Happy in Holland
It must be interesting to live in other parts of the world other than the US, say like, Holland, for instance, where a band like Daryll-Ann can put out an excellent album such as Happy Traum and more than just the music geeks in the mom and pop record store down the street are listening. And this must be true, as the band did in fact release a couple discs over here in the States, but where they are now and if they were even listened to is anyone’s guess.
So the band is having a go on our shores once more with the release of Happy Traum, and album that actually saw the light of day in the band’s homeland back in 2000. Yet it must certainly be a fine thing, indeed when a label like Excelsior cares enough to send the very best. And for all accounts and purposes, Happy Traum is a fine collection of pop tunes that fans of bands like Teenage Fanclub should find very easy to dive right into.
But where the Fanclub has always had an affinity for everything Big Star (and who doesn’t on the indie power pop road nowadays), Daryll-Ann feel more comfortable waving the 10cc flag. This is a fact that is worth celebrating, as 10cc could always stand to be a little more appreciated, given all their classic output from “Rubber Bullets” to “The Wall Street Shuffle” and “I’m Not in Love” and “The Things We Do for Love”, even. So yes, this is imported pop music with a cheery, extremely likable sound that will do its damnedest to charm the ears right off your skull.
Featuring the great vocals of Jelle Paulusma, the guitar work of Anne Soldaat, percussionist/organist (and brother to Jelle) Coen Paulusma, bassist Jeroen Vos, and drummer Joeroen Kleijn, Daryll-Ann are a sweet five-piece outfit that understand the necessity of good music coupled with a real sense of playfulness. Indeed, opening the CD’s booklet reveals a picture of the five men wading in the ocean, all smiles. The sleeve art itself tends to hearken back to simpler times with its simple, stylized listing of the track titles and album’s running time.
Opening with “Surely Justice”, filled with a catchy opening line and some nice reverbed guitars, Happy Traum starts off hot, and certainly it does have quite a bit of 10cc charm to it. The song would have fit nicely on that band’s first album, right alongside “Donna” or “The Dean and I”. On the pleasant “Everybody’s Cool”, filled with breezy strings and Anne’s lovely guitar chords, Jelle seems to take on the qualities of Gilbert O’Sullivan (“Alone Again (Naturally)”) with his flowing vocal melodies. Interesting and enjoyable.
“All by Myself” leans more towards a country-rock kind of sound, and here’s where those fans of Teenage Fanclub will probably feel at home, given the great sounds they came up with on albums like Songs from Northern Britain. “Ask Anyone” is pleasantly surreal, with its “rise, baby, rise” backing vocal refrains that bring to mind bands like the Hollies and even the Small Faces. Again, it’s an interesting mix, and one that doesn’t sound desperately derivative, even for all of its influences, which strengthens the album even more.
The crisp pop of “Desmond Don’t Go” is infinitely fun, with Coen Paulusma’s organ providing a cool, nasally groove from the left speaker while Jelle sings “Oh Desmond don’t go / They’ll eat you, I know / So Desmond don’t go / Into anyone’s heart (is it love?)” as those killer vocal harmonies kick in and the song takes off into that rarefied air of pop perfection. Those wonderful harmonies continue in the prettily arranged “The Miracle” that could stand strongly next to any of Ray Davies’ finest lyrical moments of the late ‘60s.
But Daryll-Ann can certainly bring the rock on as well. Dig the rhythmic pump and guitar pulse found in “When You Cry”. Of course, the band can’t help but throw in some poppy lead lines, but they wouldn’t be Daryll-Ann if they didn’t. After all this is pop rock, a term that becomes less and less adhered to by many so-called pop rock bands. Luckily, Daryll-Ann know how to infuse both elements of the term successfully into their sound.
All of this bliss can be found in the mere first half of the album. That leaves seven more songs to enjoy, and each of them, including such gems as “Money Or Love” and “Trip the Stairs” further the notion that Daryll-Ann could very well conquer some other shores outside of Holland. But whether they do or not in the end doesn’t matter. Yes, it would be nice to see things like this get popular anywhere in the world, but the fact that such fine music exists in the first place with full label support is something in itself to rejoice about. Happy Traum proudly waves its pop rock banner, and well it should. This could surely be the music of Heaven.