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Whenever it hits - post-graduation, paying for health insurance or with the realization you wear a tie more often than t-shirts - Happyness is good medicine for adult-onset paralysis. Spinning "Weird Little Birthday" for today's twentysomethings is a much-needed retrospective. Think Cialis for people who miss Pavement and the underachiever 90s. Life is looming out in front of them. It's put up or shut time, so the London trio's steady slacker rock is a chance to procrastinate one last time. A projection? Well, as the Whisper says in the lullaby opener for "Weird Little Birthday", "I'm the mother fucking birthday boy, don't steal my thunder baby, Jesus." "It's a weird birthday, it's a weird little song," the Whisper mentions part way through one second shy of nine minute "Weird Little Birthday Girl."
The album debuted last year in London, gaining steam ahead of a push across the Atlantic. Following their stateside album drop March 24, the three young men of Happyness embark on a coast-to-coast U.S. tour, including an appearance at the Treefort Music Festival. Not only is it reassuring for aging fans that music like this can still sound so vital - the whip smart dumbass motif - but Happyness remains vibrant for 18 tracks. Eighteen songs that range from 80 second punk blasts to slow building acoustic numbers. A new favorite song pops out with each go round of the record.
The majority are meandering guitar picking and the pitfalls of suburban malaise, spanning indie rock genres from grunge through Built to Spill and onward. A little sing-song, "It's You" is an homage to the cool kid who was full of shit, but still showed you the ropes. How you wish you could go back and Happyness is like grilled cheese. They're also cheekily crass. The song garnering the most attention, "Montreal Rock Band Somewhere," captures that far-off stare feeling rather well, with closely spoken lyrics about essentially scalping and wearing Win Butler's hair while missing parties, accompanied by a far out guitar loop.
"There's something so funny about a sick body and the things that it does that it shouldn't do," Happyness opine on another notable track, "Naked Patients." In a lot of ways, Happyness sounds like Wilco, just obviously a lot younger. The guitar work sounds warmly familiar to the hallmarks of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, coaxing every screech and coo out of a guitar without breaking a sweat. The music is straight-ahead, but rarely misses a step along the way - each chord striking just the right mood despite fearless, lengthy instrumental interludes. Vocally, it's also very much like a surprisingly articulate young man has filled in for Jeff Tweedy. As for lyrics, well, the pleas of "Stop Whaling" have little to do with whales and mostly "hopelessly uninspiring" people and feeling "vulvate," which is worth looking up for the headshake.
Sure, Weird Little Birthday might be a decade out of place, maybe two. Regardless, it's charming and timeless. "There's something in you bloodier than blood, there's something in you holier than God," the Whisper says to the person who makes him feel "luckier than hell" in the song "Lofts." Happyness is not sugar coated, but it goes down sweet and smiley. Nostalgia in moderation with a wink is a good thing.