Perhaps we shouldn’t trust this five-piece’s summery vibes, as there is a distinct veneer of happiness which is undercut by songs with deeper tones of regret and sadness. The title is not so much a statement, but more of a rhetorical question on how shallow these sort of joyful tunes may really be.
Nevertheless, Grouplove, a reasonably well-tipped band from where else but the oxymoron that is Los Angeles, start off innocently enough. Although the lyrics are somewhat laughable at the beginning of opening track ‘Itchin’ on a Photograph’ (“I’m itching on a photograph/I’m scratching on a thermostat”), you get the immediate sense of the rhythm that the band are able to pull off with a really energetic chorus and drum beat, followed up with a slight sense of nostalgia which again gives you the impression of a dystopic edge that accompanies their songs that, on the surface, seem light and breezy.
‘Spun’ is one of the highlights of the album. The song perfectly encompasses the quick and care-free attitude, with lyrics rattled off to try and make as much of all the available time, but this is also parodied against the rushed tempo, and emotional state of not being able to think quick enough, making mistakes and finding yourself out of control. Grouplove make full use of harmonic vocals and repetition that shouldn’t work (Are you lost son, / are you, are you, lost son?) but somehow, it just does. ‘Colours’ is on the same level but a little more refined, yet still manages to fit eight separate colours into a quick line in about the same length of time. The cacophony of noise could be considered overwhelming, but it calms down enough for you to make sense of it, especially when lead singer Christian Zucconi’s unexpectedly details what appears to be a suicide. His vocal style, so akin to Modest Mouse is perhaps slightly outplayed here by the emotional drama. However, the band do show off their ability to at least to be able to understand other varieties of song making with ‘Betty’s Bomb Shell’ a clever song with catchy lyrics, to attempt to create a traditionally styled love song.
However, there are many points at where the band’s nonsensical lyrics and teen pop ambitions really let Never Trust a Happy Song down. ‘Naked Kids’ is such an example, which has no meaningful value, and is a poorly constructed excuse for a song, which would be more at home as a b-side to a Justin Bieber album. It tries to appeal to someone for which the average age I can only assume is 13, and does so unsuccessfully.
Overall though, this is a unique band and although the album is marred in contradictions, Grouplove can pull off a switch between the two distinctive moods quite well and although the album drifts dangerously close to unsubstantial college rock, and at times actually unfortunately cross that borderline, they’re a unqiue happy-go-lucky, fast paced group and well worth a listen.
6 / 10