by / October 16th, 2008 /

Guggenheim Grotto – Happy The Man

 3/5 Rating

(Shellac records)

Fresh from the success of their debut, Waltzing Alone (as heard on TV shows Brothers and Sisters and One Tree Hill as well as on Starbucks’ Across the Pond compilation), Happy the Man, Dublin-based Guggenheim’s Grotto’s latest, wears its heart squarely on its sleeve.

At times sugary, its first half is predominantly upbeat: think Aslan, U2 and Paddy Casey. A sunburst of rolling synths on -Fee Da Da Dee’ have the whipped cream nostalgia of Bents’ Ariels, its lyrics a philosophical -Don’t Worry Be Happy’. Even when tied to heartache, instrumentation lightens the mood or lyrics recall good times, instead of wallowing in bad.

In act two, layers fall back as a slow burning torch is lit. The highlight here is the languid -Sunshine Makes Me High’, a track about fine weather that’s too cool to be sunny. Duke Special would be proud of -Lost Forever And’, while the unenthusiastic -Just Not Just’ could be a slower, updated B-side of Bananarama’s -Venus’. For indie kids, it’s this half of the album that holds most interest.

While they can be sentimental, Guggenheim Grotto have a solid pop album here. Arrangements are listener friendly and obvious singles hop out of the woodwork with unpretentious ease. Happy The Man is man enough to laugh anything from a cheesy hit factory right off the stage. Like the much-loved new car smell, the fact that this is a new band is audible: there’s a homegrown freshness here that’s, well, refreshing.

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