Music Reviews
Good Sad Happy Bad

Micachu & the Shapes Good Sad Happy Bad

(Rough Trade) Rating - 6/10

Mica Levi doesn’t really see a distinction between failure and risk. She simply creates, and that’s good enough reason to carry on with her main project Micachu & the Shapes, even if at some point such fancy-free immoderation could lead to a lack of definition. There’s no reason to expect any sort of logical structure from Levi, whose screwball debut Jewelllery took a nihilistic stance on art conventions with surprisingly bodacious results. There’s no starting point or destination, only a never-ending flux of puzzling and ingenious sound schemes that somehow get to resemble actual songs. Levi did gain considerable attention after she scored Jonathan Glazer’s left-field science fiction-horror hit Under the Skin, a moody, lumbering piece that fully exhibited her classically-trained chops.

Levi’s fearless deconstruction of form can be seen as a rebuttal, a chance to forget all that she’s learned and start anew with a stroke of amateurish tenacity. But Levi is far from a dilettante, and in Good Sad Happy Bad, her forced lopsided experiments are beginning to show signs of strain. She’ll vacillate wildly with tacked-on sketches like Waiting and Thinking It, which cull feeble keyboard lines with boorish confidence. Unity is even downright unlistenable, vomiting high-shrill vocals over a rudimentary drum beat as she babbles a range of non-specific utterances in monotone a cappella. Levi is too skilled a songwriter to willingly obscure her flashes of brilliance, though: Oh Baby could pass as industrial hip-hop as interpreted by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, while in Crushed she approaches a kooky, aboriginal-inspired chant with a delectable slab of dubby downtempo. She simply doesn’t succeed at playing down her musical prowess.

Good Sad Happy Bad ultimately comes across as frustratingly hollow, a hodgepodge of unvarnished ideas that don't amount to their true potential. Levi doesn’t dramatically change her writing output, though exploring a more free form, improvisational approach without those timely hooks and askew rhythms makes for a surprisingly linear offering. In trying to simulate a more human identity, Levi apparently forgot that her alluring alien-ness is precisely what made her so uniquely idiosyncratic in the first place.