Review: unhappybirthday - "Schauer"

unhappybirthday - Schauer
(2015 Night-People)

They may share a name with the second gloomiest track on Strangeways Here We Come, but this German jangle-pop trio much more closely resembles the sinewy punch of New Order than the Smiths' somber rockabilly grooves when it comes to their Manchesterian influences. Wafer-thin layers of grainy synths and percussive, shimmering guitar chords add a delicate contrast to blunt, sturdy basslines, all glued together by detached vocals that recall Robert Sumner's stoic mumble. Filtered through the trebly hiss of an old four-track recorder, unhappybirthday puts a unique, crunchy spin on 80s dream pop - the same consistency as a handful of Pringles and just as easily consumed. Schauer's interestingly brittle mix is quite reminiscent of Sarah Records' Field Mice - perhaps the record's even closer in tone to late 80s twee pop than to post-punk? Unhappybirthday make the already blurred lines between the two virtually indistinguishable. 

Despite its uniform coat of reverb-laden twang and wobbly bass, there's a wealth of ideas and rich songcraft throughout Schauer - there are straightforward strummers like "Taipeh" that resemble the soupy shoegaze of Minks' 2011 debut Beyond the Hedge, kaleidoscopic neo-psych transmissions ("Keanu") and even "Elephant", a slow burning alt-rock tune à la Yuck or Smashing Pumpkins. Despite one or two missteps that fall flat, this tape is loaded back to front with infectious riffs and lovely impressionist textures.