Poor Rich Ones – Happy Happy Happy

Poor Rich Ones
Happy Happy Happy

Have you ever heard one of those albums that, based on the rest of your record collection, you don’t feel like you should like? But, for some reason, you absolutely adore this album, perhaps even more so because it doesn’t precisely fit. Happy Happy Happy is one of those albums. A million other bands could play this style of melancholic, lofty rock and never pull it off, but I find myself completely absorbed every time I play this.
Poor Rich Ones are from Norway, and this, their third album, is their first released stateside. It’s probably the perfect introduction to this band, and I imagine many others will find themselves lost in the ethereal soundscapes that never stray too far from a rock basis that this band creates. And by the sheer volume of music, textured and powerful, that the band creates, it’s tough to remember that this is just a trio. Oh sure, the immediate urge will be to compare them to Radiohead, and that comparison is somewhat valid, but Poor Rich Ones don’t give over into the pretentious melodrama of Radiohead. No, this album stands on its own quite well, thank you.
What will likely strike you first about Poor Rich Ones is the vocals from William. Somewhere between Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Yes’ Jon Anderson, William’s lofty, lovely vocals perfectly match these songs. Then you might notice the wonderful interplay of guitars and keyboards throughout these songs, giving the songs heft and weight but still keeping them solidly within the rock realm. And, finally, if you listen carefully, you might notice that this band has a definite pop quotient, made more so by playful song structures and keyboard lines that peek out every now and then. It’s an interesting and unique mix.
“Twins” starts off with one of the most glorious melodies, mixing perfectly with a more rolling and faster drum beat. It’s easy to draw comparisons here to early Radiohead, but the drawn out guitar lines and lofty melodies really create something different and powerful in its own right. The title track, with its lifting guitar lines and use of keyboards, has more intensity and power, and the layering of guitars, keyboards, and even strings really propels this one beyond a simple rock track. By the end of this song, William is almost screaming. But even as you think I’m talking of Radiohead again, there’s some serious pop music underlying this song. “Drown” shows off more of a pop style, even hinting at REM-like style with a bit of a sweeter feel. “May Queen” starts more somber and quieter, but the song picks up with more crunchy and thick guitars and an intensity seldom felt elsewhere on this release. There’s definitely a lullaby affect to the quieter and more luxurious and lovely “New Lullaby,” and “Things to Say When You’re Not Here” uses gorgeous acoustic guitar for a very melancholy feel that might show why the title Happy Happy Happy is likely meant sarcastically. “High Flyer” has a very powerful feel, with intense and warbling guitars and drums layered under a wall of keyboard sound. “Clumsy” continues their very lofty and swirling rock sound, and the closer, “Circular World,” gets even more original, mixing in a more synthesized beat, wonderful piano, and vocals mixed more into the background. This is the perfect closer, ending things on a quieter but no less moving note.
I guess I’m not really sure what about this album makes me think I should dislike it, but it’s like the same thing that makes me love it so much. Maybe it is almost too lofty, bordering on artsy, but the band pulls it off. Maybe it’s the lilting, soaring vocals, but here they fit so nicely. Maybe it’s the immediate comparisons to Radiohead, but that fades with a more in-depth appreciation. Regardless, give this band a chance, and they’ll like win you over with their gorgeous, slightly poppy, rock soundscapes.