In a perfect world, Eric LaGrange would be a household name, a rock ‘n’ roll legend on par with Buddy Holly—or at least Gentleman Jesse. Maybe we’ll get there yet. In the meantime, the man who’s previously sent message boards buzzing with Midwest garage outfits such as Cave Weddings and Romance Novels has emerged with a long-in-the-works and thoroughly infectious full-length album on venerable Chicago imprint HoZac Records. Previously known as Eric & The Happy Thoughts, the band with a newly shortened moniker’s debut album consists mostly of songs previously released on singles, which, though a potential disappointment for diehards, is perfect for the uninitiated since it’s essentially a singles compilation with additional songs tacked on.
The Happy Thoughts is no-frills pop perfection, albeit with a scrappy edge. It’s the kind of stuff bands like the Black Lips and Nobunny touch on in their most inspired moments. The difference with LaGrange, though, is that he suffers no experimentation or art-rock inclinations, and as a result, he’s a near-constant hook machine, seemingly never putting a song to bed until he’s hit upon that perfect melody, the one that’ll be stuck in your head all goddamn day. “Don’t care what’s at stake / don’t care if there’s money to make,” he sings on opener “Half Day.” It’s a shame his band rarely leaves the Midwest, but if this album doesn’t get them out of there, maybe it’s just meant to be. At least he seems at peace with it.