Photo: A. Banks
Dirty, distorted and nasal aren’t exactly flattering descriptive adjectives (you remember adjectives from “Mad Libs” right?), but Vermont’s Happy Birthday cling to these adjectives and for the most part, make ‘em work and make ‘em sunnier. The self-titled album is the first for the Sub Pop signed trio with an indie mix of pop, 70s psychedelic, garage rock and a sprinkling of 80s electro.
When Happy Birthday is on, their songs are warped, fuzzy, bright tunes that will likely be blasted on iPods and boom boxes all summer long. The first in the H.B. summer arsenal is “Girls FM,” where Kyle Thomas’ nasal voice is fitting for the power pop chorus and generally peachy tone. They shine again with “Subliminal Message,” a decidedly retro track with electro 80s influence in its zippy, synth heavy melody. Speaking of melodies, the band does a great job to create unique, catchy and hum-able tunes that will get stuck in your dome.
Even in the sparkly beachiness of many tracks, “Happy Birthday” isn’t a total celebration. There are definitely some weaker tracks, such as the balladish “Fun” and the messy “Cracked.” There is a lack of polish overall that could be intentional, but makes the album feel like a collection of songs rather than a one-band album. Especially since the band has such a wide-range of genre influences, it’s a little distorted (in the bad way) when listened to as a whole. Despite a few party poopers, “Happy Birthday” is definitely worthy of a volleyball laden, keg-stand style, beachside fiesta.
Words: Lori Bartlett
“Happy Birthday” by Happy Birthday
Sub Pop Records
March 16, 2010
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