Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Early Days of SS1/2

While waiting for the new Sun Sawed in 1/2 album to come out it is time to talk about the band's first release available to public. Apparently there was a “self-titled cassette” in the very early 1990s but it hasn't been made available on iTunes or elsewhere. The Happiness and Other Short Stories (1992) is a release of seven songs, making it an EP or mini-CD rather than a full album. Even though I wouldn't necessarily recommend making this the first Sun Sawed in 1/2 release you ever listen to, it is a must-hear for anyone who enjoys this band and especially for those who love the band's early neo psychedelic sound as much as the later more straighforward rocking power pop sound.

The overall sound here is very similar to the following release Hot Feet for Monkey God, which is quite different from the direction the band would take on the 1995 album Mind Flip. In the early years the band was very much into making the psychedelic influences show. There are lovely organ sounds everywhere as well, clean or wah wah guitar sounds, cool saxophone, as well as very energetic drum work. It is obvious that a lot of work went into planning the arrangements, and the result is excellent. Tim Rose's songwriting pen was sharp when making this album and his work of high quality and adventurous – just like today. As always, extra points go to lead vocalist Doug who sounds just as amazing as everything he has since contributed to music.

Everything is very well balanced which makes The Happiness and Short Stories a lovely thing to listen to. It doesn't rock as much as the later stuff but that is why it makes a nicely different companion for Mind Flip and Fizzy Lift: more serene, subtle and mysterious music with more focus on details, soundscapes, and psychedelic feel.

The interesting part of Happiness is that there are some very unique moments that you are not going to hear anywhere else in the SS1/2's discography. For instance, there is a very charming song called Down, sung by Ken Rose – and it is the only song written by him to appear on a SS1/2 album. Very interesting, I say! It is a very nice song, too. After that, you get the only Sun Sawed in 1/2 tango I have ever heard: Sonrise Serenade. The song has some very interesting turns towards the end, check it out! Bed of Roses is a really catchy one, and the final song She's Known to Levitate is obviously my personal favorite here. I also enjoy Hippity Hop, an image from childhood, the melancholic title track The Happiness, as well as Incredible Journey. I would say that this release begins really well and gets gorgeous towards the end.

All in all, many of the things that made Hot Feet for Monkey God a fabulous album already appeared on this previous release. I love The Happiness and Short Stories all the way. I think it is cohesive despite most of the songs being quite different from each other.

So... I have covered the entire Sun Sawed in 1/2 back catalog. The next SS1/2 review/analysis will be about the whole new album Elephants into Swans... Really! I can't wait to hear it.

Here is some pre-Happiness footage:

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