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Beat Happening: Look Around *

Album Notes

A career-spanning Beat Happening collection was long overdue when it finally arrived in 2015. Thanks to Domino Records, the band finally started to get the reissue treatment many bands of their stature had been getting for years. The 23 tracks chosen by the bandmembers themselves include their first single, 1984's "Look Around," and tracks from their five albums and singles, and ends with their surprise 2000 single "Angel Gone," which was released with the Crashing Through box set. It's the perfect starting place for someone who maybe heard about the band and wants to check them out, and it's also a reminder for longtime fans of just how many brilliant songs they had. It's almost staggering when they are all collected in one place like this. The trio of Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis, and Bret Lunsford were able to create a sound from the very beginning that was inviting in its simplicity and deceptively deep lyrically, with tunes so catchy that they stick halfway through the first listen. Sometimes called twee or child-like, their songs are actually quite often dark and brooding with undercurrents of death and sex lurking just below the crashing and strumming surface. Besides, any band who loved the Cramps as much as Beat Happening did could hardly be twee. Check the thundering crunch of "Bad Seed" or the noir strut of "Nancy Sin," then try to make the case they are anything less than a great rock band. Listen to the aching beauty of "Cast a Shadow" or "Fortune Cookie Prize" and they are a sweet pop band. On the epic "Godsend" or the truly enchanting "Tiger Trap" they are indie rock at its best and most moving. Their greatest almost-hit, "Indian Summer," was covered by R.E.M., Luna, and Benjamin Gibbard. Between Johnson's deadpan vocal delivery, his lovingly crafted persona, and his creepy and humorous lyrics, Lewis' less theatrical, open-hearted singing and writing, and Lunsford's steady musicianship, the band formed the kind of complementary bond most bands would kill to have. Their pieces fit together perfectly and their songs are short bursts of pop music that at their best come as close to perfection as anybody's ever have. This collection is full of heart-warming, life-affirming moments that reinforce the band's status as one of the best American indie pop bands to ever pick up guitars and as such, it's vital listening for pretty much anyone and everyone interested in that style. ~ Tim Sendra


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