As they continue to unravel the human genome, I’m sure that eventually they’ll discover the indie-pop gene. Those short, half-formed bursts of poppy energy that ring out suddenly, jangle along for two or three minutes, then cut off suddenly, with their muddy lyrics and primary-colored hooks: they’re simply not for every music fan. What to one listener sounds fun, cute, and catchy in that unpretentious, lo-fi way will sound to the next guy lazy and out of tune. Personally, I’m allergic to three things: pollen, cats, and twee. Therefore, most songs that fall on the “cutesy” side of the spectrum turn me off pretty thoroughly.
Boyracer, even with its indie-pop allegiance and British heritage, somehow still can’t be accused of tweeness (or is that tweeity?). If anything, it’s Boyracer’s determination to be a contemporary band that can get through a whole album without even once cracking a coy smirk that makes it so good. Are the songs short and half-assed? Yes. Are the guitars out of tune or hanging on by a thread? Sure, for the most part. But you never miss the melody that’s being spun out, and the lyrics sure seem heartfelt, even, dare I say it, earnest. On “Flinch at the Light,” frontman Stewart Anderson implores to a friend, “Don’t lose your ideals!” Does that sound like indie pop to you? Aren’t indie-pop songs usually about kittens or something? For Happenstance, Boyracer has happily once again steered far clear of the treacherous territory in which most indie-poppers beg us to acknowledge how darn clever they are.
Boyracer has suffered from a chronically shifting lineup ever since its inception back in the early 90s. Now centering around Anderson and someone named Jen, who may or may not have a last name, Boyracer has refused to compromise its cred by taking any real creative leaps. The band’s fans will know exactly what they’re getting this time around and most likely won’t be disappointed. Happenstance features 23 songs, most comprising only a handful of barely structured lines, including one cover (of the Double Happys’ “The Other Way”) and an odd final track, which features a barely audible conversation spoken over white noise. Anderson sings bursts of acerbic lyrics detailing breakups, memories of life in crappy apartments, backstabbings by friends or ex-friends, and that sort of thing. His voice is usually muffled, the guitars echoing, and the drums piled on in trebly bursts, the better to obscure missed notes and other goofs. But all of that’s straight out of the indie playbook: you wouldn’t expect anything else.
I used to think that liking indie pop was all a matter of being in on the joke. But with Boyracer there really doesn’t seem to be a joke at all. Boyracer’s relentless sincerity hasn’t made it too serious for its own crowd; if anything, it’s moved this band to the head of the class.