Blaenavon – Everything That Makes You Happy

A record that wears its heart, and thoughts, on its sleeve.
Label: Transgressive
Released: 25th October 2019
Rating: ★★★★

Artistic expression comes from all manner of places. Not every great work is created from calm waters, and to say that Blaenavon’s second album arrives from a difficult position would be a fair statement.

A message from frontman Ben Gregory that came alongside the surprise announcement of the record describes it as “an optimistic response to a difficult time”, detailing relapsed mental health issues and a pledge that “time heals all and everything WILL be alright”. From the sounds of ‘Everything That Makes You Happy’, it’s a promise to be believed, too.

While debut album ‘That’s Your Lot’ was a low-key indie masterpiece, there’s something more propulsive and direct on its follow up. From first taster ‘Catatonic Skinbag’ – a lost turn of the millennium brit-rock anthem if ever there was one – this is Blaenavon’s vision supersized. ‘The Song’s Never Gonna Be The Same’ packs a string-laden, hair-raising chorus that already sounds like an arena-sized, lighters in the air moment, while ‘Fucking Up My Friends’ is bright and breezy but also devastatingly heavy and honest in the same breath.

The jangle of ‘Never Stop Stirring’, with the refrain “if you never stop running, you won’t get ill” taking bittersweet meaning, is both raw and yet optimistic, but it’s the closing title-track that sends the message loudest. Building to a frenetic crescendo, Ben repeatedly delivers the record’s title. Like an emotional release, it feels like the curtains being thrown open to something new.

As that leading written statement requests: “breathe this album in deeply – it really is one of a kind and from a very special place.” Cathartic, sometimes painful, but always reaching for something better – it’s a record that wears its heart, and thoughts, on its sleeve for all to see. Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Stephen Ackroyd

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