Saturday, June 11, 2016

Beat Happening Look Around & Show # 607


Named after the band’s 1987 single, Look Around is a 23-track anthology compiling music from the highly influential indie band Beat Happening. Forming in 1982, Beat Happening recorded and released five full-length albums, four EPs and several singles in that time period before they stopped performing in 1992. In addition to this, band member Calvin Johnson also co-founded the seminal independent music label, K Records. Based out of Olympia, Washington, Beat Happening and K Records spearheaded the indie/lo-fi music movements through both their primitive, simple, yet effective sound and K Records releases which shared a similar mindset.

Beat Happening are a three-piece band comprised of Calvin Johnson (vocals/guitar), Heather Lewis (vocals/guitar/drums) and Bret Lunsford (guitar/drums). There was no bass player in Beat Happening. While people often identify with Johnson’s low baritone vocal tone, his powerful presence and the songs that he sang, Heather Lewis provided not only vocals and guitar on songs that she wrote for the band, she would also play drums on several tracks. The band would often change instruments depending on the song. Her part in Beat Happening would also be influential on the riot grrrl music movement of the 1990s. The band’s primitive sound also featured a lyrical style, which has been described as childlike. Many of the songs display a certain kind of innocence, but in most cases also have darker undertones. They have also been described as being twee pop, which is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the UK in the mid 80s. Through the bands DIY aesthetic, there an element of complexity that creeps up on the listener.

Look Around features many pivotal songs in the band’s catalogue and a few other surprises, all of which were selected by the band for this release. “Indian Summer” is a slow and hazy track and perhaps Beat Happening’s best-known song. On this track, Johnson sings of having breakfast in a cemetery, young love, French toast, molasses, croquet and baked Alaska while the slow moving slightly out of time drum beat follows a mirage-like guitar riff. This song has been covered by numerous artists since its original release and still holds an interest with fans and listeners alike. Amongst the 23 songs on Look Around there are songs such as, “Other Side” a jangly pop song from the band’s 1989 album Black Candy sung by both Johnson and Lewis, along with “Cast A Shadow” which may be one of the band’s strongest songs. There are heavy, fuzzed out garage rock songs “Nancy Sin”, “Pine Box Derby” “Bewitched” which conjure up lyrical images of forbidden love, witchcraft and crushes. Apparently when recording “Bewitched” for1988’s Jamboree one of Bret Lunsford’s guitar strings got stuck on a screw that was sticking out of his guitar. He did not stop the song, but played it with an increasing intensity until it became unstuck.

In “Foggy Eyes” Heather Lewis sings “Keep your eyes shut and live your life/someone else will pay the price” tapping into a sense of the nostalgia and a sense of the unknowing, “In Between”, “Left Behind”, “Fortune Cookie Prize" and “Noise” are all songs sung by Lewis also featured in this set. “Godsend” another track sung by Lewis, is a captivating, almost nine and a half minute trance-like song. “Angel Gone” ends Look Around as its 23rd track. “Angel Gone”, is a slow, catchy jangly pop song featuring Johnson’s trademark low baritone voice combined with higher vocal harmonies by Heather Lewis. This song was released as a one off single in 2000 with the song "Zombie Limbo Time" as the B-side.

At the end of the set, I’m drawn back to the words and slightly out of time rhythms of the song that this anthology was named after, “Look Around”. In the lyrics, it at first listen seems to be a simple love song about a boy that loves a girl who loves another. However, when you pay close attention it is actually the story of a woman that the singer of the song knows is no good for them, but he doesn’t care. It ends with the line “If a black cats gonna cross my path/It might as well be you". This line adds further emphasis with a different type of lyrical tone. Much like the songs of Beat Happening, there are layers, with darker undercurrents that seep in amongst their simple and at times seemingly innocent songs. You don’t have to look very far to find what makes a band like Beat Happening still relevant today. And with rumoured reissues of the band’s five albums and 2003's rarity/B-sides album, Music To Climb The Apple Tree By on vinyl coming soon, this anthology is a good place start.



Saturday Night Playlist:

1. The Cool Rays - Diary Of You
2. The Go-Team - Bikini Twilight
3. Beat Happening - Cast A Shadow
4. Beat Happening - Foggy Eyes
5. Burning Hell - Men Without Hats
6. Code Pie - Hands
7. Pity Sex - A Satisfactory World For Reasonable People
8. Andre Williams - I Wanna Go Back To Detroit City
9. Mike Watt & The Missingmen - Up To My Neck In This
10. The Minutemen - Afternoons
11. So Duh Pop! - The Rest You Know
12. Calvin Johnson - Love Will Come Back Again
13. James O-L & The Villains - Dumpsters
14. Shotgun Jimmie - Love Letter
15. Pow Wows - Killing Me
16. Indian Wars - Carol Anne
17. The Monkees - Gotta Give It Time
18. The Creations - Crash
19. The Mockers - Madalena
20. Burdocks - Room Temperature
21. Young Rival - Heard It All Before
22. The Halo Benders - Your Asterisk
23. The Hive Dwellers - Streets Of Olympia Town
24. Dub Narcotic Sound System - Industrial Breakdown
25. Walrus - Fur Skin Coat
26. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Wanted Man
27. Hooded Fang - Miscast
28. Beat Happening - Nancy Sin
29. Beat Happening - Angel Gone

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for June 11.

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