Happy Bullets

The Vice and Virtue Ministry

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The Vice and Virtue Ministry Review

by William Ruhlmann

It sometimes seems that every developing indie rock band can be defined by its affection for the music of one of the middle years of the 1960s -- the jangle poppers go for 1965, the garage rockers for 1966, and so on. By that standard, the Dallas, TX, band the Happy Bullets' favorite year of the '60s clearly is 1967, the era of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the birth of psychedelic and progressive rock. But so much time and so many other bands have passed across the scene since then that one is tempted to cite as influences not so much the Beatles and their like (the Kinks, the Zombies) as followers from later decades such as the Electric Light Orchestra, XTC, and the Dream Academy. It is notable, however, that all of these progenitors are British, and to listen to The Vice and Virtue Ministry, one would suppose that the Happy Bullets are, too. There are frequent references to the River Thames, cricket, and other specifically English items, and the band's singers, Jason Roberts, Tim Ruble, and Andrea Roberts, often affect British accents. But then, that reflects the impact of pop's international appeal and the continuing effects of recordings over time; if these Texan 20- and 30-somethings want to fill their record collections with British pop music and make their own version of it, who's to say they shouldn't? After all, the Rolling Stones were making like blues musicians from Chicago and the Mississippi Delta long before they crossed the Atlantic. And it's hard to argue when the Happy Bullets are so good at what they do. Their songs are light and catchy pop with strong melodies set to arrangements Beatles producer George Martin would recognize, with their touches of chamber pop in the additions of a cello part here, a trumpet flourish there. Especially appealing is the up-tempo "If You Were Mine," Andrea Roberts' showcase, although Jason Roberts and Ruble, who otherwise alternate on lead vocals, both sing well, the one in a smooth tenor, the other in a more strained voice, edging into falsetto.

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