Review Revue: Beat Happening x2

One thing that’s cool about writing these blog posts is that people actually read them, and sometimes even comment! That makes me very happy, and I will try to please my readers/commenters whenever possible. Someone recently asked that I check on some old Beat Happening records to see whether the opinions on Calvin Johnson’s seminal Olympia lo-fi project would be as negative as they imagined. I was curious, too, so I went and grabbed a couple records. I thought it would be interesting to show the development of opinion over the years, so I’m posting two albums for your perusal: the self-titled 1985 debut and their antepenultimate album, 1991’s Dreamy.

It’s worth noting that initial opinion in 1985 does seem to have been generally positive — enough for people to chime in over the years with their updated opinions. Dreamy seems to elicit a more mixed response, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the quality of the album or people’s impressions of and feelings about the band after several years.

Beat Happening (12/11/1985):

“Acoustic pop rockers having fun down in Olympia.”

“Produced by Wiper Greg Sage. Try ‘Bad Seeds’!”

“Sweet and sloppy, yes, but this record has been picked up by Rough Trade. Oh my.”

“It’s 1988 now, and I like this more than I used to.”

“It’s 1990 and this still sounds great!”

“H! Please!”

“Why should I feel crummy for being tired of Olympia, American guitar minimalism & ivy league haircuts? I’m not gonna take it anymore!!!”

“But what pleases you, Jon? Sincerity is all we can expect.”

Dreamy (2/24/1991):

“You’ve head the best of this album already, so with that the album is sort of disappointing. But it is good. It’s got all the quirkyness [sic] that you love in this band.”

“I still love Beat Happening but this LP is so subdued & muffled. They even remixed some of the sparks outta RHW & NS.”


“Calvin’s a geek. This is lame.”

“Long live the Calv. This rules!”

“She + he sing great. Nothing’s worse than a real singer!”

“She can’t SING!!!”

“He can’t either! Oh my God, are we being duped?” (For the life of me, I can’t figure out if that’s a sarcastic response to the previous comment or not.)

“Yes, she can — better than ever, in fact. Calvin’s not so bad either. Why so mean?! Be nice, please.” (Obviously this person is new to the scene… “nice” does not generally seem to be a requirement here.)

“Nowhere near as good as Black Candy in my humble opinion.”

“Yew. Finally someone who agrees with me. This LP isn’t bad, but compared to other BH, it pales.”

“I three.”

“My fav’s are still ‘Red Head Walking’ & ‘Nancy Sin.’ Some of the songs that Heather does vocals on fall short. (But not ‘Left Behind’ — it’s great!) ‘Hot Choc. Boy’ is great!”

“I think ‘Collide’ is really swell.”

“(I don’t!)”

“‘I-5′ sounds really good when you accidentally broadcast it at the same time as a Willie Dixon song.”

“Getting paid to love this is great because I’d love it anyway. Arch your back and dig that primitive beat.”

“Yay! And nice cover thanks to x-KCMU stud, Art Aubey. I love BH!”

“Boy, oh boy! Great band great album.”

“The emporer [sic] has no clothes.”

“Yeah & he looks fine w/out ‘em. Damn!”

That last exchange I think sums up the pro/con camps on Beat Happening and Calvin Johnson admirably. Let’s all just agree to disagree, shall we?

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  1. Jay
    Posted August 1, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Calvin is amazing and stays solid with his off beat charm. These are hilarious too:

  2. Alex
    Posted August 23, 2008 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Hey, I was the guy who asked for these. Thanks for putting ‘em up. It’s true: the first album is better than dreamy. I guess it’s nice to see that they had early support. I had imagined that there would have been a lot more negativity given the stories in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Again, thanks.

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