Beat Happening – You Turn Me On

28 Aug

You Turn Me On by Beat Happening (1992)

I figured I would start the music reviews with a bang (a bang of an album that is…hopefully the review is passable).

You Turn Me On is one of my favorite albums by Beat Happening, one of my favorite artists.  It is Beat Happening’s fifth and final album.  It is also a sonic departure from Beat Happenings earlier repertoire of two-minute, lo-fi, twee-ful pop diddies.  In fact, there isn’t a song under three minutes on the album.

The album begins with Calvin Johnson crooning the melancholic “Tiger Trap,” a stunning introduction to the band’s more developed approach to their own sound.

“Noise” is one of my favorite songs of all time and certainly Heather Lewis’ strongest track.  Following the lyrics one recognizes a more mature and intelligent approach to the silly, purposefully adolescent twee aesthetic.

“Teenage Caveman” unfortunately shares a name with a terrible sci-fi thriller from the early 2000’s.  Too bad.  Fittingly the rawest track on the album, one imagines Bret Lunsford playing the drums with bones instead of drumsticks.  Lewis’ cutesy backup vocals enrich Johnson’s deep bass which makes me question why they didn’t sing together more often.

“Godsend” provides a droning, cathartic core to the album.  Clocking in at just under nine and a half minutes, “Godsend” is the band’s longest song and proof that they can stretch a two-riff, three-chord song as long as they want to.

“Bury the Hammer” offers another impressive vocal trade-off between Johnson and Lewis and textbook Beat Happening minimalism.  I have to admit that I get pouty when I hear the intro: “When they’re gone and the heart is pumping cold.”  Beat Happening reportedly still practice on a monthly basis, but haven’t recorded a track since “Angel Gone” in 2001 (one of my most listened to tracks ever).

Though there are songs that I like more than others, there isn’t a single weak track on the album.  I admittedly do not listen to “Godsend” if I’m rifling through a playlist, but when I listen to this album, it’s always in its entirety.  I am hoping that Beat Happening continues to be revisited and eventually finds their way into the indie rock canon.  Of their five albums two are superb, one is great, one is very ok, and one is meh.  You Turn Me On is the pinnacle.

Rating: *****

“Noise” with an slow-motion Asian jumping rope.

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