Album Review: Beat Happening - Look Around

11 November 2015 | 11:19 am | Steve Bell

"Rough, raw and incredibly influential."

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Although far from a household name, it's probably impossible to overstate the importance of Olympia, Washington trio Beat Happening on future generations of underground musicians. Starting in 1982 and citing everyone from The Cramps to The Modern Lovers as inspiration for their ramshackle, lo-fi indie pop, they were steadfastly anti-corporate from the get-go, peddling a sweet naivete aimed to confront and offend the rigid ideals of the then in vogue Pacific Northwest post-punk scene.

The band — Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford — favoured guitar and drums (sans bass) for their distinct sound, minimalist in nature but rife with primitive hooks and enticing repetitive melodies. They had no hits to speak of, but career retrospective Look Around shows that whether sung by Johnson (Bad Seeds, Red Head Walking, Bewitched, Indian Summer) or Lewis (Foggy Eyes, Fortune Cookie Prize, Godsend, Noise) Beat Happening's songs were remarkably consistent over their five-album career (their last album was released in 1992, with one further single Angel Gone released in 2000).

In their lifetime (and beyond) Beat Happening would tour with Fugazi (who were inspired by their DIY ethos and refusal to play non-all ages venues), release splits with The Vaselines and The Screaming Trees, be produced by everyone from The Wipers' Greg Sage to The Microphones' Phil Elverum, and influence a river of bands including Nirvana (Kurt Cobain had their K Records logo tattooed on his forearm), Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse and Built To Spill. Rough, raw and incredibly influential.