Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slapp Happy - 1996 - Ça Va

Slapp Happy
Ça Va

01. Scarred for Life (3:20)
02. Moon Lovers (3:00)
03. Child Then (4:18)
04. Is It You? (5:07)
05. King of Straw (3:14)
06. Powerful Stuff (4:13)
07. Different Lie (4:06)
08. Coralie (3:54)
09. Silent the Voice (4:03)
10. Working at the Ministry (4:55)
11. Unborn Byron (3:17)
12. Let's Travel Light (3:43)

- Anthony Moore / keyboards, programming, guitars, saophone, toy theremin, percussion, melodica, lead vocals
- Peter Blegvad / guitars, bass, percussion, lead vocals
- Dagmar Krause / vocals, piano

OK, it's been a long time since Slapp Happy's main body of work in the mid 1970s...and here the "m" word (matured) is notably in action. True, the angular eccentricities of their earlier avant-pop are very toned down, which may disappoint some earlier fans and experimental purists. But not only is this music thoughtful and emotional pop, it still subtly retains the unique combination of eccentric personalities (each of whom have a long and varied resume).

The biggest obvious change is in Dagmar's vocals - no longer theatrical and sometimes shrill, her voice is now deeper, fuller, and often sensual or sensitive. Despite her previously impressive vocal acrobatics, her singing here is a beautiful example of the "m" word in its best sense. The instrumentation is also much smoother now, with spacious guitars and hypnotic electric keyboards floating over pop grooves.

The first handful of songs are great in the way described above. The middle of the album hits a bit of a lull, but then starts to pick up again at "A Different Lie" and serves up some interesting melodies and tuned percussion with the above mix of sounds - sometimes slightly resembling XTC (with Andy Partridge co-writing the earlier track "Child Then"). Things end on a high note with the delicate but eccentric "The Unborn Byron" which recalls their artsy inclinations, and the wistful finality of "Let's Travel Light" as a perfect closer.

It's pretty clear that their earlier releases are not likely to appeal to a wide audience, but this one really could appeal to mainstream listeners. It's a shame that its distribution was so small, and now apparently non-existent.

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