Tag Archives: Calvin Johnson

Classic Album Review: Dreamy

Artist: Beat Happening
Full Title: Dreamy
Label: K/Sub Pop
Year: 1991

Track List:
1) Me Untamed- 8
2) Left Behind- 8
3) Hot Chocolate Boy– 10!
4) I’ve Lost You- 8
5) Cry For a Shadow– 9
6) Collide- 6
7) Nancy Sin- 8
8) Fortune Cookie Prize- 8
9) Revolution Come and Gone- 8
10) Red Head Walking– 9

Beat Happening strikes again with their fourth album, Dreamy, their most polished sounding record yet. But, don’t worry it’s still the same minimalist, amatuer sounding Beat Happening you know and love. With this release, it seems like BH matured a bit in their subject matter, especially with tunes like “Me Untamed,” (a far cry from Johnson’s usual coy, lovey dovey lyrics) “Cry For a Shadow,” and “Revolution Come and Gone” (as Michael Azzerad cites, a clear reference to the sudden, apparent, demise of the underground movement). With that being said, there’s plenty of fun, adventerous (at least lyrically), creative, and ultimately joyful numbers. Chiefly, “Hot Chocolate Boy” fits this category; it is by far my favorite in their catalog and one of my all time beloved songs! Just, simple, but enthusiastic playing. If I had to choose one BH number to show to newbies, it would absolutely be HCB; it has nearly everything that made BH excellent. I really dig the line “He’s a sensation, Hot Chocolate Nation.” Overall, I like this album, but I do not favor every track. “Collide” is too repetitive and I often like repetitive songs, even for BH, but this time it’s just annoying. This album is filled with good songs, but only a few great ones. The higher quality production ameliorates the recording, but clearly isn’t the most important ingrediant in audio magic. As I said before, this is a good album, it just lacks an album feel to it, but all in all it is certainly KLYAM Recommended.

Grade B/ B+

P.S. if you go bonkers for Calvin Johnson’s deep, baritone voice, then you will most likely love his vocals here, as they are baritone as fuck…. or you will think he has a stomach ache like my mother says.

Classic Album Review: Beat Happening

: Beat Happening
Full Title: Beat Happening
Year: 1985
Label: K
Track List
1) Our Secret– 8/9
2) What’s Important– 9
3) Down At the Sea– 9
4) I Love You- 8
5) Fourteen- 8
6) Run Down the Stairs– 9
7) Bad Seeds (Live)- 5
8) In My Memory-8/9
9) Honey Pot- 8
10) The Fall- 7/8
11) Youth- 8
12) Don’t Mix the Colors- 8
13) Foggy Eyes- 8
14) Bad Seeds– 9
15) I Let Him Get to Me- 8
16) I Spy– 9
17) Run Down the Stairs– 9
18) Christmas- 7/8
19) Fourteen- 8
20) Let’s Kiss– 9
21) 1, 2, 3- 7
22) In Love With You Thing- 7/8
23) Look Around- 8
24) Untitled- Ungraded

Comments: This is the unflinching, incredible debut from the seminal “twee pop” group Beat Happening. You can call it twee, lo-fi, noise, etc. but ultimately it is Punk Rock- at its finest. In this record, BH, known for their amateur quality/attitude, are at their most primitive; the production is about as lo-fi as it gets before it becomes simply rubbish. On this LP, most songs are astonishingly decent pop tunes, with passion taking the front seat over musicianship. One can hear a lot of 60s surf rock influence as well as the outsider feel of The Shaggs and Half Japanese. Lyrically, most numbers are innocent in nature- “Down at the Sea,” ” Run Down the Stairs,” etc. There are also more than a fair share of love ballads- “Our Secret,” “I Love You,” “Honey Pot,” and the classic “Let’s Kiss.” Admittedly, not every track is good and some do suffer from the lack of “quality” recording and perhaps would have sounded better with a finer studio. My two favorite tracks are definitely “Bad Seeds” ( the guitar riff reminds me of the music in the James Bond Films; a very bad ass song!) and “I Spy.” All in all, this is a pretty nice debut from Beat Happening and it certainly is amongst the annals of “YOU CAN DO IT TOO!” records.

Grade: B+

“Bad Seeds” with clips from Over the Edge (1979)

Classic Film Review: Shield Around the K

Full Title: The Shield Around the K
Director: Heather Rose Dominic
Year: 2000

The title says it all. The metaphorical shield truly represented K’s mythical way of battling the corporate ogre in a unique and highly confrontational manner. For those sad souls out there that are unfamiliar with K, here’s a brief breakdown. K was and still is a defiantly and charismatically independent label; one of the greatest models for how an indepedent label can successfully operate. Calvin Johnson (K founder and Beat Happening frontman) challenged his audience and contemporaries by creating and documenting music that was unabashedly simple, coy, and as far away as possible from the mainstream. These kids challenged the mold of expecation of what a Punk band should look, sound, or act like. By making poppy, “twee,” love rock (as some call it), artists like Beat Happening distanced themselves from not only the corporate world, but also the oft-macho hardcore scene, which was dominating underground music at the time. All in all, this doc does a great job of articulating this important aspect of K Records as well as offering some great archive footage, interviews, and music videos and ultimately a detailed, informative backgound of said topic. One thing I (sorta) didn’t like was the fact that the film focused too much on Beat Happening; after all it was supposed to be about the K label and not about Beat Happening solely. Then again, they and their history are obviously vital to the K tale and since they are one of my all time favorite bands, I don’t mind seeing them on screen. Lastly, this doc features various key figures including, Ian Mackaye, Gerad Cosloy, Slim Moon, John Foster, amongst others. So, if you dig cutting edge (well, then cutting edge) Punk Rock or want to learn more about seminal, underground music then grab some black candy and check it out.

: B+

Classic CD Review: Jamboree

Band: Beat Happening
K/Rough Trade

Comments: Beat Happening is very much a garage pop band. That might sound a little messed up, but what really makes that statement somewhat valid are the simple “punk” drum beats and the feedback heavy guitars. As far as vocals, that’s where Beat Happening is classically “twee” as Calvin and Heather both sound pretty indifferent and “outsider” in their singing. This album is extremely influential for me. There a bunch of songs that I just discovered that are really awesome on here.

Grade: A/A+