Within a few seconds of opening track "Bulldozer" kicking off I knew that I was in for a great listening experience with the new album from Beverly. The Blue Swell, out Friday via Kanine Records, is a superb set of surging indie rock of the kind that the world always needs more of.
Perhaps it's the utterly glorious "Crooked Cop" that will be the single that gets this band even more attention. I can only hope so. The song, all Teenage Fancclub hooks done up in Pale Saints instrumentation, is at once familiar and new. The tune feels like something you already heard, know, and love, and yet the combination of elements here is an entirely fresh one. Just a fantastic cut and candidate for one of the best singles of 2016 already.
Beverly, now a two-piece of Drew Citron and Scott Rosenthal, will no longer be judged on the same terms as those which impacted the reviews of the first album (reviewed by me here) in 2014. Back then, the LP got some initial notice because of the Frankie Rose bits on the record. Frankie didn't tour with the band and that's good 'cause it gave the group a chance to shine on its own terms. Opening for The Drums that fall -- (and I saw them in D.C. at the first gig I attended after my wife and I moved back home from Hong Kong) -- the band perfected a sort of American indie that owed some debts to shoegaze pioneers of the past, as well as more traditional stuff like The Pretenders.
That link to Hynde's style is apparent here on The Blue Swell on cuts like "You Said It", even as more lyrical numbers such as "Victoria" blissfully hearken back to bands like Blake Babies. If "South Collins" nods in the direction of anything it's earlier 4AD stuff like Swallow, while "Lake House" throbs with the sort of insistent beats that suggest an odd-but-wonderful collab between peak-period Cocteau Twins and late-period Primal Scream.
If so many of the high-points on The Blue Swell do point in the direction of past shoegaze classics, it is stuff like the utterly sublime "The Smokey Pines" that signals a new way to blend those influences from the past with something new, something American, and something freshly indie in all the best ways. Drew's vocals here on this song are just beautiful and the song is every bit as good as a lot of the output of Mazzy Star, for instance, even if Beverly tend to use more feedback and have less of a reliance on anything approaching a blues hook.
What The Blue Swell does so well is blend a few obvious genre touchstones together effortlessly. It would be far too easy to only focus on the bits of stuff like album closer "Don't Wanna Fight" that do indeed sound like Lush, or Elizabeth Fraser, or even The Jesus and Mary Chain. But a closer listen will reveal how wonderfully Drew Citron and Scott Rosenthal have intuitively used those influences in the service of creating something full of rich hooks and deft bits of songwriting. If anything, The Blue Swell feels like the first real Beverly album and the band's sound now seems to have been refined and honed. This is great stuff, and since so many of the tracks on The Blue Swell are affecting indie rockers I can't do anything but urge you to grab this new Beverly album as soon as you can.