Pacing is a big factor in This is Happening's success, and many of Happening's nine songs would not fare as well apart from the album experience. On its release in March, "Drunk Girls" struck me as a particularly hackneyed stand-alone single, one that threatened to turn off as many listeners as "North American Scum" did from 2007's Sound of Silver. So it comes as a surprise to hear how fitting the song is within the context of the album itself. The chanty back and forth of "drunk girls" and "drunk boys," interrupted by the silver-tongued chorus "I believe in waking up together/So that means making eyes across the room," is likely to score the trailer for whatever terrible dating show MTV comes up with this summer. But the song doesn't deserve that grim fate. It's part of a tangible tone and feel that makes Happening that rare dance record that's best enjoyed as an album rather than as a collection of singles.
It may be all the rage to reference '70s and '80s music these days, but Murphy isn't that ironic hipster mashing up dance beats with dad-rock, or that London band mimicking the Clash. Playing "spot the influences" in This is Happening is easy, but I don't believe Murphy intentionally sets out to replicate the records he grew up with — they're an integral a part of who he is. In a 2005 Pitchfork interview, Murphy admitted, "I'm not wandering under a banner of originality or a myth of no influences. There's no purity in what I'm doing." But Happening emerges as an undeniably pure-sounding album anyway. Drawing from the familiar sounds of an era, Murphy has gone beyond recapturing a spark that was already there. He's created a whole new reference point.
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