Record of the Week

Beat Happening „Look Around“

Beat-Happening-„Look-Around“-(Domino)Beat Happening
„Look Around“

I cannot help, but touch upon my own personal history in reviewing this. There was a surprisingly good recordstore in the rainy mid-sized town that I am from called “Plattenbörse”. The “Independent” section, which is where I noticed the term in relation to music for for the very first time, was stocked by a ‘rude boy’ by the name of Bruce, who went about doing so with a lot of knowledge and taste. The label “Beat all the Tambourines” was located In the next town along, which is called Altena. In 1989 the label released the sampler “Diamonds and Porcupines”, which reached the local recordstore via Bruce and then eventually I got my hands on it. This sampler changed my life. I listened to Wedding Present for the first time and knew right away that this must certainly be the only way how the guitar ought to be played. No doubt about it whatsoever. Calvin Johnson contributed two songs to the sampler – “Sand” by his pretty much forgotten about band Go-Team (not to be confused with (Go! Team) and then “Cast a Shadow” by Beat Happening. I failed to notice that it was the very same singer on both tracks, since I thought that in this brand new world, which I had just discovered for myself, singers simply sounded that way.
I also failed to notice how imperfectly the vocals were done, I just felt their nonchalant immediacy that stemmed directly from just that. The drums rumbled in a manner which even Moe Tucker would have been impressed by and the out of tune guitars softly stung in your ears. It is important to remember that what nowadays has been firmly established as “non-conformist indie-music” and in a domesticated version serves as backdrop for commercials, back then was a very secretive affair and extremely exciting.

Both as musician and label head of K records Calvin Johnson has had a major influence on the history of independent music by for instance being an early supporter of Riot Grrl-bands and being an inspiration for Kurt Cobain. Beat Happening remained a well kept secret as they refused to be optimised and have their sound evened out in order to appeal to a mass audience.

The collection of songs that are being discussed here are testament to the indestructable enduring quality these rather immature, yet extremely cool, simple, yet well crafted pieces possess. A line like “Cast a Shadow in my Direction”, which I first listened to at the age of fourteen on the headphones at Plattenbörse and translated into German at the age of twenty-eight for my first record still gets me as much right now, ten years further down the road.
I can, however, not support the thesis concerning the plurality of styles, which was established in the record info.
Jens Friebe


Translation: Tanita Sauf

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