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Flashback Review: Beat Happening’s You Turn Me On

Turn me on, dead man

In 1992 American indie pop band, Beat Happening, released what would be their last full-length studio album, You Turn Me On.

3a898338f25fc5189768d9ce7d0501ee-600x600x1The band formed back in 1982 with Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis, and Bret Lunsford as the founders. They have been esteemed as trailblazers in the indie pop and lo-fi genres. While Beat Happening never officially announced a breakup, its members have moved on to other projects, though they claim to still practice together once a month.

You Turn Me On marked a would-be transition in the band’s sound, as they focused less on what had worked for them on previous albums, and more on where they wanted to go.

“Tiger Trap” opens up with a steady beat, and a warm, catchy guitar part before Johnson’s vocals roll in. The lyrics are cryptically poetic, yet they still feeling genuine. There’s a sense of love and the desire to learn more about the object of affection, but as in real life, the path of love is not all sweet.

“Confusion reigns supreme when bad promises are redeemed
Tender hook of the tiger trap
Lost on the edge of a treasure map
Cover the wicked days with the scent of the sweet bouquet
The spoils of love renew
Still on the trail of finding all about you”

Still, the bad times do not make the good ones hold any less value, and this song is sure to make note of that. In that sense, it’s one of the most real love songs around.

“Pinebox Derby” starts with a buildup of distortion before the pleasantly grungy melody kicks in fully. A little creepy, a little west-coast rock, this song is catchy, and undeniably fun. (Who doesn’t love a song that literally seems to be about witches?)

The album’s title track, “You Turn Me On,” has a great melody that’s easy to jam to. While high-energy and super catchy, the minimalistic lyrics actually paint a rather dark picture. At a surface level the song appears to be about an arsonist, or perhaps a duo literally setting the town ablaze.

While a 9 minute track may seem like a daunting task to some, “Godsend” is definitely worth a listen. While the album as a whole marked a change in the band, this track specifically showcases how far they were willing to go for the sake of exploring their sound. The song makes ample use of multitrack recording, which gives it a grand feel with a mildly psychedelic vibe. Lewis’s vocals on this track are lovely and pure. This song is a treat, and a perfect example that reaching out beyond one’s comfort zone can lead to great things.

You Turn Me On is an interesting album with unexpected twists and turns throughout its 9 unique tracks. Some are light-hearted and fun, while others are unexpectedly heavy, and that’s part of what makes it such a good album. You never know what the next song will have to offer, so you have to listen to them all.

Rating: 4/5

Stream: You Turn Me On by Beat Happening

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