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Grouplove Never Trust a Happy Song Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Encapsulates all the joys and sorrows of this emotional rollercoaster known as life.

Mischa Pearlman 2011

"If it makes you happy," Sheryl Crow once mused, "then why the hell are you so sad?" It’s a question that could well be reversed and asked of California five-piece Grouplove, whose hotly anticipated debut album is finally a tangible prospect. While its songs – on their glossy, shiny, chirpy, summery surface – seem full of ebullient joy, underneath that buoyant exterior, there’s a lingering, ineluctable sense of melancholy. The first thing, however, that strikes you about these 12 songs is just how different they are. Not necessarily from other bands around today – although that’s true to an extent – but from each other; just how much, in this album’s 47 minutes, it shifts sounds.

The breezy, doe-eyed, wistful opener Itchin’ on a Photograph is redolent of their first, self-titled EP, where, like that record’s lead track, Colours, there’s more than a hint of Modest Mouse to Christian Zucconi’s vocals and the song’s soaring yet delicate melody. It’s upbeat but wistful, life-affirming yet jaded – akin, perhaps, to experiencing the hangover of a crazy night out while still downing the cocktails.

It’s a paradox that runs through the whole album. Tongue Tied is similarly caught between two polar opposites, its sentiment at beautiful odds with its bouncy tune; while the aforementioned Colours and the whimsical Lovely Cup, although seemingly nonsensical at first, soon reveal themselves as full of emotional instability. Slow – a dark, spectral song, and one of a few on which keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Hooper takes centre stage – completely shifts the musical focus of the record, something which Naked Kids, replete with its Bran Van 3000-esque slow-motion ‘rap’ takes full advantage of, while it emulates the perfect California day.

Elsewhere, Betty’s a Bombshell is a lilting story song that glides with syrupy harmonies, Love Will Save Your Soul an immediately hummable, optimistic, energetic (and wonderfully naïve) romp, and penultimate number Cruel and Beautiful World a downbeat, rain-soaked ode to the best and worst things in life, all of which is captured in its simple but powerful chorus. Then, Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten ends the album with bittersweet poignancy. Never Trust a Happy Song is far from a cohesive album, but that actually works to its advantage – because it encapsulates the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, of this emotional rollercoaster known as life. Live it – and (Group)love it.

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