As you may already have guessed, this band is not of Japan. They are actually from the UK, but live in Barcelona (hey, if I lived in the UK, I would move too). No problem there. Neither do they sound particularly happy. This could be perceived as a problem for a band who cite The Beach Boys as a primary influence. OK, I know that The Beach Boys’ songs were never really as happy as they sounded when you really delved into their deeper connotations. But I digress.
When considering the sound of the Happy Band of Japan, I was more convinced by another cited influence: The Sunburned Hand of the Man. A band who have been criminally ignored, largely because a lot of their music is un-listenable. However, the portion of it which is not, is fantastic. Again, I digress.
As you may have noticed, this debut full-length release from these ex-pat Brits does not do a great job of holding one’s attention. That is not to say it’s boring, the opposite is in fact the case, the music is simply very dense, and not as easy to really absorb as one initially is led to believe. There are no easy hooks or sugary, repetitive choruses. There is some serious complexity here, and that can’t be a bad thing. One thing is for sure: it is anything but boring.
These nine tracks do not sway lazily, but lurch through lots of different sounds, moods and influences. A case in point is ‘Shout it Out’ which flashes you a shamelessly cheesy 80’s synth intro before morphing in an organ-driven verse, before the whole thing descends into a stew of melodic distortion and electronic doodling. At the risk of defining yet another useless subgenre, I would file this CD under “Surfectronica”. It’s got plenty of twinkly 60’s acoustic guitar and swooshing sounds in the background, but buried deeply behind subtly menacing electronica.
The lyrics are unusual and fit well with the bizarre soundtrack, the production has deliberately not brought the vocals to the foreground, but most of them seem to be about love and/or dying. Just as well, in my opinion. There are enough happy-clappy records around anyway. Shame it doesn’t quite manage to grab you upon the first listen, because by the time it does, you’ll probably have given up. Your loss, I guess.