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Moping on Sunshine

The Happies - If We Were Really Here
(Eden's Watchtower Records)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 15, 2006
The Happies

Review by Brad Walseth

Remnants of New Jersey's Biddulph Family Band - transplanted to Salt Lake City to follow their Osmondic aspirations - brothers Miles, Nathan and Linwood Biddulph, along with recruits Kiley Mickelsen and Elledge Bowers have a knack for writing dreamy sunny pop music that calls to mind such greats as The Partridge Family and the TV show's real-life inspirations - The Cowsills ("Hair," "The Rain, The Park and Other Things"). But in this world of African genocide, beheaded hostages and Paris Hilton the question remains: do we need another "Indian Lake?" I say - "can't hurt, can it?"

Compared both to modern twees Belle and Sebastian as well as the iconic Silver Beatles themselves, I sense more Americanized influences, such as The Association, and when they are on, The Happies' groovy harmonies shine like (good morning) starshine. "Everything's Fine, Cover Your Eyes" starts things off and is their most successful song - combining 60's harmonies with a thread of modern angst in a wry and delightful combination. "Sun Don't Shine" and "Paw Paw" follow, and are also decent slices of incense and peppermint, but after this the recording slides a bit in quality. Power popper "Geraldine" is half a good pop song, "Polarity" features a nice guitar solo, "Learn How to Pray" is nice, and "Newspaper Friend" leans toward Mersey, but although sugary good at times - nothing really sticks. Perhaps the best song, aside from the opener, is "Eleven" (written by yet another brother, Romney? There are several, Brook also plays trumpet on the recording) in which guest Dylan Schorer provides slick steel guitars over a Neil Youngish drone-y folk song. However, this song (as with many of the others) is nearly ruined by the band's inexplicable decision to have the lead vocalist mumble and moan almost inaudibly under the mix. Perhaps this is an attempt for indie cred, but it doesn't suit their sound and had me running for my ear trumpet. "What's that? Speak up!" If I want to hear mopery - there are plenty of other bands out there and who do the depressive monotone better. A bit of this could work well as a contrast with their bright harmonies, but there is way, way too much on this album and it works against them almost as a form of self-destruction.

That being said, I do believe this group has a great deal of talent and has the potential to write a collection of really great tunes, and although in this particular recording they still feel unfinished and finding their way, doesn't mean I won't be rooting for them to succeed. I just feel they should focus on their harmonic strengths and leave most of the attempts at mopey posturing behind. Drop the mumbling and let those sun voices shine forth to a world that needs it. But then, I still love the flower girl.

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