Album Review: Eleven Pop Songs by Happydeadmen (1990) (Ceilidh Productions)

The Happydeadmen were the pioneers of Swedish indie/jangle-pop and without doubt cleared a pathway across Scandinavia for the jangled sensibilities of the likes of the Acid House Kings, The Cardigans, Kings of Convenience and even in latter years the likes of Northern Portrait.

The foundation sound of this debut album is based around the subtle melodic guitar-pop aesthetic of Sarah Records bands such as The Springfields, The Sea Urchins and The Orchids offering the sort of guitar work that always threatened to ‘break free’ but somehow always managed to retain that inimitable sense of restrained musicality that so many people of the era enjoyed.

However, the real appeal to this debut album was that whilst so many bands were providing what was rapidly becoming the typical indie-pop sound of the era, the Happydeadmen were delivering the atypical by layering their Sarah-isms by layering their sound with different mixtures of the cherry-picked brilliance that was available in a burgeoning era of indie-pop brilliance.

As such a track such as Emilia sounds very much like a tribute to earliest Jeanne era The Smiths whereas Swim and Never Love builds upon the Morrissey love-fest by attempting his elongated vocal inflections.

Never Love

Further guitar pop cherries that were picked can be seen in the two singles Silent Sigh City and especially Heaven No! (see below) where the guitar pop tempo is stimulated to such an extent that the listener can begin to expect The Housemartins to embark upon some sort of ‘Happy Hour’ chorus.

It is the sound of northern England but with a clarity and fragility to the jangle-pop that provides it with a definitive unique essence and hints at the sort of the sense of crystalline that many Scandinavian jangle-pop bands of the last 20 years have imbued in their high end guitar work.

Heaven Now!

Perhaps the finest moments of the album though are when the HDM venture further afield from the dominant indie of the time and juxtapose their jangle-pop with the sort of urgent ramshackle and belligerent guitar work that was typifying early 1990’s bands such as The Wonderstuff, Black Cillas and The Corn Dollies

Tracks such as The Age Of Chivalry and 9 Piece Mirror still have that sense of jangle that is always omnipotent in their sound but there is just that slight extra aggression to the tracks that makes them stand out and ensures that the ‘pretty’ is not too sickly sweet and dominant to fully digest.

I remember once being involved in a Twitter conversation about who was considered the ‘jangliest’ of all bands. Different names cropped up including the usual R.E.M, Miracle Legion, The Smiths suspects. Someone then mentioned this band and a winner was instantly declared!

This is jangle-pop at its very best and comes at you from every late 80s and early 90’s angle available…what more could you want?

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