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Thursday, August 21, 2008

WRONG TURNS PLAGUE HAPPY VALLEY'S NEW EFFORT

Posted on Thu, Aug 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Mutanten
Label: Sleepy Bird Orphanage
Length: LP
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Mutanten

Even for those hip to the area's most peculiar band, Happy Valley's latest is confounding. On their first full-length album, the arty, if not necessarily high-minded, Orlando trio deviates from their signature wobblecore blend of primal punk noise and left-field humor.

Here, their whim wanders into more atmospheric waters. Rock, noise, prog, psych, electronica and pop all mingle to further Happy Valley's standing as a taxonomic oddity. The sleek lines of the pronounced synthesizers bend their language in a retro-futuristic Tomorrowland direction ('Metallic Birdsâ?�). Their vocal expression is significantly broadened, encompassing howls, groans and even straight-up croons.

These palette expansions yield mixed results: The cosmic keyboard flights meander and lose their point too often, and an unfortunate lack of tune also emerges ('Hybreeder,â?� 'House of the Prophetsâ?�). But standard metrics don't apply neatly to such a notoriously outlandish act. Oblique and seldom serious, Happy Valley exists on an otherworldly frontier and Mutanten is the embodiment of this spirit. The album's lyrics actually include the word 'cloaca,â?� and its primary themes involve monsters, mutants and coping in an interspecies reality. Or something like that.

The record's apex, 'Hollywood Monster,â?� bounces with ditch-digging grooves and struts with big rock & roll swagger. 'Don't Look Outsideâ?� marries the synthetic and organic in a way that would make Grandaddy proud, while 'Competitionâ?� is a surprisingly straightforward pop song that's simple and intimate.

Mutanten is a curious collection. The experimental commitment is commendable, but this outing lacks the visceral punch of Happy Valley's previous work. That the album's most salient moments are the harder-rocking ones proves that they're best as heavy-hitting weirdos.

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