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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
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+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
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Beat Happening
Crashing Through

Where did the Beat Happening come from, and where did they go? In 1983, this trio from Olympia, Wash., exploded out of our minds into a youthful cosmos of free expression, a punk personification of our own collective childhood that seemed neither ironic nor out of place. The band existed within an unspoken and unplanned blueprint of passion-before-musicianship, so much so that the shortcomings of their songs, if any, became the music. Some people didn't get it, but some people are always afraid of themselves.

Like children, the Beat Happening employed a confrontational and serious enthusiasm that was as much a part of the band as guitar and drums. Their first self-titled album, at 19 minutes, is rock music uncluttered and focused — without mid-'80s trappings or punk brutality, but with enough spirit and creative energy to fill in the spaces where things like bass or a guitar solo would normally go.

So where ARE they? What happened to them, and what happened to us since they released their final album in 1992? They're all still around — Calvin, Heather and Bret even re-formed in 2000 to record a one-off single. But the essence of what the Beat Happening did for musicians, fans, and culture is something insufficiently cherished, a thing remembered by many but unavailable to most (a few of their five records have been out of print for years). Hence we have Crashing Through, a big and colorful box set collecting all five records, an extra disc of singles and rarities, a CD-ROM with audio and video clips, and a 100-page history of the band, told through interviews and photographs.

Both the box and what it means are hefty. Crashing Through will change what people think about the band. It's easy to misinterpret the course of the Beat Happening's career — if Jamboree is sitting alone on the shelf between your Beach Boys and Beatles records, it very well may end up becoming that record you play when a friend comes over so he can hear "The This Many Boyfriends Club" ("We will bake an apple pie/ Maybe that will dry your eyes"). Cuz yeah, it's kind of funny to hear Calvin Johnson sing like that, like a train rolled over his larynx, and to hear just how discordant a band can be if they try (or if they don't try at all). But listen to the way Heather Lewis' vocals stretch across and transform a basic '60s pop song like "Run Down the Stairs," from the first record, into something otherworldly. Or how Johnson utilizes his voice to create visions of loneliness, desire, libido, and innocence, sometimes all in the same song (take the track "Jamboree": "I tried to be real cool/ You locked me in a room/ You tried to take off your dress/ We both know what happened next" — lyrics delivered with a disregard for the fundamentals of rhythm and phrasing that manage to be rhythmic as well as expressive). The songs are deconstructed bits of everything, from punk to pop to rock, carefully stripped of history so that listening to them is like listening to music from the past and the future at the same time. In the future foreseen by the Beat Happening, everything is primal; they used the basics of the past to create an atmosphere of rudimentary creativity.

But for all the humor and innocence and cake and pie and ice cream, Crashing Through presents an arc that a cursory listen to a couple songs would never hint at, but which is obvious and startling when it's all boxed up and waiting to be discovered. While maintaining the joy and wonderment of KLP 001, the Happening grew into their final record, You Turn Me On, stretching their minute-long a capella nursery rhymes into dense, professionally crafted songs that tackle the same issues as previous releases, but with evident maturity. On "Godsend," Lewis's nine-and-a-half-minute wide-eyed love letter, drums are replaced with a second guitar, and the overdubbed layers of Lewis' vocals are as hypnotic and peaceful as its subject: "You stay up every night/ Awash in candlelight." Over nearly a decade, the Beat Happening had grown up. Their subject matter, always flirting with the spoiled side of innocence, always loading innuendo behind smirking elementary-school rhyming, had grown into adulthood, and then promptly ended.

Like the best punk bands, the Beat Happening reveal more than anything that music simply requires a desire to create. The stunning progression between Beat Happening and You Turn Me On proves that, and Crashing Through gives you the whole story.

by Neal Block

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