Portland, Ore.’s psych-garage foursome, A Happy Death, is so alternative they have issued its first full-length album, Introducing: A Happy Death, as a cassette tape that comes with a digital download card for those non-analog moments.
The group lives up to its name. Through eight songs (plus a weird, answering-machine intro), lead singer/guitarist Ryan Lella screams out apocalyptic imagery (the epic psych-rocker “Commie Killer,” which is about conflict and carnage) and tales of pain-filled memories (the churning “Wet Dreams,” where midnight thoughts are preferable to a ruined relationship).
Brash guitar, boisterous bass and drums and intensifying organ pulse with a swaggering, sonic turbulence that roars with proto-punk energy, garage-rock enthusiasm akin to early Black Keys, and sometimes sounds like Roky Erickson fronting the Pixies.
Opener “Dirty Mama” is appropriately aggressive. Pumping “Rabbit Hole” is woozy and nihilistic, with the throwaway refrain, “Ah, fuck it, we’re all gonna die.” No surprise A Happy Death borrows their moniker from an Albert Camus novel.
The group closes with dark “Firewalk,” which has a tense tone halfway between Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and is littered with references to mortality and devastation.