Outrageous Cherry – Stay Happy

Outrageous Cherry
Stay Happy

Stay Happy explodes onto the scene with “The Illuminated Council for World Destruction,” an immediate attention grabber. The upbeat number bounces along on top of strumming guitar and driving piano with tambourine filling the air. While this band is best known for its ability to channel 70’s style garage rock and psych pop, this track feels a bit more updated with a trend towards The New Pornographers. The lead vocals are primarily male but are accompanied during the chorus in lines like “I’ve been onto to you so long” and various other instances by a female that reveals a similarity to Neko Case. This style works very well for the group that thrives in a world of upbeat, high-energy songs. A unique twist is the addition of a saxophone that swirls and screams throughout the middle and end.

“Memphis Stereo” also has vocals with similarities to the Canadian super-group but this time it isn’t the female vocals but rather the male vocals that lend them to a comparison with A.C. Newman. Now imagine taking this vocal sound and layering them over a 70’s style rhythm with acid-trip guitars and later piano.

The group seems to travel further back in time from this point, no matter how much I continued to hope they would return to the present decade. A good portion of the album displays influences from such bands as The Byrds, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, just to name a few, and they are good at their craft. They are, in fact, perhaps a little too good. Had I found Stay Happy in my parents music collection I may never have thought to check the publish date. But I want more from this group than just a revivalist band. In the beginning of the album, they put forth some high-energy songs that had more of a retro influence to them rather than a complete retro sound. And now that I’ve heard that they can do it, I expect more from this Detroit-based ensemble.

Even though Outrageous Cherry mostly fills their albums with upbeat tracks, they do take it down a notch in places throughout the album. “New Creature” starts out with strumming guitars and a more somber tone. However, they can’t keep themselves contained for too long and soon hand claps and “la la la’s” enter and then later acidic guitars take the song out. But the mood is definitely not the happy and the heaviness continues to keep the overall energy lower than the rest. “Solid Sound Gangster” takes the tempo down several notches with an acoustic-based tune full of somber vocals amidst heavy tambourine. A country influence shows up in the form of electric guitars that creep up now and then. Later “Trust” has soft Byrds-style vocals over organ-sounding keyboards and tambourine in addition to the traditional fare. Halfway through the song there is a guitar solo over top piano. The minor chords layered over the song give it a deeper mood and there are some nice male/female harmonies heard. While these tracks are a nice change to break up the bubbly quality of the mass, they are certainly not the strongest for Outrageous Cherry.

The band has me torn because they are good at what they do but I feel like they are too tied up in the styles of the past. I hear hints of greatness throughout the album and so I can’t help but wonder what a whole album might sound like if they continued to update their style just enough that it wouldn’t be confused for a band past its time. They do a great job of taking modern style vocals and layering them with 60’s pop rock music or putting 70’s glam over modernized instrumentals but after a whole album, it can become too much. The group is definitely on to something with a few of their songs while others lag behind. I can only imagine what this group could do if they took their style forward in time a few decades.