"Happy" - Marykate O'Neil
Get three musical smartasses together and watch out--you can be in for a treat of a potentially overbearing kind, a too-clever-by-half sort of thing. Not so this time, however, as O'Neil covers a song co-written by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Jill Sobule, and immediately undercuts any pretension by adroitly copping a riff from the largely forgotten, intently strange Australian band Flash and the Pan and using it as the foundation for the entire song. (And boy this made me wish I were still doing the podcasts so I could play you a snippet, but what the heck--I've edited the intro to the song she's using, "Walking in the Rain," so you can hear it, here.)
"All I wanna be is happy," goes the lyrical refrain, as the narrator seeks to simplify matters by not trying so hard to be perfect or original or, even, thoughtful; and the music agrees, saying, hey, we'll use someone else's cool riff if we need to. Not to mention a title to a song already well-known to rock'n'roll history. (O'Neil seems to like doing that; she was previously featured on Fingertips for her song "Stay.") Keith Richards needed a love to make him happy; O'Neil here wearily accepts the world as it is, rather than try any longer to improve on it ("I used to get wisdom from being alone/Now I just leave the TV on"). Yet one more off-the-wall musical reference comes into play as the lyrics, in the second half, make reference to "It's a Small World After All" and then begin on the spot to re-write it. Tellingly, the narrator's new version of it isn't all that different from the original.
"Happy" is from O'Neil's new EP, mkULTRA, which is at once a reference to this disc as a bonus Marykate offering and the name of an infamous CIA project in the '50s and '60s involving mind-control experiments, which used a variety of potentially dangerous drugs on unsuspecting participants. The EP was released last month, and is an appetizer for O'Neil's third full-length CD, Underground, slated for a February release. MP3 via O'Neil's web site.