This Charlottesville, Virginia duo of Mr. Anus (Charlie Kramer) and Mr. Horribly-Charred-Infant (John Beers) has built a distinctive and unexpectedly productive career out of tuneless sub-garage childhood-trauma rants. The pair’s spontaneously composed primal scream tragicomedies recount a litany of prepubescent horrors with an oddly compassionate mix of humor and pathos, adding up to a surprisingly compelling aesthetic that’s unlike anything else in underground rock.
Making the Bunny Pay (a 12-inch which compiles the band’s two early 7-inch EPs: the three-cut Songs for Children and the six-song Now We Are Six), My Skin Covers My Body and I Crush Bozo all effectively evoke a harrowing world of junior angst; titles like “Mom and Dad Like the Baby More Than Me,” “I Wet the Bed Again,” “All My Toys Hate Me,” “There’s a Worm in My Hand” and “I Saw My Picture on a Milk Carton” give a good indication of the songs’ contents. (And, for those not artistically inclined towards Happy Flowers’ jolly preference for indulgent inarticulate rage over traditional musicality, about all the entertainment value they are likely to provide.) These enormously entertaining records are, to put it as mildly as possible, an acquired taste.
Oof covers similar subject matter, but vague hints of accessibility can be heard (if you listen real close) creeping into such numbers as “BB Gun” and “There’s a Soft Spot on the Baby’s Head”; Messrs. Anus and Infant even attempt the blues on “Ain’t Got Nothin’.” Most shockingly, though, Oof‘s final track, a cover of Yoko Ono’s “Mrs. Lennon,” actually conforms to traditional Western notions of melody and song structure. (On CD and cassette, that song is followed by one of the two bonus tracks, “Charlie Said the F-word Again.”)
Though it’ll still probably sound like a bunch of noise to your mom, Lasterday I Was Been Bad (“recorded live in the studio…no mixing, no dubbing”) makes a few more lurches in the direction of melody, with fairly straightforward covers of Big Star (“Thirteen”) and UFO (“I Don’t Want to Share”), hard-rockish originals “Call Me Pudge” and “If This Gun Were Real (I Could Shoot You and Sleep in the Big Bed with Mommy),” and the serenely womblike instrumental “Embryo.” Still, “Not a Happy Birthday,” “Leave Me Alone” and “I Shouldn’t Have Eaten That Stuff” demonstrate that the Flowers haven’t yet outgrown their bangin’-and-yellin’ stage just yet.
Too Many Bunnies (Not Enough Mittens) is a 26-item CD compilation: LP tracks, singles, outtakes, compilation cuts and “I Crush Bozo,” which had appeared as one of two cassette-only bonuses on the album of the same name. (The tape version of My Skin Covers My Body — an LP which contains a remake of Songs for Children‘s “Mom, I Gave the Cat Some Acid” — also has two extra tracks, but neither appears here.)
Before forming Happy Flowers, Kramer (guitar) and Beers (vocals) were half of the Landlords, a freewheeling punk band with an incisive sense of satire but no special musical merits. (Landlords bassist Eddie Jetlag continues to wield his influence, penning liner notes for several Happy Flowers records.) The band’s lone album offers intelligently ironic songs about rape, bigotry, kids, suicide and nihilism; the 7-inch EP (recorded after the Flowers were underway) contains nose-thumbing punk-pop covers of “The Night Chicago Died,” Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” and two more.