Speak to any die-hard Beat Happening fan about their first encounter with the band, and many will equate the experience to a kind of awakening, almost religious in its nature. Such is the warmth and devotion the band have inspired over the years. Look Around, the first comprehensive retrospective of the group’s work, is a tribute to that devotion; a reward for all those who have loved the band so much for so long.
First time listeners might be put off by the deliberately crude nature of the music. Beat Happening have forged their career on a kind of deliberate innocence; an obstinate refusal to saturate their music with darkness and horror. Indeed, even when the band do engage with troubling themes, as they do on Black Candy and Bewitched, both included on Look Around, they do so with their naiveté intact. There is something thrillingly child-like about the band, so much so that it’s no wonder that Kurt Cobain got a tattoo that represented Beat Happening’s label, K Records, in order to remind himself to ‘stay a child.’
Look Around collects tracks from across the band’s career, meaning that first time listeners will get a taste of the group’s entire oeuvre. All the hits are here, of course, including the beautiful and tender Indian Summer and their debut album’s Foggy Eyes.
Fans will have all these songs, of course, but nonetheless, there’s something beautiful about seeing them arranged in this way. Over the course of listening to Look Around one gets the sense of something being built; of something substantial being constructed. It’s beautiful, but more than that, it’s awe-inspiring; an incredible reminder of everything Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford collectively achieved.
One is left wowed, then. You walk away from Look Around feeling stronger; feeling accomplished; feeling blessed. The religious connotations apply, as ever. This is a band to devote yourself to, after all.