Single Review: Grandmas House – Always Happy

‘We wrote the song during the first lockdown back in March and it felt incredibly natural…it was one of those songs that just came together so quickly as we were all completely on the same wavelength concerning the meaning of it.’

Personally, I was drawn to reviewing this single for two main reasons. Firstly,  the band Grandmas House are based in my wonderful home city of Bristol. Therefore, anything creative from here is always worth a look and listen. 

Secondly, as an ageing punk from the time when computers and mobile phones did not rule this world, Grandmas House’s ‘surfy, post-punk’ music (their words) caught me immediately with an unexpected uppercut and (as us ageing punks are prone to do) transported me right back in a glorious haze to the halcyon days of the late 1970’s, surrounded by the incredible sounds made by the Pistols, the Clash and much, much more. 

‘Always Happy (released on Brace Yourself Records) is the third single from the Bristol trio of Grandmas House; collectively Yasmin Berndt (vocals, guitar), Poppy Dodgson (vocals, drums) and Zoë Zinsmeister (bass). 

As the band recollects, ‘‘Always Happy’ is a song we wrote about the social anxiety we all experience in some way or another particularly concerning social media, which gives the chance to easily convey a polished, perfect life which is often misleading – it’s not daily life, but snippets of the best parts. Moments of happiness and confidence that build to an image of contentment in the same way a smile can be used as a mask from what is really going on in the real world. The song is wrapped in sarcasm based on our experiences of being perceived as a certain person, particularly on stage, where we are overconfident, exaggerated versions of ourselves, and social anxiety appears far away. The lyrics are an ironic take, in the way that they are the complete opposite of how we sometimes feel and we think a lot of people can relate to this feeling’.

From the first bars of the opening guitar riff, we know we’re in for an engaging, thoughtful ride for the next two minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Yasmin’s leading vocals perfectly match the tone of the music that begins to build around her voice, as the bass and drums enter with energetic, thumping precision. The lyrics perfectly portray the aspects previously mentioned by the band, of us wearing social ‘masks’ – especially during this surreal period of national lockdown and the misguided perceptions that society can place upon us, based on what we choose to project outwards.

Formed in 2018, Grandmas House are a key ‘cog’ of the vibrant post-punk machine that currently exists within Bristol, surrounded by upcoming bands such as Lice, Heavy Lungs, Wych Elm, Repo Man and others.  

For me, Grandmas House stand out due to the sheer power of the music, produced from guitar, bass and drums. In addition, I find their lyrics haunting and the perfectly-expressed vocals never fail to draw you seamlessly into what the band are transmitting.

My only minor peeve would be length. I simply wanted the song to carry on and, in reviewing the single, I’ve literally played it thirty-seven times in a row. So, in hindsight, not really a peeve at all, especially when ‘Always Happy’ sounds as fresh on play #37, as it did the first time around. Besides, in ancient times I was raised on both rock & roll and punk music, bathed in deliciously wild singles that began, exploded for just under three minutes of joyous energy (usually to fit in with strict radio time listings) and then left you wanting much, much more. This trio has the capacity to inject colossal amounts of raucous pleasure, delivered in an adept, musical package. 

Grandmas House now have an ageing punk as a new fan and I look forward to following their music career with keen interest.

‘I’m charming and I’m confident,
When I wear my suit jacket,
You want to be me.
And I say what I want and I say what I like….

…You can’t wipe the smile
Off of my face.
I’m perfect and I’m needy.
You know what you’ve missed,
When you need me’.

‘Always Happy’ by Grandmas House (released March 2021, Brace Yourself Records as a two-track cassette; B-side ‘Small Talk’ – order now via Bandcamp)

Review by Kev Milsom

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