"The ghosts of dead teenagers sing to me while I am dancing/And they'll be sad and young forever." Sound familiar? It does if you grew up in the 1980s, when chilly and lovelorn Sarah Records pop transformed traditional teen angst into a mortal issue, and made loneliness a badge of clammy-skinned honor. The line above -- from album standout "Homeless Club Kids" -- is just one of the clever My Favorite couplets that illustrate the NYC band's throwback mix of dreamy and dreary, of burbling basslines, chiming guitars, and cold synth lines lifted from the era in their entirety. But while those references and the familiarly foggy moods they create are utterly inescapable, My Favorite's music is still somehow wholly its own. This is likely due to the strength of songwriting, which Happiest Days of Our Lives displays over the 16 tracks compiling the band's out of print "Joan of Arc" material. (The liners include a wild-eyed essay imagining that titular heroine as the absolute of teenage fatalism.) Andrea Vaughn's pretty lilt is the perfect foil to Favorite principal Michael Grace's deadpan detachment, and each paean to star-crossed youth lovin' ("Cathedral at Night") or dormitory melodrama ("L=P") seems perfectly realized and nuanced, like an illuminated manuscript imagineered into journal form. It was only a matter of time before America's teen rebel ideal was mixed up in this scenario, and his ghost finally wafts forth for "James Dean (Awaiting Ambulance)," which is sort of a fantasmical dream pop version of J. Frank Wilson's "Last Kiss." The aforementioned "Homeless Club Kids"'s puttering drum programming is punctuated by keyboard trills and washes of Johnny Marr guitar, while "Burning Hearts" manages to shimmer with sugary melody while telling a tale of young lovers caught in the Hiroshima blast. "All of this snow has made us glow in the dark," Vaughn and Grace harmonize over plaintive guitar and keys -- it would all be hopelessly, horribly overwrought if the song wasn't so damned beautiful. Happiest Days of Our Lives is augmented with a remix disc, wherein underground types like Flowchart, Soviet, and Leisure Enthusiast patch My Favorite's C-86 update into glitch and IDM soundscapes. Soviet's choppy, coolly professional take on "Badge" is a highlight, as is Leisure Enthusiast's "Suburbs Are Killing Us," which probably has the Pet Shop Boys kicking themselves that they didn't create its decadent dancefloor hush.
The Happiest Days of Our Lives Review
by Johnny Loftus
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2