The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
y Favorite’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives is a solid gluttonous block of throwback pop, looking squarely over its shoulder at Manchester stalwarts like The Smiths and New Order. Including sixteen tracks and a remix bonus disc, much of the album’s girth is due to its compiling of three separate EPs and four unreleased tracks onto the album. Perhaps the time would have been better spent contemplating future direction. Content to mirror their predecessors without much movement, Michael Grace and Andrea Vaughn, the opposing lead singers of New York City’s My Favorite, offer us little more than a well-posed paean to aging Morrissey-esque pop. Fans of this genre might enjoy this heartfelt update, but as a whole, the album can never be more than a shadow in the gifts of its predecessors.
Lined with sprawling lyrical touchstones like a Joan of Arc motif, mixed Christian symbolism, and the broken-bedroom sorrows of teenage angst, My Favorite subscribes to the non sequitur theory of songwriting, and some of their lyrical stretches are merely overwrought sentimentalism. Couplets like “The suburbs are killing us, asleep when we should be dancing/leave your masterpiece unfinished, asleep when we should be dancing” would grind at your gag-reflex if not for the murky 80s Britpop finishing that keeps them moving. Perhaps deservedly, since their songs house the disembodied voices of the unprotected and muted, they are typically shaded with just enough misdirection to keep their meanings masked. There are breadcrumbs here that you could track, but to follow them would be to miss the retro-adoration they have planned for you.
As I said, this revised edition of pasty English pop is the album’s lifeblood. Channeling the chiming guitars and the combination of tinny organic drums and electronic programming so inescapable in the early eighties, The Happiest Days of Our Lives bears witness to visions of basement-club Blue Mondays; it sounds encased in dark mortar, cinderblock and the dance-sweat of club-hoppers. With sanded-down production for the most part, the album relies all the more on its heady mix of antique synths, ringing guitars, and simple drum patterns, most unfortunately buried in the mix.
Broken down musically into three movements, HDOL’s sequencing pays no attention to the bounds of their EPs. The first five tracks sparkle with second-hand guitar lines from all three EPs, but with the welcome break of “A Cathedral at Night,” My Favorite slips you a micky on the sly. Electronics and haunting effects bring an empyrean stillness to the album’s middle third, and My Favorite begins to reach for its own voice for the first time. All its asylum shards and mad-monk glory, which seemed to surface on intermittent tracks like “Homeless Club Kids,” intersect with these twitching starlit lullabies. “John Dark (Goodnight, Major Tom)” is a crushed piano in a barren music box; its gorgeous simplicity belittles most of their diary poetics. When “The Black Cassette” breaks from the slumbering piano and drooping gloom of “Half There and Dancing” with a return to running guitars and charging drum work, the album’s quiet momentum sputters out.
Eventually, as with most throwback albums, this is the condensation from an era dormant but never dead, one in the first nods of awakening to judge by similar releases over the past year by Laptop and the more-promising Stars. The sounds are teasingly familiar, but for all of its brooding and angst, My Favorite typically fails to instill the listener with any emotional baggage. With New Order promising a new album in the coming year, it’s best to bide your time until then singing along to Low-Life.