Happy Meals - Fruit Juice (Night School Records)

Happy Meals – Fruit Juice (Night School Records)

Has there ever been a genre that lends itself to camp culture so obviously as Italo-disco?  The arch divas, the throbbing basslines, the glistening synths – regardless of how naff or how proper it’s performed, there’s an inherent sense of kitsch to the genre.  It takes skill to draw on Italo-disco without falling into reverential pastiche, but Happy Meals are a Scottish duo who manage to draw on its features without ever falling into self-parody or irony – quite simply, they side-step camp through a serious earnestness. Fruit Juice is a mix of noir-disco and kraut-indebted pop that recalls cult favourites such as Goldfrapp, Stereolab and Broadcast.

It’s hard to determine which of those acts Happy Meals resembles most.  Broadcast is the most obvious point of comparison in terms of pure sound – the hazy synth washes and melancholic atmospheres conjure the same sense of pastoral nostalgia, with textures that feel like Radiophonic Workshop samples.  But the exotic archness of singer Suzanne Rodden’s vocals, a mix of English and French, is very Laetitia Sadler while there’s a mysterious aloofness that feels like Goldfrapp at their most glam.

Ultimately, Happy Meals don’t really sound quite like anyone else: there’s a strangeness to their music that marks them as unique.  It’s not just that acts less brave would shy away from including an ambient flute solo at the midpoint of an EP (‘Fruit Float’) or ending on an analogue acid cosmic workout that samples a previous track (‘Now You Have Me’) – but it does indicate the lack of compromise that makes Fruit Juice so thrilling.  Happy Meals are not afraid to risk looking silly, and it’s that mix of fearlessness and focus that stops them from doing so.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.