Premise: Morrissey (the young mopey kind before he became a racist “yer da” type) decides instead of going off to start one of the century’s most influential bands, he wants to branch off to start off a grunge/punk outfit. The result of this very specific pitch would be Manchester act Flood Manual, a band that runs with a simple three-word tagline: “soup with croutons“.
This comparison to The Smiths exists on two main points; they both originate from the North West and they share an unshakable vocal similarity. Louis Johnson may never reach the piercing falsetto heights of that cynical frontman, but the broody, bass-ey pipes that he shows off have a lot of resemblance throughout the band’s EP How To Be Happy.
Outside of these factors, though, Flood Manual are finding motivation elsewhere, and on paper, they really shouldn’t work. Instead of going down a more poppy route, How To Be Happy feels like a garage-rock type of affair, donning a few different costumes along the five-track running time to keep things remarkably fresh.
Empathy is a song to be commended for this, a melodic affair that feels pretty delightful with somewhat harsh guitars being pressed together with the aforementioned lovely singing to create a tasty, punky panini a la Weezer. Opener Over Me inaugurates this pattern, prancing in with a mesh of shoegazy instrumentals before chucking them off to hit into an indie rock nerve, finding a moment to chuck them back on to relish in the haziness.
The band cites Title Fight as an influence and it’s not hard to see why, as that act have shown their ability to blend in with delicate and jarring environments: there’s a good balance of this throughout this EP, Flood Manual choosing to rest for the third as well as the penultimate track. However, it’s Citizen that can be felt coursing through most of this EP, specifically Mould, which begins with a grainy, lo-fi guitar that serves as the fragile foundations of the track.
Much like the title would imply, the major theme on here should be happiness, more so the recovery in order to reach that place where you feel some joy – that’s not the case, though, as the band talk more about the struggles that make being happy so hard. There’s a frayed and strenuous relationship on the closing eponymous track (“Only happy when you close the door“) with the aforementioned Empathy being about the loss of such faculties, containing one of the best lines out of the whole EP: “I never thought I’d see the best of me, leaving my fingertips at 17.” While this kind of subject matter would wear itself thin over the course of a full record, Flood Manual made the right call to release an EP that not only keep itself sounding crisp but what it has to say too.
As a Scottish music site, we can’t dictate what another city’s music scene is like. From the stuff that is bubbling up to the surface on a UK level, though, a large chunk of it seems to be artists wanting to replicate the sound of either The 1975 or the Madchester era. While there are similarities to some old-school heavy hitters, Flood Manual have managed to craft something that displays visible roots, but doesn’t get tempted to copy its influences, standing out from their local contemporaries. How To Be Happy may be an EP about struggles, but it’s far from a challenge to listen to.