Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Happy Unhappy: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Beths

The Beths are from New Zealand but their new album, the spry Future Me Hates Me, is being released on the D.C.-based Carpark Records label. I wish I could think of some clever way to link up that fact with the rich musical heritage of this city, but I'm not sure that's possible.

While lots of this record has punch, lots more is awash with melody. From the buzzing "Great No One" and on to the title cut, the music of The Beths here is deft indie-pop of the sort that would have reached great acclaim in the Nineties, when young audiences seemed more receptive to guitar-based rock. And to say that is not to knock what the four players -- Elizabeth Stokes (vocals, guitar), Jonathan Pearce (guitar, vocals), Benjamin Sinclair (bass, vocals), and Ivan Luketina-Johnston (drums, vocals) -- are doing here, but is, instead, meant to place their superb way with a tune in line with past greats like Veruca Salt, Belly, and The Juliana Hatfield Three. On the ramshackle "Whatever", a holdover from the band's earlier Warm Blood EP, Stokes sings with a mix of vulnerability and bravado that is instantly interesting. Her vocals on many of the tracks here will draw favorable comparisons to bands from that earlier college rock era, but her clearest contemporaries seem to be singers like Alex Lahey and Courtney Barnett. On the darn-near-perfect "Happy Unhappy", Stokes offers up witty lyrics over the top of the sort of robust hook that a band like Bettie Serveert would have once killed for. It is just a great song and typical of so much here on Future Me Hates Me, an album that seems like it's full of hits.

Future Me Hates Me is the sort of thing that you want to play again as soon as you've played it the first time. Hints of the sort of thing Fountains of Wayne or Crowded House once touched at on certain singles peeks through here, but The Beths keep things (thankfully) less polished, such that the whole enterprise has the feel of stumbling into a band practice where Stokes is showing off her pop wizardry and the band's racing to punch things up all around her. Given the part of the world she's from, I'm sure there will be further lazy comparisons to Courtney Barnett made. And while some of that may fly, Stokes seems like she's burning (more than Barnett) to write a Big Pop Single, even if it's wrapped up in indie trappings. And as far as this writer is concerned, that's an awesome life-goal.

Future Me Hates Me is out on Friday via Carpark Records.

More details on The Beths via the band's official Facebook page, or their official website.

[Photo: Amanda Cheng]