Mondello: Hello All You Happy People

You can purchase “Hello, All You Happy People” on BandCamp, stream the album on Spotify, visit the Mondello Website, and follow Mondello on Facebook and Twitter.

There are many possible reasons to enjoy an album. It begins, of course, with the music itself. But often, there are additional layers and nuances and “extenuating circumstances” that move a work of art from “enjoyable” to “endearing.” Little Rock-based musician John Moran has made it into the “endearing” category with “Hello, All You Happy People.”

It starts with the packaging…two cool, somewhat blase kids, doing their best to remain incognito behind coffee mugs under the banner “Hello, All You Happy People.” It’s your first clue that there is some sly, tongue-in-cheek humor afoot, and the music certainly supports that assumption.

john’s press release blasts, in bold, all-caps type, “FEEL THE EXCITEMENT, THE ANTICIPATION IS BREATHLESS,” and this sunny, self-effacing humor is rampant throughout the album’s 14 tracks.

The central sound, the vibe, the beating heart and mojo of “Hello, All You Happy People” hit me somewhere around track 5, “The Girl With Half A Mind.” Imagine any of the more ebullient pop bands of the 60s…for example, Gary Lewis & The Playboys…and then fuse that with Matthew Sweet.

I’ve read countless reviews of other performers in which they were compared to Matthew Sweet. I’d then listen to the music and say “There’s nothing here that sounds like Matthew Sweet.” That’s because Matthew is a fixture in “Power Pop,” he’s a touchstone for a certain guitar sound and lyrical approach, and when listeners are reaching for a comparison, he immediately comes to mind. More often than not, the proof isn’t in the pudding.

On “The Girl With Half A Mind,” you hear the Sweet dynamic. Persistent, chugging, fuzzy rhythm guitars, solid base, rave-up drumming, breathless harmony vocals, and a churning, distorted guitar solo worthy of the late Bob Quine. Think the “Sick Of Myself” dynamic. It’s all there.

What’s missing is Sweet’s occasionally cynical world view. That’s where the Gary Lewis reference comes in…even though some of the tracks can be described as wistful, ironic, and bittersweet, they’re never jaded or sardonic. The odes to perhaps fictitious, perhaps real girls like “Sheralyn,” “Heather Martin” (“Hey Heather Martin, I’m startin’ to come undone, am I the only one?”) and “Go Away April (Don’t Go Away)” are so innocent and wide-eyed that you begin to suspect that they might have been written by the kid on the album cover.

In the press release, John describes the project as “accumulated song fragments, filling up pages of dusty 3-ring binders and yellowing dog-eared notebooks, and first drafts probably typed on early versions of Windows 95.” There is definitely a homegrown, D.I.Y. feel here that greatly contributes to the album’s overall charm. Listen and see for yourself.