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Happy Family - Toscco CD (album) cover

TOSCCO

Happy Family

 

Zeuhl

3.91 | 107 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
4 stars This album is one of those select few that simply want to make you say, "wow!" for the duration of the listening experience. Every note here is simply perfect, placed in the right place at the right time, inviting you to enjoy every second of it. Before I delve further into the content of the album, however, I'd like to digress for a moment to agree with The Miracle that this is much more RIO/avant prog than Zeuhl (though the line between the two subgenres is often blurred). This can be both good and bad. If you really like Magma, you need to know that Happy Family sounds nothing like them (in my mind, they sound much better). On the other hand, if you really dislike Magma, Happy Family is a band that can get you into other aspects of the Zeuhl style of prog (on the assumption that it actually is Zeuhl). And besides, even if you do like Magma, you wouldn't want this band to copy them, would you? I'm guessing you wouldn't, and I personally find Happy Family's unique approach to music much more satisfying than if they were to Magma what Starcastle is to Yes (for those who don't know, Starcastle is a Yes clone).

I wouldn't call myself a Zeuhl expert, as my experience with the genre extends only to six or so Magma albums and this album, but I can, without a moment's hesitation, proclaim this to the be the greatest Zeuhl album I've heard (yet again, assuming it actually is Zeuhl). Based solely on the sample track on this site, Dun could be some stiff competition with Eros, but for now, Toscco stands as my favorite Zeuhl album. It is highly inventive and unique, full of energy, and most importantly, it's music with a point to it, unafraid to challenge listeners and scare off the faint-hearted. It's highly complex, as you would expect, and yet it doesn't for a moment come across as pretentious. Instead, it sounds like an amazing band at the top of their game, gelling as a unit and producing some of the greatest music to ever grace my ears.

The basic backdrop of this album is metal, but push that out of your mind. Yes, it's fast paced, aggressive, and uses distorted guitars, but there is more to it than that, and it clearly is far removed from standard prog metal fare (Ayreon, Dream Theater, Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Riverside and their ilk). I used the word backdrop earlier in this paragraph, and that's really the extent of the metal on this album. It is a base style that Happy Family proceeds to twist and modify in all sorts of ways, making it distinctly their own. They throw in touches of Zeuhl and maybe even symphonic prog, and then they add a whole lot of themselves into the mix, resulting in a unique and ultimately wonderful album you won't want to miss.

The most immediate aspect of this album is the drummer. When listening to this album, I constantly have to ask myself if he ever takes a break, because I honestly can't catch him at it. He is simply relentless on the drums, pounding away without remorse, and with an ear out for the listener. He utilizes creative techniques and never allows himself to fall into a repetitive rhythm, but rather creates on of his own that perfectly goes with the music he supports. One only needs to listen to the first half a minute of Nord Company Vs. Lead Company to get an idea of just what he's going to throw at you for nearly fifty-five minutes. The rest of the band, of course, does not disappoint, not even by a longshot. The guitar is simply blistering throughout (a rather non-Zeuhl-ish characteristic), and you can witness Zeuhl-bass in all its glory on The Three Leaves Insect, but the best parts of the album come through their use of non-conventional instruments (I swear that's a xylophone in lead in large portions of The Sushi Bar, which just happens to be my favorite song on the album). I also find it incredibly hard to resist the keyboard work, especially on Overdrive Locomotive, where the keys are used to simulate car horns honking.

So, after all that praise, can I really call this album a PERFECT masterpiece? Almost, but not quite. From the opening strains of The Great Man to the closing strains of The Great Man (revisited), this album earns the title "The Great Album" many times over. My only problem is that it stretches out just a tad bit too long. After several careful listenings of this album, I can only come to the conclusion that it is right up there with the greatest albums in my collection. This is an album strikingly similar to a roller coaster. It's different and difficult to stomach, but once you ride it once, you'll just have to keep getting back in line to ride it again. Essential, whether or not you even know what Zeuhl is.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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