[sic] Magazine

Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday

If you’re going to do college-rock properly you have to be at least a little infantile. No matter how much they’d like you to believe to the contrary, college kids are mostly just that (although a quick Google search will show some of them to have decidedly adult interests). Happily, this Vermont trio have few delusions of adulthood. They don’t preach polemics, fly the flag for philosophy or talk of 9-to-5 routines. They’ve all that to come and aren’t looking forward to it. Happy Birthday is sort of ironic as a band name then, and their sound loveably and consequently dumb. You need look no further than the grungy punk of “Zit” for proof with its latent, pock-marked vitality, stomping rhythm and crass in-jokes.

Luckily, Happy Birthday do not rely on such cheap tricks. “Girls FM” undoubtedly catches the ear with enviable pop and Kyle Thomas ‘s rasping vocal, though it is just the summery, effortless tip of the iceberg as the snotty melodies of “Perverted Girl” show. Throughout the album, they equally plunder indie to produce a repertoire sometimes more in line with the recent earnest efforts of Surfer Blood .

The evergreen Weezer are brought to mind on the breezy harmonies of “2 Shy”, whereas “Cracked” is saved from oiksome wallowing by a last-minute riff and tense undercurrent. Few tracks over stay their welcome and all end tightly. “Subliminal Message” works better than perhaps it should. Built on rising and falling waves of rhythm, Thomas varies his vocal into near falsetto and against lovely guitarwork what appears unoriginal quickly veers toward lightly-psyched indie perfection. It’s not always the case as “I Want To Stay (I Run Away)” goes some way to supporting. It coasts along compliantly but is unlikely to pique many an interest.

Happy Birthday don’t hit hard, they’re too strongly indebted to slackerdom to do so. Yet, they walk away moral victors. Their album may not postpone the onset of mortgage payments, but it’ll put a smile on the face of those in the queue.

Happy Birthday is out now on Sub Pop.