Weird Little Birthday is the debut album from London based trio Happyness, and it is quickly establishing itself as my favourite debut of the year so far, and possibly my favourite album this year full-stop. I had previously heard the Pavement indebted ‘Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same’ on 6 Music and knew that this was a band I could easily get behind.
What this isn’t is a band that sees being wildly original as one of their core selling points. When I listen to this album I hear Pavement, I hear Beulah and I hear Sparklehorse, I hear the essence of 1990’s US alt-rock. What you think about Happyness will be heavily framed by your thoughts on those bands and that era of music. My personal response is that I love those bands, and they aren’t going to be releasing any new records, so why not embrace it?
Yes it is true that the opening track ‘Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)’ is so close to Sparklehorse that it veers dangerously towards pastiche, but it just avoids that and is a great track in its own right.
Happyness are wise with their song selection and track ordering on this album, varying the sound enough to keep the album exciting but consistent enough to develop an identity. Given the clear influences on show this is no mean feat and it bodes very well for the band on any future releases.
It takes confidence on a debut album to stick a quiet nine minute nearly-instrumental track (‘Weird Little Birthday Girl’) in the middle of an album, and follow it up with a classic three minute pop single (‘It’s in You’). And an album that quotes prefab Sprout’s ‘Cars and Girls’ is a winner with me any day of the week.
This is a feel good album, despite some pretty downbeat tracks, and one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in a long time.
By Dorian Rogers