Beat Happening, ‘Look Around’ (Domino)
There’s some irony in Beat Happening getting a classic rock-style greatest-hits collection. Not only did the Olympia lo-fi legends never have a hit, they made a ten-year career (1982-92) of rejecting rock’s unwritten rules — pro gear, pro attitude — completely. The self-taught trio’s credo — don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t play your instrument, if you own it you own it — polarized some but also inspired many, spawning the twee-pop indie subgenre and establishing Washington’s capital city as a DIY music mecca.
“Look Around” commemorates the 30th anniversary of Beat Happening’s self-titled debut, but because the five-album catalog they left behind is neither overwhelming nor out-of-print, the 23-song comp, with its one previously unreleased track “Angel Gone,” is really only a must-have for superfans of bandleader and K Records impresario Calvin Johnson.
That said, its chronological track sequencing does effectively prove how, somewhere along the way, Johnson and his bandmates Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford matured from ragtag pop agitators into legitimately skilled songwriters, with the slow, shimmering “Tiger Trap,” oddly funky “Red Head Walking” and sprawling, nine-minute “Godsend” standing as timeless entries in the Northwest indie pantheon.