Dying Happy

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Recorded at the same time as his first four collections of solo work, but not released until some months after Ugly Beautiful had finally come out, Dying Happy is another somewhat ragtag compilation of never-planned-for-public-listening material. Like the rest, though, it has more than its share of charms, thanks to Stephen Jones' seemingly effortless knack for hooks, and above all, the album's deep blue melancholia. While it's always been something that's cropped up in his work, there aren't any nutty asides like "Bad Jazz" or winsome songs like "Lemonade Baby" here. The emphasis instead is on late night, deep blue moods, with roots in everything from Massive Attack to electronic Krautrock. The opening number "Losing My Hair" is probably one of the most downbeat things he's recorded to date, with a gentle, sad electric guitar line and Jones' falsetto at its most extreme, detailing a desperate love lyric; it makes for a striking beginning, very much setting the tone for the collection. "Tomorrow's Gone" continues the feeling admirably -- an instrumental with buried synth tones and random radio samples that combines with a mixed-low operatic singer (if not Jones, then a great sample of someone). It progresses from there -- percussion loops emphasize the moodier moments, and keyboard lines suggest shadows and a soft drift through dark dreams. Occasional scraps of lyrics surface with great effect, as on "TV," when Jones concludes the song with "Watch the window," a metaphor Thom Yorke would probably kill for. Not that Jones' sense of humor is entirely absent -- labeling one particularly gripping instrumental "When Everyone Speaks English, the World Will Explode" and another with a perversely pretty music box melody "The Unemployable Rub Oil on Her Coffin" are nice touches.

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