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RECORD RACK

*** 1/2 HAPPY MONDAYS "Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches" Elektra

January 06, 1991|JONATHAN GOLD

Hugely successful in the U.K., the Mondays--possibly the band most associated with the Manchester scene--seem as proud of their members' druggy inclinations as they do of their No. 1 records. The band might be a little arty and pretentious, but it also rocks in its own way.

Listening to its newest, you might experience the odd sensation of music history thrown in reverse--from the Manchester house sound to the Pet Shop Boys, to disco, to psychedelic soul, which proceeds organically into the '67 L.A. sound. It all makes a sort of crazy sense: the total and natural integration of beat-box hip-hop rhythm, Beatles melody and fuzzed-out Byrds guitar, along with vocals that career from Morrison to Morrissey and back again. It's modern dance-pop based on old-fashioned Mitch Mitchell-esque beats--or is it Ringo Starr?

Any dolt with a degree can tell you about pop's post-modern condition, the simultaneous existence of all forms of music at once, but you rarely hear it expressed like this on a single record. Happy Mondays hasn't created a new vocabulary, but it has combined the old ones into a language all its own.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

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