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Beat Happening



Since getting started in the Pacific Northwest in the early '80s, Beat Happening have helped to inspire a generation of young musicians who shared a profound distaste and distrust for major label record companies. They made music completely on their own terms and did so in such an effortless -- almost laconic -- fashion that they almost seemed to be pointing out to the legions of rebellious kids out there, "hey, you don't have to sound like the flavor of the month, all you have to do is sound like yourselves." Theirs was a thoroughly unorthodox, unprecedented sound that seemed to take punk and pop and move them backwards in time to a nascent, almost embryonic stage of development.

And listening to Beat Happening really does make you feel younger somehow, not in a naĆ­ve way, but in an innocent, careless way. Their bassless, lo-fi sound just squiggles along like fast clouds on a pretty, sunny afternoon, reminding you to stop worrying so much. Calvin Johnson's mock-serious foghorn baritone and Heather Lewis's cheerfully uncomposed alto take turns wandering through the band's songs, singing melody-optional goofball tunes about young love and the like. They trade off guitar and drum duties with the band's third member, Bret Lunsford, making simple songs with such minimal production you almost feel like they?re all playing toy instruments.

And somehow it all works. You listen to Beat Happening and you think two things: one, that the music is wonderful and endearing, and two, that you?ve never been so sure that you are listening to real music by real people, and not to some packaged commodity.

"Our Secret" (1983) and "Foggy Eyes" (1984) are both songs from a 1996 K re-release of early Beat Happening material. While the band never officially broke up, Johnson's commitment to running his label (K) and to his other projects (The Halo Benders, Dub Narcotic Sound System) effectively meant the demise of Beat Happening. However, the members claim to continue practicing together monthly.