“Revivals” are far too common in music today. The currently in vogue, lo-fi indie aesthetic is often a way to hide behind uninspiring song writing, stale ideas and lazy production. However, every so often a band arrives on the music scene that, regardless of how derivative and trite their ideas are, their charm can eclipse their faults.
Happy Diving are the latest example of this, using a comical amount of fuzz (which seems to be a prerequisite for any hyped ‘indie’ band at the moment) to create ‘90s inspired rock that is more than a little reminiscent of early Dinosaur Jr. The vocals are the same dopey, half-vacant delivery that is associated with J. Mascis and distortion laid on so thick you can barely tell they’re playing stringed instruments, yet the group just about skirt around the idea of being a tribute band with great song writing and a tinge of punk influence. They are essentially Dinosaur Jr. founded in a post-Fugazi world.
The amount of breadth on the album is nothing hugely impressive, with many songs blending into one fuzzy, middling, Dinosaur Jr.-esque blur; but songs like the lead single ‘Holy Ground’ showcase the bands more unique side. The thumping quick beat allows the band to reallylet loose with a more aggressive style and establish a sense of identity beyond directly imitating bands from 20 years ago, something they unfortunately do too often throughout. Many of the tracks are around the 2 minute mark, creating an almost disposable feel to the weaker songs which makes the album lack a sense of cohesion but allows for a much wider representation of what the band is really able to do.
Even songs that walk a fine line between imitation and influence such as closing track ‘Bigger World’ still put a unique twist on their obvious inspiration, with the constant crunch of the guitar being both soothing and extremely loud, a contrast made in the mould of mid-‘90s shoe gaze. Slower tracks like ‘Head Spell’ evoke early Weezer; the angst of Pinkerton and the pop sensibilities of the Blue Album are a combination which is impossible to fault.To say the band is derivative is not untrue; but it is unfair.
Fusions of influences and style has always yielded new, exciting music – and whilst the group are not going to be considered great innovators by any stretch of the imagination, they are great amalgamators – think Radiohead’s Kid A, and whilst they are “revivalists” of sorts, what they have created manages to sound fresh, mixing differing parts of the history of fuzz-driven music from noise-rock to shoe gaze to create an (almost) organic sound. Ultimately, whilst music would ideally be a completely linear progression, having a late ‘80s/early ‘90s ‘alternative’ love letter such as this is definitely welcome when it’s done so well.