Review – “Happiness and Disaster” – Stabilo

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Welcome to Throwback Week 2017! Each year, our writers tackle older albums we have yet to cover on the blog. This year, we’re covering albums released in 2013 or earlier.

reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether

Post-2006, Happiness and Disaster became an album of clues to a mystery that didn’t need solving. Stabilo fell into silence in the five years proceeding their first full-length album, then heightened the mystery by declaring a “permanent hiatus” in 2011. The impression they left has lasted. Stabilo explore honest feelings through subtle lyrics, which makes listening sometimes feels like digging through sand, looking for sand dollars or beach glass.

Despite having two radio hits at the time of release, the record begins with a new song from the perspective of violent revolutionaries. “If we chase them till the sun goes down, we can take them out, no one else around,” Jesse Dryfhout declares on “Don’t Look in Their Eyes”. He sings of murder and hunger and — most addictively, power. There is a thrill to this ardor found again in the lyrics of “Kidding Ourselves”, which subtly blurs the title into “killing ourselves” over time.

The rest of the album shifts between Dryfhout and his co-frontman, Christopher John. The tracks led by John tend to find a folk-like mellowness. The acoustic percussion on “Habit” and the smooth deliberations and gentle strings on “Ordinary” are stylistic examples. Dryfhout takes the pop-toned songs; his quick-pace vocal style led to the success of hits “Everybody” and “Flawed Design”. What unifies the record is a tendency to explore the symptoms of depression and a restlessness that spurred post-hiatus rumours. There is an honesty to how the band tackles emotions: a candidness that is rarely stated in such explicit terms.

This is what Stabilo fans lost with the sudden hiatus of the band six years ago, but we weren’t left hopeless. After all, with Stabilo’s disaster must come little happiness, and that happiness is found in tracks like “Beautiful Madness” and in the bite of “Don’t Be So Cold”. When the band does stray into romantic territory, there is a sweetness (often propelled by the ricochet of a guitar underscored by a steady bass) , and this is nowhere more clear than on the title track, “Happiness and Disaster”.

With the passing of time comes forward movement. Some artists create to impart something in the world and then, having succeeded, move on to other tasks. In March 2017, Christopher John released his first solo album. Bassist Karl Williaume is now playing with Caleb Hart as part of The Royal Youths, and Jesse Dryfhout provided guest vocals for Marcy Playground’s “Brand New Day” in 2012. Stabilo may be done, but these artists are certainly not finished sharing with the world.

Top Tracks: “Flawed Design”; “Delivering Idiots”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*

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