A Happy Anarchy

In a historical sense, the hierarchical indecisiveness of an anarchy is most looked upon as a weakening state of political turbulence. With the absence of any governing force, a state of chaos and disorder is considered to be imminent if not already present. With that in mind, a name like Happy Anarchy should sound contradictory to anyone with a fair amount of common sense. As recently as yesterday’s feature of Setting Sun, I touched upon the varying factors of a collaborative group’s artistic ventures and the importance of a shared vision amongst all involved members. Whether the primary creative source is stemming from the talent of one individual or the collective ability of several, a mutual sense of entitlement and stylistic satisfaction. As their name lightly entails, Happy Anarchy take considerable pride in being a group whose style and songwriting are not determined by the work of one individual, but rather the collaborative ideals of all 5 members involved. As the guitarist and lead vocalist, Joe Pecora is considered the frontman but the classification primarily derives from his instrumental role and originative ties with the group. In commendable form, the final result is simply the cumulative work ethic of all members involved… a pleasant anarchy, indeed.

The beginnings of Happy Anarchy actually trace back to an eight-piece, the band’s original form before they reverted to a more condensed lineup. Pecora, guitarist/trombonist Tim Boylan, and electric guitarist Yuhei Yamanaka have been in Happy Anarchy since their formation in 2004. They released a self-titled debut the same year with the eight-piece lineup and drew some local buzz throughout New York City, particularly in their own Staten Island. Less than a month before the sizable group was set to head out a significant East Coast tour, 5 members left the band in what would be determined as a domino effect. The cause was neither due to communicative or artistic restraints. Instead, some members simply got tired of life in an aspiring band, choosing to focus on jobs with an actual set income. Rather than call it quits themselves, the remaining trio chose to focus on the prospective future of Happy Anarchy. Despite the following two years being filled with struggles to finish new material, the three knew that eventually their shared desire would lead the way. Sure enough, the band was given an extra hand in late 2006 when drummer Pete Smith and trumpeter/keyboardist Jesse Blum joined the group. Instantly bonding over similar musical intentions with their two new comrades, the trio experienced a surge in production when they reverted to a five-piece.

For the recording of their sophomore album, Reset, Happy Anarchy attempted to replicate the intensity of their live performances in a form that still sounded polished and efficient. Knowing that this was truly the first album in which an actual buzz was generated, they knew that the opportunity was too valuable to falter on. With that in mind, Reset is a startling expansion of the sound displayed on Happy Anarchy’s self-titled debut. Featuring their most diverse instrumental approach to date, their unique approach to familiarized indie-rock involves the use of strings, congas, trumpets, and saxophones among other more conventional instrumental accompaniments. The style of straightforward indie-alternative itself hardly differs from track to track but the melodic and instrumental variation causes the experience to be constantly engrossing and wholesomely addictive. The standout “Is That Right” demonstrates their ability to complement impressive keyboard and synth-led structures with a multifariously toned guitar, all while Pecora belts out an infectious vocal melody that blends with the sparkling chorus. It is evident from his vocal delivery alone that the group owes a bit to Modest Mouse, though Happy Anarchy’s songs may actually hold more variety on a song-to-song basis than the venerable indie-rockers. Though the quality may not be as consistent, it is certainly memorable enough to showcase Happy Anarchy’s boastful potential.

With the aforementioned diversity coming into play, “Personal Judas” is a bit different than the other tracks. It showcases an impressive blend of keys and guitars once again, but the chorus this time around is centered around Pecora’s aggressive vocal approach. It sounded odd at first due to being the first radical pitch shift on the album though it has grown to fit the song very well. The stuttered vocal melody that he throws in during the chorus manages to be avoid most clich├ęs to become another admirable feature, with a well-placed acoustical bridge toward the conclusion of the song allowing the track to avoid any repetitive outcome. “Vampire Bunnies” is an adventure to say the least, sporting a surprisingly exotic chorus that is immediately followed by an entertaining vocal approach (it sounds like a drunken barroom rant) before reverting back to an extremely impressive brass accompaniment. His vocals here are actually comparable here to a more subdued Cedric Bixler-Zavala at some point, while “Is That Right” reminded me more of The French Kicks’ amiable indie-rock approach. It just goes to demonstrate that Happy Anarchy have crafted an enjoyably diverse sophomore release that should have most worldly rock fans hooked.


Happy Anarchy – Is That Right



Happy Anarchy – Vampire Bunnies



Happy Anarchy – Personal Judas



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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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