Bush Tetras: Happy

happyBush Tetras

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Happy is kind of an interesting entry in the Bush Tetras catalogue. I first listened to it without researching it at all and found it to have a strange, unstuck-in-time kind of quality. You could definitely hear their late 70’s-early-80’s roots, but it was beefier and more produced. In overall style and sound quality, I would have placed it in the mid 90’s. Turns out I have a pretty astute ear, because the album was recorded in 1998, but wasn’t released until now. Major alt-rock producer Don Fleming produced the album for Polygram and it was shelved when that label got sold.
Musically, it’s somewhere between Helium and later Siouxsie and the Banshees. The instruments are heavy and forceful, straight ahead, but not afraid to veer into weirder territory. The guy who produced Sonic Youth’s Goo obviously knows what to do with this material. There’s also plenty of that classic Bush Tetras guitar dissonance, but unfortunately the album isn’t very funky, which is kind of what they used to be known for. Maybe it’s just a product of it’s time. More likely it’s the absence of original bassist Laura Kennedy, someone who understood the syncopated locked groove as well as anyone who ever picked up the instrument.
So, my friends, this is a 90’s Bush Tetras album. It doesn’t sound much like “Can’t Be Funky” or any of their other early singles and could alienate fans for that reason. However it’s still a damn good album. Most of these songs rock and Cynthia Sley’s voice is as good as ever. I’m glad it was finally released and the world got the chance to hear it. You know what they say, better late than never. In this case it’s true.

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