Happyness // Live Review

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Electrowerkz – November 4th

A year on from their live debut, Happyness are celebrating with an expectant, if reticent, near-full house at Islington’s Electrowerkz. The south London trio bring to the stage a statue of Christ, a birthday cake and the sort of sardonic quips you might expect from a band whose lyrical concerns include refrigerated girlfriends and John Coltrane’s retirement plans.

Youthful frontmen Benji Compston and Jonny Allan swap pecks on the cheek for luck and then strike up ‘You Come To Kill Me?’ while the soundman gets to grips. It’s all still a bit uptight during ‘Great Minds Think Alike…’ a misanthropic shrug set to US-soaked underdog-rock that reaches out to the ghosts of Weezer and The Lemonheads: the catchy, diverting chorus, “You’re Cheesy But You Don’t Know”, should be a great singalong.

As the band strive to ignite, Compston and Allan trade guitar and bass duties, both deploying a similar line in chunky root-fifth basslines and flurries of off-kilter six-string squeals. They intersperse quicker, fleshier slacker rock with downtempo indie pathos – tracks such as ‘Baby Jesus, Jelly Boy’ sound all the more disturbed for their fragility.

“The problem with writing your setlist on a cake is it’s quite hard to read,” admits Compston, as the stage props start to assume relevance ahead of the feel-good fuzz of single ‘Anything I Do Is All Right’, the track of the night thus far and a signal that the trio may have hit their stride, before they drop another insouciant blues, ‘Pumpkin Noir’: a passive-aggressive soundtrack of suburban suffocation. The sparse shuffle of ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ then crescendos into relative frenzy.

First single, the breezy ‘Lost On You’, is saved for the encore and even inspires a polite mosh pit. It’s followed, for reasons only known to the band, by a karaoke-like take on a Katie Melua hit. The joke falls flat, somewhat surprising from a group whose rapid advance owes much to their smart wit. As Allan revealed when borrowing a lighter from the crowd and applying it to the candle on the cake, the band actually made their live debut only 362 days prior. That’s a short time to master the trick of channeling lyrical cynicism and understated sonics into energising, captivating live performance. It may take Happyness a few more weird little birthday parties before they fully pull it off, but there’ll be no shortage of interested guests to watch them doing so.

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Buy: Happyness – Weird Little Birthday