Grouplove and the Importance of Context
Published on October 12, 2011 by guest author: Eric J. Perkins
In my first post on this blog, I gave my first impressions of a few new albums and mentioned that it is very rare for me to fall in love with an album after a single listen. And it is rare, but then it happened again shortly after that post went up. The album is Never Trust A Happy Song by Grouplove. 

Grouplove? Sounds like a bunch of hippies. Maybe they are a bunch of hippies. I don’t care. I just know that they sound like they’re having a lot of fun playing music together, and it’s an infectious sort of fun that has me playing this album at the expense of pretty much of a lot of other new music. Yes, there are handclaps and harmonizing, but there’s also some outright wailing on guitars. I don’t exactly know how to classify it. “Tongue Tied”, the track that first caught my attention when I heard it on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” (a great place to discover new music, btw), is one of those songs so catchy that you’re singing along before you’ve even finished hearing the song for first time.

But the album opener, “Itchin’ on a Photograph” is just as good. And really, I’m not hearing any duds or filler here.

Now the caveat. As much as I’m enjoying Grouplove, I am wondering if the context of my first experience with the album has something to do with my love-at-first-listen. I had just spent nearly 4 hours at IKEA. IKEA is the 4th circle of Hell for me. My family was in one car and I was squeezed into our second car with all the furniture and a 45 minute drive ahead of me. It was 7PM on a Saturday night and it was pouring rain. I wanted to be someplace else—anywhere else—very, very badly. I popped in my new CD and suddenly I was someplace else. I was in a place where friends sing catchy, danceable songs about love and the beach and youthful hedonism. Within minutes, I only wanted to be in my car, playing this music as loud as I could stand it (one nice thing about driving alone with the furniture instead of the kids). I went from borderline miserable to…well, almost joyful. I don’t throw the word “joy” around lightly, but I came pretty close to achieving it that night.

So my question is, do I love Grouplove’s debut album because of what it is, or because of where I was and how I was feeling when I first heard it? It’s pretty much impossible for me to answer that. These synapses have been forged, and right now when I listen to this CD, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, the joy of escapism I felt during that dreary, post-IKEA funk comes flooding back. That doesn’t lessen the album’s impact on me, but part of me wonders whether others will enjoy it as much if they listen to it for the first time after, say, going on their favorite roller coaster. I can only say that I gave a copy of Never Trust A Happy Song to my sister—whose musical taste is second only to mine—and she really liked it. So there’s some validation.

But I want more opinions. Give the album a listen and tell me what you think. Better yet, give the album a listen when you’re in a crappy mood, and then tell me what you think.

Eric J. Perkins is a molecular biologist and father of two. He lives in the Boston 'burbs, and what little free time he has is spent listening to music, reading, and writing about music and reading.

User Comments
fred | October 13, 2011 06:30

Hi Eric -
I find it amazing that there are people out there who have trashed this really bums me out. And then I come across a review like yours......and it gives me a lift. The good news is that the majority of bloggers find GL's album astounding for a debut effort. More good news - they are awesome live (see their appearance on Conan - 9/21/11). The Boston Herald also gave them a very positive review. I expect we will be hearing great things from this energetic band.
Take care - Fred

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