Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the Aluminum Group Happyness

The Aluminum Group, comprised of the gay brothers John and Frank Navin, have been the unlikely toast of the fashion and design world since the release of Plano in 1998. Despite being named by a line of furniture by Eames, the Aluminum Group aren't exactly the typical type of band you'd expect to play for fashionistas or designers. Instead of being shockingly hip, the Aluminum Group supply their own brand of space age bachelor pad music, with more inflections of Bacharach than the Liquid Liquid groove of the current day's more popular dance-punk.

The Aluminum Group is a soothing lot: there's more comfort than savvy to be had here. If lite-FM or AM-gold were in need of a modern day band to champion (apart from Feist, that is), the Aluminum Group seems an obvious choice. They're like the Association or Strawberry Alarm Clark, but minus the kitsch. The songs are light, but pensive, swathed in the electro-lite that is typical of Chicago bands. It's perhaps telling, then, that the Aluminum Group is as featured on HGTV as they are at the Milan Trienniale.

That's a good starting indication as to what Happyness [sic] is all about. The album is the first of a series of three albums that were to be completed in 3 years, with More Happyness following in the same vein, and Little Happyness, a re-visit of the first two albums in Spanish, still unreleased to date. The album is crammed full of delicate pop gems, much more reliant on melody and less on electronic effects than their previous album Pelo. Part of this could be explained by the fact that they've ditched John Herndon (dubbed Johnny "the Machine Gun" by some Chicago musicians for his rampant drumming); while Herndon seems to understand Tortoise and A Grape Dope extremely well, his forte might not have been in 60's lite pop. Happyness is a more intricate affair, like pastry, but without any allusions to flakiness...

...Well, until you watch their live performance on KRCW, that is. They perform in matching sweatshirts backed only by iPods. It's like watching a gay indie rock Waiting for Guffman

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