During one particularly anthemic moment of LA indie poppers Grouplove‘s debut full-length, Never Trust a Happy Song, Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper nearly shout, “We don’t need permission/We can go where we wanna go, say what we wanna say, and do what we wanna do.” It’s simultaneously rebellious, childish, and instantly appealing. Who doesn’t want to throw up that insubordinate middle finger every once in a while? Most of all, though, throughout the course of the album, that line proves to be honest, because whatever they want is what the quartet spends the entirety of their record doing.
With the success of “Colours” and “Naked Kids” from 2010′s Grouplove EP, the band could have easily adhered to that formula for their full-length, pumping out sunny jams about skinny dipping and “naked kids, running wild and free.” Instead, they chose to experiment and test the limits of their abilities and sound. The results? A lot of them work; and some fall short. But even with that being said, for a debut, it’s a fun, promising effort from a band who has already established themselves as a live show mainstay in the indie realm.
The first third of the album, including bouncy opener “Itching on a Photograph”, picks up right where the EP left off, rich with handclaps and Zucconi’s now-characteristic vocals sliding in and out of sustained notes. The lyrical depth is limited to lines like “Love will save your soul,” but that doesn’t make them any less danceable and life-affirming. The experiments start with “Slow”, an aptly named track following “Colours”. Its lethargy and ultimately underwhelming vocals compound into a sizable buzzkill, only to be furthered by “Betty’s a Bombshell” a few tracks later. The overly dramatic chorus there renders the song a feeble attempt at an arena rock ballad. The bad news ends after that, though, as rockabilly-indebted “Chloe” and country-tinged “Cruel and Beautiful World” more than pick up the slack. The carefree, abandonment-of-authority energy of “Chloe” is contagious and radio-ready, and the tantalizing, twangy vocal harmonies on the latter showcase a vocal talent usually obscured by sheer excitement’s shrieks.
On the whole, Never Trust a Happy Song is an album of, well, happy songs – songs with an undeniable zest for life, completely irresistible. And, despite the title, it’s difficult not to trust the bright melodies and look forward to what Grouplove has up their flowing, flowery hippie sleeves next.
Essential Tracks: “Chloe”, “Cruel and Beautiful World”