Happy Mondays

Bummed

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Only a year after the intermittently thrilling Squirrel and G-Man, Happy Mondays snapped into focus on its sophomore album, 1988's Bummed. "Focus" is an odd word for the persistently addled, violently hedonistic Mondays, yet Bummed has its own peculiar drug logic, loping into view with the two-stepping "Country Song," a cut so twisted it goes far beyond irony, then settling into the dense groove of "Moving In With," its hook buzzing and circling, causing a cacophony. Such vivid, concrete textures are a hallmark of producer Martin Hannett, the Mancunian legend who has been brought on board to give the Happy Mondays direction by doing the opposite of what he did with Joy Division. His production for Unknown Pleasures was stark, austere, but Bummed is all smeared colors and harsh edges, a fistful of razors and menace cutting viciously into the subconscious. This is nasty, nightmarish music delivered with a lascivious leer by Shaun Ryder, a hallucinatory accidental poet portrayed on the album's garish cover as some kind of harlot put out to pasture. Decadence has rarely sounded as dangerous as it did in the hands of the Mondays and this is where they reveled in that debauchery, pumping out stiff psychedelic funk as Ryder spat out rhymes of luck, lazyitis and fat lady wrestlers. Hannett's bright, brittle production amplifies everything, creating a swirling hyper-reality that's almost a sonic black hole sucking everything into its vortex -- slide guitars, sound clips from "Performance," maniacally looped drum machines, Beatles melodies, drums that are pushed to the front of the mix so it all is a relentless assault, from the ears down to the loins. As jagged and lacerating as all this is, there's a sense of evil glee, that the Mondays want to drag you down to their level, but there's no sense of seduction here; you're either with them or not, as Bummed is music for after you've already succumbed to the dark side.

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