I’ve Lost You” is streaked in similar unconcern, and when Johnson monotonously intones ‘Who’s gonna love me the way that I am?,’ you get the distinct feeling that all will be alright. That ironic fix rules the way. Even before you look over the lyric sheet, you somehow understand that “Revolution” refers only to prosaic rotation, and “Hot Chocolate Boy” is just someone who loves cocoa. Co-vocalist Heather Lewis’ croon does little to lift that impudent sheen, and her elbowy romantic verses on both “Collide” and “Fortune Cookie Prize” smack of that brand of erotic twee where a grown-up who dresses in overalls and bows calls others immature. The band manages to keep that aloofness going even as the music gets stormier and louder on the brash “Nancy Sin.” In his own way, Calvin Johnson was Serge Gainsbourg as passed through the twee funnel - a mannish voice that betrayed its scrawny, gangling owner; and the coyness with which he stirred Beat Happening carried that same hyper-aware, disquieting tint, as if something forbidden was being tucked away into a dark corner to be desecrated when everyone’s back was turned.
What Beat Happening DO pull off in grand fashion (and what always made them stand out amid their countless peers both on K Records, Sub Pop and beyond) is that through all that unyielding sneering mockery, through all the clattering lo-fi, drowned percussion, tuneless arrangements and bad white boy dancing; none of it becomes wearing or unbearable. In fact, it all syncs itself into a perfect sum, a little indie mutation that understood the liberating aspects of keeping things as primitive and undercooked as possible, and one that relished in its surrounding trends as much as it was aware of their inherent absurdity.