Recording >WRONG TURNS PLAGUE HAPPY VALLEY'S NEW EFFORT
Even for those hip to the area’s most peculiar band, Happy Valley’s latest is confounding. On their first full-length album, the arty, if not necessarily high-minded, Orlando trio deviates from their signature wobblecore blend of primal punk noise and left-field humor.
Here, their whim wanders into more atmospheric waters. Rock, noise, prog, psych, electronica and pop all mingle to further Happy Valley’s standing as a taxonomic oddity. The sleek lines of the pronounced synthesizers bend their language in a retro-futuristic Tomorrowland direction (“Metallic Birds”). Their vocal expression is significantly broadened, encompassing howls, groans and even straight-up croons.
These palette expansions yield mixed results: The cosmic keyboard flights meander and lose their point too often, and an unfortunate lack of tune also emerges (“Hybreeder,” “House of the Prophets”). But standard metrics don’t apply neatly to such a notoriously outlandish act. Oblique and seldom serious, Happy Valley exists on an otherworldly frontier and Mutanten is the embodiment of this spirit. The album’s lyrics actually include the word “cloaca,” and its primary themes involve monsters, mutants and coping in an interspecies reality. Or something like that.
The record’s apex, “Hollywood Monster,” bounces with ditch-digging grooves and struts with big rock & roll swagger. “Don’t Look Outside” marries the synthetic and organic in a way that would make Grandaddy proud, while “Competition” is a surprisingly straightforward pop song that’s simple and intimate.
Mutanten is a curious collection. The experimental commitment is commendable, but this outing lacks the visceral punch of Happy Valley’s previous work. That the album’s most salient moments are the harder-rocking ones proves that they’re best as heavy-hitting weirdos.