Happy Meals – Fruit Juice [Night School]

Last year the highlight of the Scottish Album of the Year Awards was Happy MealsApéro making it to the final ten; now they return with what is their first of two releases this year, Fruit Juice.

‘Fruit Float’ opens the EP with a reminder of the elements that make up Happy Meals, English/French female vocals, chiming modulating arpeggios and traditional instruments such as flute.

‘If You Want Me Now’ has the mixture of Tom Tom Club pop squelches, but the sheer craftsmanship means you can take any ideas of plagiarism out of your head.

The song is 100% gold and deserves every quantised pico second of running time; it pushes and pulls, throbs and pulses, riding the fine line between primary school naiveté and knowing lustful winks.

Playful, bouncy basslines and punchy drum sounds drive the track harder than the vocal melody would suggest it should.

‘LáLá-bas’ and ‘Suivez-Moi’ are more relaxed in tempo, balancing the EP and setting the structure of the tracklist, making the recontextualisation of ‘If You Want Me Now’ especially hitting.

The vocal line is a bit crushed and twisted on the flip side with answer track ‘Now That You Have Me’, which highlights the reality of the good intentions with the harder more sinister vibes.

‘Now’ generates the increased anxiety that comes from the result of satisfied wants; it would be lazy to assign the A-side to Suzanne Rodden and the B-side to Lewis Cook and play off the gender differences.

More that it deals with the problems that arise after the first step of a relationship/process has been taken.

The convulsion to dance is a clear example of how Fruit Juice brings the freedoms associated with the scenes Happy Meals have borrowed sounds from, Italo disco, 1980s synth pop, acid house and various other flavours from around the planet.

The centrepiece of this EP is worth leaving the house for to hear live, ignoring the feeling of undiluted elation you will get from the rest of their set.

The familiar timbres, synth pads and acid house arpeggios; a dictionary of coded equipments; TB303, LM-1, 606s, Polysix are blended into a superb fruit float.

The noticeable sonic difference with this and Apéro is the live percussion, al a Golden Teacher, which crops up on a number of tracks.

On record and live the chemistry of couple Cook and Rodden not only comes through in the playful musical conversations, but deals with themes the duo in place of aggression share; an inviting intimacy to the listener.

In contradiction to their name, Happy Meals have nothing artificial about them, Fruit Juice and their recent live performance fresh in my mind, all that can be said is that they are pure and all heart.

Words: Paul Choi


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