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Poor Rich Ones | Happy Happy Happy (Five to One)
Repackaged from its original Norwegian release last year, with an added track from the same sessions, the third full-length from the Poor Rich Ones walks a time-honored line of epic angst. Sweet, soaring vocals underpinned by a not unfamiliar brand of terribly sincere melodic rock enable the Poor Rich Ones to be both delicate and strident at the same time. If they were from Wigan or South Wales they'd probably have been lodged on the cover of NME by now. That they hail from Norway ensures that their faithful rendering of the Radiohead/Manic Street Preachers/Mansun over-emotive example sidesteps the increasingly addled agenda of that particular weekly. It doesn't take long for the gurgling electronics that fade like a slowly breaking dawn into Happy Happy Happy's opening track to expose itself as a non-sequiter, a trimming that's one step ahead of the rock-combo familiarity of much of the album. But with vocalist William swooping and pitching like he's inhabited by the essence of Elizabeth Fraser things are never allowed to become stilted or mired in chest thumping. At times it seems like his sublime falsetto has wings and is the only thing keeping this record airborne when the playing becomes weighed down by its own epic aspirations. If the taste of Happy Happy Happy is a little too pompous - executed with a furrowed brow and an earnest visage (and, having sought out Blink 182 producer Mark Trombino, a cynical eye to the mainstream US market) - then perhaps it's William's forthcoming solo album, with Even Johansen as producer, that will best expose the diamond that The Poor Rich Ones could be holding, but which on Happy Happy Happy still seems like something you might throw on the fire.

Martin Williams
June-July 2001