Beat Happening, “Look Around”
Release date: Nov. 20
Label: Domino Recording Co.
Beat Happening has never been given its fair due in my estimation. Thankfully, the good folks at Domino agree and are doing their part to rectify some of that by releasing an anthology from the Olympia, Washington, three-piece. “Look Around” is a collection of remastered tracks that span the near 30-year history of the band, its five full-lengths and various EPs, 7-inch singles and cassettes alike. Beat Happening became largely, and rightly, known for its embrace of the DIY and punk ethos in the formative and influential ’80s and early ’90s. Vocalist and K Records founder, Calvin Johnson, fostered the ’zine-heavy, independent, pre-Internet scene with releases from the likes of Beck, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill, while influencing Pacific Northwest contemporaries and admirers Kurt Cobain and Sleater-Kinney.
Sonically, the compositions are wonderfully sparse. They are mostly lo-fi, indie-pop gems that are often imitated but rarely replicated. This is in large part to Johnson’s inimitable and standout baritone, Heather Lewis’ perfectly-minimalist drumming and co-lead vocals, coupled with an encouraging lack of technical prowess in recording and musicianship.
My personal favorites on the 23-track, double LP release include “Teenage Caveman,” “Bad Seeds,” “Nancy Sin,” “Noise” and “Red Head Walking.”
Recommended if you like traditional college radio, The Vaselines, Jonathan Richman/The Modern Lovers, Daniel Johnston, Sebadoh or Twerps.
— Jon E. Lynch