Garage rock has more in common with the Country Women’s Association’s recipe for scones than you might think, give or take an impressive amount of drugs. In a forgotten moment, some clever (or lucky) person stumbled across the basic principles that subsequent generations have refined and tweaked ever since. Oh, there are variations (Pumpkin! Lemonade! Punk rock!), but innovation is secondary to getting the basics right.
Straight Arrows have sure nailed the fundamentals. Volatile and scratchy, It’s Happening buzzes with Ramones-level energy for most of its 25 minutes, the scrappy guitars racing ahead of insistent drumming as the songs run breathlessly to catch up.
Right from the off, ‘Bad Temper’ jangles and rattles through a song that’s at least 90% chorus. That’s completely forgiven, though, because it’s an excellent chorus. It’s energy is undeniable, and the simple “ba-ba-ba bad temper” hook buries itself deep.
A few tracks later, they repeat the trick with ‘Mind Control’ – no prizes for guessing what the chorus line is here. Despite commonly held laws about diminishing returns, ‘Mind Control’ is just as effective as ‘Bad Temper’, begging for a crowd to sing along in a sweaty little room.
Straight Arrows have a few neat variations on the form, though they’ll take a little attention to pick out through the lo-fi scurf. ‘Something Happens’ has a head-wobbling British Invasion vibe, ‘It Happens Again’ slows the album‘s pace down for a vintage psych vibe, and ‘Running Wild’ ends the record with a spaghetti-western twang.
More than mere cosmetic details, these variations make Straight Arrows stand out from so many other garage bands. Energy and charisma are important, and Straight Arrows have both in spades, but it’s the surprisingly deft songwriting that makes It’s Happening such a compelling listen. There’s very little fat on the record (though the clunky ‘Gold’ drags a bit), and the whole thing flies by so quickly that you’ll want to spin it again. Straight Arrows hit a neat balance between immediacy and longevity that’s even more impressive given that it’s a debut.
Review Score: 8/10