Despite a title promising cheery fun within, Tom Slatter’s Happy People seems to be a concept album about a dystopian society where happiness is not encouraged so much as it is ruthlessly imposed by the authorities.
A Name In A File suggests Slatter has absorbed Pink Floyd’s The Wall on a cellular level, although his vocals may provide a stumbling block for newcomers to his output. He has a high, slightly tremulous voice without much tonal depth. His singing tends to be strongest when he adds some gusto to his delivery in Even Then We’re Scared, but sounds weakest when he pushes into his upper register or when left exposed in the quiet passages. The ghost of Steven Wilson prowls the album and anyone who finds solace in Wilson’s gloomiest moments – looking at you, Hand. Cannot. Erase. – will find a kindred spirit here in the sputtering Tracking Signals and the overall mood of melancholia. There’s plenty of good playing, including a tasty guitar solo in Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, and All Of The Dark stomps briskly along towards the album’s climactic finish. If you can embrace Slatter’s vocals, there’s enjoyment to be had in his steampunk prog visions.