Album Review

I Want That You Are Always Happy

I Want That You Are Always Happy

by The Middle East


SPUNK
6.5 / 10
16th May 2011

Reviewed by Gareth Meade


The world of I Want That You Are Always Happy sways so pendulously between sparse atmospherics and busy middle-of-the-road rock that it can be hard to pin down at first. The album’s authors The Middle East aren’t in a hurry to welcome you into that world either, placing two of their most difficult compositions right at the entranceway and daring you to move any further. Trepidation is something you’ll likely feel throughout I Want That You Are Always Happy, thanks to its daunting length and its intention to not always be what you expect. While there are moments that warrant that apprehension, there are still rewards to be had if you can persist.

‘Black Death 1349’ and ‘My Grandma Was Pearl Hall’ both trade in abundant negative space, one made up of little more than an acoustic guitar, while the other, little more than a piano. It has a haunting effect that The Middle East return to later in the album, after they’ve turned their hand to sea shanties (‘As I Go To See Janey’) the aforementioned MOR rock (‘Jesus Came To My Birthday Party’) and a combination of all of the above, which serves them best, on ‘Land of the Bloody Unknown’. The song is the first sign of a kinship with Fleet Foxes, mixed with just a hint of Grant McLennan, betraying their Australian roots.

But it doesn’t take long to move back to a less-is-more approach, and even though it’s a beautiful tune, ‘Very Many’ feels overwrought until an unexpected payoff in its dying moments. Separated by a somewhat needless instrumental, ‘Mount Morgan’ is very much ‘Very Many’s sibling, building to something big rather than setting a pace and sticking to it. The Middle East continue to do this well on the very Fleet Foxesian ‘Months’, which like their best moments, takes all of their strengths and throws them into the pot.

From here the album once more begins to sway, positively shuffling through the up-tempo Dan’s Silverleaf’ and ‘Hunter Song’, only to halt that momentum for the album’s three song coda, the centre-piece of which is the sprawling ‘Deep Water’. The song reinforces the fact that The Middle East have no problem writing a beautiful melody (this one slightly indebted to Ryan Adams), but it also betrays their leaning toward creating soundscapes, your enjoyment of which will largely depend on your mood.

Maybe that’s the best way to describe I Want That You Are Always Happy; it’s mood music, without the pan pipes and found sounds that that might imply. There will be songs that individually pull you in and leave an impression, but as an hour long document the album can test your patience, until you either give up or allow yourself to relish the good and put up with the bad.






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