‘What Could Be Better’ than a new album from The Happy Fits?
The last concert we saw before lockdown was on a small, dark stage in the back room of a restaurant. We had come to see the openers and were grabbing a bite to eat when we spotted the band, ten feet from our table. We panicked — can we go up and ask for a picture? Is that bad etiquette? One of us didn’t mind being that pushy fan, and far from indignant or condescending, The Happy Fits seemed thrilled to take a photo with us. In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been a surprise; the music of this three-man group bursts with joyful and authentic energy, and in this review of their most recent album, “What Could Be Better,” we’re hoping to highlight the qualities that make this band so special.
In some ways, “What Could Be Better” takes the band in a new direction. Frontman Calvin Langman’s relentless cello strokes, which drive past happy-go-lucky tracks like “Dirty Imbecile” and rock anthems like “Mary” alike, are largely absent. In their place, The Happy Fits have honed their use of harmonies and created a much larger sound for their music. The important things have remained though: a pop-rock-indie sound that exhibits the band’s excellent vocal talent, a diverse catalogue that switches easily from head-banging to side-swaying and — of course — fruit-themed cover art.
The album opens with its first single, released back in June, entitled “Go Dumb.” The boys seem to have taken a page out of Cage the Elephant’s playbook, employing distorted vocals backed up by a snare beat. The song doesn’t quite sound like any others in their catalogue, so it’s clear from the start that this album will be a little different. Still, the bouncy guitar riff post-chorus brings the characteristic levity that makes The Happy Fits such a fun band.
They change gears for the next highlight off of the album, “The Garden.” The cello is back in action here with steady but fluid arpeggios that keep the song moving forward. The main attraction on this track are the Queen-esque harmonies, led by Langman’s fitting falsetto. On a mostly fast-paced setlist, “The Garden” provides a moment of peace.
In a short dip into beach rock, “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)” comes complete with a groovy bass line and maracas. This choice surprised us given the lyrics, as the singer pines for his best friend, who obliviously hopes he finds happiness with someone else. Listening to just the production, though, you’d have no idea. The groovy indie sound will get your hips swaying.
We’ll end with the penultimate track, “Get a Job,” to demonstrate the classic Happy Fits sound. The song rocks pretty hard with it’s production and a brief solo that could have come off the Ramones’ “Road to Ruin.” The punk influence is evident, and as the intro starts, we’re ready to embark on another headbanger. Instead, drummer Luke Gray Davis delivers a beat you can sit back in, giving an otherwise electric song a slightly more relaxed feel.
As we discovered during the concert, the infectious joy in The Happy Fits’ music is completely authentic. The band is just three friends who really love the music they make. A frontman with mad scientist energy and a drummer who sings — what more could you want?
Artist: The Happy Fits
Album: What Could Be Better
Favorite songs: “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)”, “Get a Job”
If you like: Wallows, lovelytheband, Sure Sure
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5