People, by Hothouse Flowers
Suggested by Sara-Jane Davies
A few years ago, my wife and I went on a road trip of sorts with a couple of our American friends. We were driven between Las Vegas and Santa Cruz, in a massive car that had exceptional air conditioning.
To pass the time, we played the Spotify Game. One person bluetoothed their phone to the audio system, and we took it in turns to suggest single songs to stream. Nothing was verboten, so we could slide effortlessly between sweetest ballad and hellacious death metal at the suggester’s whim
A bit like this project, really. Without the randomisation.
It was this trip on which I gained the reputation of being a relentlessly idiotic optimist.
It wasn’t by design. It was just that every time it was my turn to select a song, I’d pick something upbeat. Happy saxophones from Fishbone, then three depressing songs from my carmates. Fabulous dance from the Scissor Sisters, three more dirges. Hell, even my troll choices were there to raise spirits… haw can you not smile when Bernard Cribbins sings Right Said Fred?
I was roundly mocked for my sunny-side-up musical leanings. It was fair, I guess. I do prefer songs with energy, verve, passion, and preferably a metaphorical giggle in the singer’s throat.
People, by Hothouse Flowers, has a number of tracks that conform to the above ideal, and as such, I find it a charming debut. When you infuse your pop music with gospel traits, you can’t avoid a certain exultant exuberance, and for swathes of this album it’s hard to avoid getting swept up in the rapture. The opening track is a great example of this, and would be my favourite song on the album if it weren’t for the 100-pound chart-climbing gorilla in the recording studio, the memorable Don’t Go. It’d take a braver man than me to state a preference for a workaday album track over the band’s biggest chart success of their career.
You’ve obviously guessed, but there is another side to this coin. While there’s plenty of upbeat Yin to titillate my ocelot, there’s also some rather maudlin Yang that fails to oscillate my tit a lot. Songs like Forgiven and Ballad of Kate are pleasant enough, I guess, but to me they feel like a waste of prime real estate. Why sing a sad song, when you could sing hallelujah with your feet a-tappin’ and your eyes shining bright?
People is a pleasant album. I rank it at 6/10. It’s not something I’ll necessarily return to by design, but it’s sure to raise a smile should it find its way back to my stereo anytime soon.