When is the Pas/Cal-Happy Bullets double bill? Like Detroit’s own nattily attired pop outfit, Dallas-based Happy Bullets write baroque pop songs done up in Kinks and Nilsson finery that nod also to moderns like Belle & Sebastian or the New Pornographers. On Vice & Virtue Ministry, they view suburban life through a looking glass, twisting Pleasant Valley Sundays into quirky tales of hallucinatory housewives, suicides hiding behind serenity, and worker bees who dream of an aristocratic future. As Jason Roberts sings in "The Disquieting Letter," "Perfect isn’t very perfect anymore." Happy Bullets definitely owe their influences a drink. But they also understand what pop like this requires, and that’s verve and wit. Fuzzy keys whir through "Drinkin’ on the Job," "Don’t Wait Up" begins with a spot of parlor piano before becoming a dreamy march, and "Sex and Valium" filters in from across the universe. "Good Day!" and "If You Were Mine" are pure pop attended by handclaps, trumpets and charmingly twee lyrics. "If you were mine we’d make hearts and rusted bedsprings sing in three-four time." In a world where the Arcade Fire is huge, it’s a crime that Vice and Virtue Ministry and its mirthfully sweet title track aren’t.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.