Monday, November 18, 2019

Really Really Happy - The Muffs

Really Really Happy
The Muffs
Sympathy for the Record Industry  SFTRI 749

I was listening to "She Rocks" on KXLU a few weeks ago when I heard them play a bunch of Muffs songs to open the show.  At first I was delighted, but then I realized this could not be good unless Kim Shattuck was there with them in the studio.  Alas that was not the case, she had died of ALS and they were playing a tribute to her.  I was shocked.  I had just seen her and the Muffs at a show a few years ago where Shattuck performed with her usual exuberance and vitality.  ALS seems a particularly cruel disease for someone who was such a dynamic and energetic person.  Even as she was dying she had the will and determination to complete the final Muffs album which I find touching and inspiring.  This was the Muffs' fifth album.  My favorite record of theirs is "Blond and Blonder" but I don't have it on vinyl.  I love this one almost as much though, so I think it is a worthy record for a tribute to her.  It is more subdued than the first four albums, more power pop than pop punk with a cheerful feel to it as reflected in its apt title.  Long time fans might miss the force of the earlier albums, Shattuck rarely even cuts loose with any of her trademark screams.  I find it charming myself and appreciate her attempt to change her style without sacrificing her integrity.  She delivers 17 delightful pop songs that make me feel really really happy just as advertised.  There are several songs in the familiar Shattuck style - noisy, fast-paced, riff driven songs like "Freak Out," the ebullient "Really Really Happy," "The Whole World," the frenetic "By My Side" and the scream-laden "Oh Poor You."  There is a more pronounced pop feeling and melodic sound to "A Little Luxury," "How I Pass the Time," "I'm Here I'm Not" and one of my favorite cuts, "My Lucky Day" with its exhilarating "wooo's" driving it home.  Numerous songs have a traditional, retro pop sound like "Something Inside," "Everybody Loves You," the doo-wop flavored "Fancy Girl," and the girl group sounding "Slow." I really like the bouncy "Don't Pick On Me" which sounds like a Monkees or Raiders cover.  "And I Go Pow" has a similar garage band sound to it.  "My Awful Dream" is the most unique song on the record and one of the more unusual songs in the Shattuck catalog.  It is an acoustic performance that showcases the expressiveness of Shattuck's voice as she croons the angst laden lyrics.  It even features a harmonica solo.  I love it.  The album closes with the introspective "The Story of Me" in which Shattuck examines the contradictions within her but seems to be happy with who she is which sums up this album rather nicely.  As much as I love the earlier Muffs albums, I have to admit that this one appeals to me more in many ways.  I was quite taken by the ferocious energy and youthful humor of the debut album and "Blond and Blonder" back in the 1990s, but now that I'm older I'm appreciative of the maturity and sensitivity of Shattuck's music on this album.  No one is ever going to mistake her for Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen, but there is a grace and purpose to her lyrics on this album that I find engaging.  Although pop appeal has always been apart of her style, I greatly enjoy the more pronounced melodicism on this album.  The growth displayed on this record makes her premature demise even sadder for me.  I would have loved to hear what directions her music would have taken as she grew older.  She was such a special artist, so bold and creative, I'm really going to miss her.  Recommended to fans of Cub.

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