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Reviews

Girl Sweat
Bad Happenings Matt Ridout , May 13th, 2016 10:06

When a record is composed and performed entirely by one individual it provides a unique insight into the mind of its creator. While a band can be a complete jumble of personalities, egos, and sensitivities, the only battle the sole musician need face when pursuing their craft is achieving their own satisfaction and creative expression. I'm not suggesting that makes it easier in any way: you could simply replace the compromises and appeasements you would need to consider as part of collective and substitute them with self-doubt or some other crippling insecurities. However, among the best of these artists, the Richard Dawson's, or Grimes, or The Rebel for instance, you will get a complete untinted window into someone else's bonkers reality, step forward Russell Andrew Gray / Girl Sweat.

With Bad Happenings, his first full length release for the prolific Box Records following a number of cassette releases for various labels, Russell offers up an engaging selection of electronic beats and stomping garage rock guitar. His vocals sound as though he’s channeling something between the manic screech of Tomata du Plenty of the Screamers and the spaghetti western drawl of Suicide's Alan Vega, providing the perfect accompaniment to the motorik digitised rhythm and treble guitar.

In fact, the album's opener — the aptly named 'Off The Tracks' — immediately and noticeably recalls Screamers, which is no bad thing at all. The Los Angeles-based synth punk band were a pretty amazing unhinged racket and that's the way we get going on Bad Happenings. Not for the faint hearted, but who wants to hear an album for the faint hearted anyway?

The record continues apace with 'Gasoline Breeze' maintaining the drive and power, all monotonous beats, guitar and gabba gabba hey vocals. By the time we hit the fourth track, 'Under The Tree' we are onto something a little bit different: the tempo has slowed and the heavily-reverbed guitar adds an element of country atmosphere before descending into a complete stomp-fest.

For all intents and purposes, Bad Happenings is a brilliant pop record written and executed by a musician with a keen ear for song structure, hook and melody. This fact could be easily missed with everything peaking into the red but it’s there, before the latter half where things get weird and garage rock makes way for completely abstract noise. It somehow works even though it's very much in contrast to what preceded it. Album closer 'The Floor Swallowed Me Whole' is a solid electronic drone that sounds a bit like a church organ playing over machines breaking down, wrapping up a pretty manic thirty minutes of music.

The mix of garage rock guitar, basic electronic rhythm patterns, brilliant songwriting and utterly batshit vocals make Bad Happenings a total winner. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen that just gets madder and more bizarre as it goes on, which is a testament to its creator's vision and execution.

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