“This is our only chance/for certain happenstance,” sings Joel Plaskett at the opening of Scrappy Happiness, acknowledging that the project he and the Emergency are about to undertake (writing and recording the 10 song album in a 10 week/one song a week regime that saw each song debuted on CBC Radio 2 as it was completed) would leave little room for pre-planning and plotting. Unlike his last record, the sprawling and ambitious triple album concept Three, Scrappy Happiness was going to come at its audience right off he cuff, fresh from the studio. That in itself guaranteed that the songs would all be of a similar vintage, written and recorded so closely together that they would have an organic cohesiveness while still ensuring that there would be a spontaneity in each song that wouldn’t sound forced or faked.
They succeed in that regard. Scrappy Happiness has an awkwardly beautiful unrefined quality to it that would otherwise be buffed out by more traditional writing and recording. The delicate beauty of a song like “Harbour Boys” is that, while it’s presented as-is, it has the potential to be a whole new song if only it had a longer gestation period. The limitations of time have liberated Plaskett’s inner rock god, as the tumultuous opener “Lightning Bolt” can attest. It was the last track recorded but perfectly captures the spirit of the record’s creation and sets the tone for what is to follow: there will be flashes of brilliance, the low rumbling of anticipation, and moments when you’re not sure which way things are going to go.
For the most part, things go Plaskett’s way. Scrappy Happiness is worthy of inclusion in Plaskett’s acclaimed canon of work. Although time was its gimmick, I think time will prove that Scrappy Happiness will be remembered more for its songs then it’s recording set-up.
Tags: Joel Plaskett, Joel Plaskett Emergency