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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Beat Happening: Dreamy


1) Me Untamed; 2) Left Behind; 3) Hot Chocolate Boy; 4) I've Lost You; 5) Cry For A Shadow; 6) Collide; 7) Nancy Sin; 8) Fortune Cookie Prize; 9) Revolution Come And Gone; 10) Red Head Walking.

And the growth process goes on and on, and here is where we reach a stage where there is almost nothing left that could rekindle those old feelings of endearing cuteness. The primitive guitar melodies stay strictly primitive, while the lyrics strive towards increasingly meditative, introspec­tive, impressionistic poetry — which creates an unpleasant imbalance: you'd think that more so­phisticated wordplay exercises deserved a songwriting jolt as well, but no, these guys are just too lazy or too stubborn to come up with better melodies.

At least Heather gets to sing three whole songs, two of which sound exactly the same and one of which (ʽCollideʼ) sounds like an early Sonic Youth demo. Her twee-ness makes it easier to sit through Calvin's usual deconstructed surf-rock stuff, which shows no progress whatsoever from the previous album. Only one tune somehow stands out, both because it's longer than the rest and because it is the closest so far that they have come to amateur-emulating the Velvets: ʽRevolution Come And Goneʼ, a song not about any actual revolutions, but rather about a love-and-hate re­lationship with strong sexual implications — however, the rhythm guitar work and the inflection-free vocals are so mind-numbing that I'd rather have me 17 minutes of ʽSister Rayʼ than have to listen to yet another four minutes of this song.

In fact, fourth time around it is clear that the formula has finally «locked in», and that Dreamy is a proposition strictly for those who have already been converted. Yes, these songs are still catchy in the same way that early Beach Boy songs like ʽSurfin' Safariʼ were catchy, or Jan and Dean, or Link Wray, etc., but these are not freshly invented hooks (fans of early Sixties rock will probably find no new melodic moves whatsoever), and their execution leaves everything to be desired — so there's really nothing except for an abstract «lo-fi aesthetics» left to defend them. And there is nothing I can say about songs like ʽMe Untamedʼ, ʽHot Chocolate Boyʼ, or ʽNancy Sinʼ that I have not already said about their earlier tunes, so why say anything? My limited time subscription to this aesthetics ran out with Jamboree anyway.

Bottomline: if you are a fan of running once fresh, but eventually quite stale artistic jokes so deep into the ground that nobody except you can even see them anymore, Dreamy is there for you. I, however, feel more bored by its thirty minutes than if I'd had to spend all that time listening to a Grateful Dead jam. You get similar reactions from late period Ramones, but at least late period Ramones didn't have to harbor an irrational pride for shitty production, poor playing, and offkey singing. Which is too bad, because Calvin's lyrics are actually getting better — he's got quite a unique way of looking at relationships now, and with a slight change of aesthetics, I could see how something like ʽCry For A Shadowʼ might have been reworked into a really efficient, even therapeutic love song. Unfortunately, I cannot at all stomach this approach to «being different»: when your music makes Lou Reed seem like the Jascha Heifetz of electric guitar, you know you're taking huge risks, and I believe that, if you think in context, Dreamy is where they reach the end of the line. Thumbs down.

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