Gloo – ‘How Not To Be Happy’

By Ian Kenworthy

Made up of brothers Thomas and Max Harfield alongside bassist Simon Keet, Gloo came blasting out of Brighton back in 2017. They quickly made a mark on the scene with their debut album, which they followed with 2019’s seven-track EP ‘Stop and Stare’; for new album ‘How Not To Be Happy’, they’ve worked with Hassle Records, and they’ve been working hard. Not only have they made a clear progression, but these ten tracks feel like a band hitting their stride. More than that, they’re making it easy to stride alongside them.

Back in the early 2000s, post-grunge was big business, with an abundance of similar sounding bands like The D4 and Ash tearing up the airwaves. Gloo may not be topping the charts any time soon, but theirs is a sound that has never really gone away – mainly because it’s simple and fun. As a result, when listening to the album, you get the feeling they’re either twenty years too late, or kickstarting a new movement. Given what they’re doing here – rekindling that sound and giving it a new energy – we’ll hedge with the latter. Heavily indebted to Nirvana but oozing confidence and style, you just can’t ignore Gloo’s music.

Setting off like a bolting horse, ‘I Can’t Hear Myself Think’ lays out the band’s stall one in one fast, flighty song that’s immediately gripping. Using a propulsive bassline, stabbed chords and a vocal that implants firmly in your head, it’s a sound that powers the nine rocking tracks here, with chunky guitars, shifting dynamism, and a blistering approach to riffs.

Although the band excel at rocking out in three-minute bursts, they do mix things up. ‘Down’ features slower sections and ‘Work So Hard’ pulses with an oversized bassline, both of which break the album up and keep it from settling into a single groove.  ‘Swimming In Your Sea’, meanwhile, basks in the mellowe moments, featuring shifting dynamics, a powerful chorus and a vocal sung by the ghost of Kurt Cobain. It makes for a great single and could easily sell the album on its own – that every song matches this standard speaks for the album’s overall quality.

Lyrically, the album goes for easy and relatable; you get the feeling the words have been sketched on packet of cigarettes, but that’s no bad thing. They’re short to the point, and catchy as hell – “I wanna live in the Big Smoke, yeah”, for example, doesn’t sound all that inspiring on paper, but when it’s fired out with so much upbeat energy it’s entirely gripping. As if to underscore the band’s attitude, much of the album has its tongue wedged firmly in its cheek, especially on ‘Takes The Piss’ and ‘No One Gives At Fuck’. It’s fun, it’s brash, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, there is a vein of self-depreciation running through the lyrics – especially on ‘No One Gives At Fuck’, which might disguise its attitude through interchanging vocal styles, but is lyrically downright mean. That said, it works terrifically well, and you can easily imagine a crowd yelling along, caught in the easy anthemic lilt. And this is where the album makes its biggest mark – you can sing along, you can punch the air, and you get a real buzz from these slacker’s anthems.

It’s notable that each track has a slightly different feel, for example the thrumming guitar sound on ‘I Can’t Hear Myself Think’ pops and drives in a totally different way to the scratchy stabs on ‘Ride’.  Effects pedals are also used to add extra dimensions to songs like ‘Swimming In Your Sea’, but it’s an understated shift that doesn’t detract from the general balls-out attitude and pounding rhythms.

Thomas Harfield sings in the kind of snarl that’s easy to get along with, but allows his personality to shine through. His voice has a real bite, especially on ‘Big Smoke’, but could also easily be compared to Craig Nicholls of The Vines. Gloo’s performance has the same neck-snapping sound their debut had, and you can’t help but feel this is the band The Vines could easily have been. With all band members contributing backing vocals you also get a series of different flavours, especially when drummer Mark Harfield adds a background bark to the opening track.

Blurring past in 30 minutes, this record shows off everything it has to offer on your first few listens, but has a catchy quality and enough emotional heft to stick with you. Especially ‘Rizla’, an acoustic ode to buying roll-up papers, which feels dirty and downbeat but is surprisingly anthemic, bringing the album to a triumphant but low-key end.

Despite its name, ‘How Not to Be Happy’ is undeniably an uplifting album – by sharpening their sound to a point, Gloo have created something more than the sum of its influences. It’s a huge step forward for them; the songwriting is stronger, the overall sound is snappier, the sense of humour more cutting. If you’re looking for something short, focused, and bags of fun, ‘How Not To Be Happy’ is all those things and more – and it’s safe to say rock is in safe hands with Gloo.

IAN KENWORTHY

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