Personnel: Benji Compston (vocals, guitar, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, cello, piano, Wurlitzer organ, Mellotron, omnichord, synthesizer, drums, shaker, hand claps, sampler, unknown instrument); Jonny Allan (vocals, electric guitar, classical guitar, baritone guitar, piano, organ, Mellotron, synthesizer, xylophone, drums, hand claps, sampler, unknown instrument); Ash Cooper (violin, electric piano, vibraphone, drums, maracas, shaker, tambourine, hand claps, unknown instrument).
Audio Mixer: Adam Lasus.
Recording information: Batshit Studios, UK; Jelly Boy Studios, UK.
Unknown Contributor Role: Ash Cooper.
Utterly lacking in rock star pretense, Britain's Happyness are a roil of contradictions on their pretty great 2015 full-length debut, Weird Little Birthday, a fact that only makes them all the more intriguing. Essentially a lo-fi T-shirt and baggy jeans band, Happyness make a shambling, heartbreaking, often wryly humorous style of late-'80s/early-'90s indie rock. Comprising the very engineering-student-looking trio of singer/guitarist Benji Compston, singer/bassist Jonny Allan, and drummer Ash Cooper, Happyness drew favorable early comparisons to bands like Weezer and Pavement, and certainly, Allan's half-lidded, laconic delivery and cryptic Dada diary lyrics do bring to mind Pavement's Stephen Malkmus. That said, cuts like the shambolically melodic "Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same" and the sludgy shimmer of "Orange Luz" also bring to mind early Teenage Fanclub. Similarly, "Naked Patients," with its chug-a-long rhythm and sweet-toned backing vocals from Saffron Le Bon, splits the difference between Galaxie 500 and Sebadoh. It also doesn't hurt that Happyness write seemingly straightforward, often deftly simplistic tunes that are also, upon closer inspection, disarmingly intimate, literate, and musically intricate. One minute they're blowing out your speakers, ripping through a punk rock jam in under two minutes ("Refrigerate Her"), only to follow that up with an extended, jazz-inflected bedroom pop ballad ("Weird Little Birthday Girl"), ripe with emotive, poetic lyrics that strike a perfect balance between melancholic introspection and goofy surrealism. On the softly buoyant title track, Allan sings "And every day is like your birthday, with all the get-ups and the weird smiling/Day you couldn't get your head in the dog door/Couldn't get my brain in your belly." They also have a knack for capturing the aching awkwardness of growing up and the overwhelming envy and chaotic joy that it brings. On "It's on You," Allan sings "Remember when we broke into the park and you got laid and I watched/And you said that was fine/You said you didn't like government, or school, you're so cool/You're just like Robin Hood." Ultimately, the influences are there, but if aping style was where it ended with Happyness, there wouldn't be so much to enjoy and dig deeper into about Weird Little Birthday. ~ Matt Collar