Micachu and The Shapes - Good Sad Happy Bad - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Micachu and The Shapes - Good Sad Happy Bad

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2015-09-11

Following the high-profile acclaim for her BAFTA-nominated, European Film Award-winning soundtrack to Under the Skin, you might expect Mica Levi to consolidate her new-found fame as a high-concept composer. Instead, she neatly sidesteps any such concerns on third album proper Good Sad Happy Bad, a record which evolved from an all-night jam secretly recorded by drummer Marc Pell.

Good Sad Happy Bad returns to the clattering junkyard pop of Jewellery and Never. However, aside from moments such as the drum & bass beats of excellent opener ‘Sad’, the atmosphere is more insular, Levi’s vocals often a low murmur rather than the abrasive rasp unleashed on first album highlight ‘Lips’.

Whereas her early work felt like that of a wayward pop genius, and a uniquely English voice, drawing hitherto unsuspected lines of connection between the 60s sunshine psych of Lennon’s ‘I Am the Walrus’ and the nightmarish urban bassbomb of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U’, new songs such as the lazily twinkling ‘Dreaming’ or the queasy ‘Sea Air’ resemble a marriage of Syd Barrett’s idiot-savant folk and Four Tet’s jazzy, mercurial electronica. A less radical combination, perhaps, but still reassuringly weird.

There are some surprises. ‘Relaxing’ and ‘LA Poison’ sound like late-90s Blur at their most lo-fi or, to put it another way, something off Graham Coxon’s early solo albums where he just titted about. But in a good way.

‘Unity’, meanwhile, appears to consist of a chopped and screwed sample of some death metal howling, slapped over a sprightly drum-loop. Mica mutters in the background. That’s your song. And it’s as challenging a listen as that sounds.

Although most of the songs here splutter out before the three-minute mark, there’s still some puzzling filler. ‘Peach’ is just a brief snippet of a lackadaisically strummed guitar and some, admittedly very pretty, keyboard noodling. The point of its inclusion seems to be to underline this album’s origin as a relaxed jam session, but it’s not like we’re listening to The Stereophonics – we don’t really need a reminder of how Levi and co can summon great music from inauspicious sources.

Elsewhere, ‘Thinking It’ has novelty on its side thanks to keyboardist Raisa Khan’s spoken-word monologue detailing a jogger’s mildly depressing deconstruction of why she exercises. It sounds like one of those knowing, twee Belle & Sebastian numbers but with the backing provided by Krautrock crazies Faust.

Overall, there are a few too many slow numbers. It’s hard not to miss the sheer frenetic ebullience that saturated Jewellery, even if, at times, listening to it felt like an exercise in sonic self-flagellation.

Still, it’s an undeniable fact that no one is making music like Micachu & the Shapes. It might be easy to chuck reference points their way, but they sound like no one other than themselves, and it’s clear that the idiosyncratic music they make springs almost fully-formed from their relationship with each other. In the current stultifying climate of UK indie, that has to be celebrated.  

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