Various Artists

Scared to Get Happy: A Story of Indie-Pop 1980-1989

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It's never an easy thing to release a set that attempts to tell the story of a sound, as invariably people will complain that there are worthy bands left off, bands included that shouldn't have been, avenues that are left unexplored, or compilers who just don’t have a firm enough grip on said style. The five-disc set Scared to Get Happy, compiled by John Reed of Cherry Red, does an admirable job of exploring the '80s U.K. indie pop scene. With 134 songs, there aren't many tributaries left uncovered, with representative songs from almost every guitar pop style of the era -- beginning with jittery post-punk and smooth underground pop, then spending a long time with Smiths-y jangle pop and fuzzy, post-Jesus and Mary Chain noise, before ending with some pre-shoegaze and proto-Brit-pop. Along the way an impressive amount of ground is covered with quite a few rarities, forgotten bands, and weirdo moments of greatness frequently popping up. The overall quality of the bands included is high throughout, and while a few choices could be argued by the faithful (We've Got a Fuzzbox or the Shamen, for example), this happens with any set as comprehensive as this. The chronological presentation is helpful too, giving the listener a chance to see how the Dolly Mixture influenced the female-fronted bands that came after them, or how the influence of Creation records grew and threatened to overtake the era (for better or worse). It truly does tell a story in that respect. There are a couple of painful problems with the collection, however. Due to licensing issues or oversight, it's missing some of the most important names of indie pop like Felt, the Pastels, the Vaselines, My Bloody Valentine, Orange Juice, and the Smiths. It's an understandable problem, and as Reed claims, it's maybe not a big deal that they're missing since their work is so well-known. Still, it's hard to tell a convincing story when so many of the bands who moved the sound forward, and who were responsible for some of its definitive moments, are nowhere to be found. (It is unforgivable that the Field Mice are missing, though.) The other crucial problem is that most of the bands that are included aren’t represented by their best songs. Not wanting to repeat any songs from two excellent indie pop comps that have come before (CD86 and Rough Trade Shops: Indiepop) means that, for example, the Sea Urchins' anthemic "Pristine Christine" isn't here. It’s replaced by the nearly as good "Solace," but the set suffers for these kinds of substitutions. Despite these issues, the good outweighs the bad, for the most part. There is enough jangling, noisy, melodic, and heartfelt songcraft here to make anyone who's ever fallen in love with indie pop happy to some degree. Certainly the story of '80s indie pop is one worth telling, and an effort as wide-reaching and open-armed as this has to be welcomed.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:24
2
3 2:44
4 2:41
5 3:47
6 2:03
7 2:55
8 2:03
9 2:54
10 3:59
11
12 3:02
13 4:02
14 2:46
15
2:17
16 3:37
17 2:52
18 2:36
19
20 4:16
21 3:01
22 3:06
23 3:18
24 2:57
25 2:31
26 2:43

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:27
2
3 3:14
4 3:03
5 3:24
6 2:24
7 2:51
8 3:55
9
10 2:09
11
3:15
12 2:48
13 3:20
14 3:17
15
3:32
16 2:32
17 2:56
18
19 3:25
20 2:52
21 2:56
22 3:08
23 2:46
24 2:18
25 2:09
26 4:16

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2 4:11
3
4 3:00
5 1:50
6 3:40
7 1:59
8 3:41
9 2:36
10
11 3:32
12 2:05
13 3:24
14 3:09
15 2:48
16 2:31
17 3:25
18
2:34
19 2:39
20 3:29
21
22 2:46
23 3:16
24 1:47
25
26 3:33
27 2:31
28 1:55

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:43
2 3:48
3
4
5
Cud
3:07
6 2:55
7 2:28
8
1:39
9
2:36
10 2:16
11
3:24
12 2:33
13 3:13
14
15 3:13
16 4:16
17 2:40
18 3:05
19 2:54
20
2:27
21 2:35
22 4:08
23 2:23
24 3:05
25 3:11
26 3:28
27 3:22
blue highlight denotes track pick