Best Coast – [Album]

Best Coast – [Album]

Wednesday, 05 August 2015
ARTIST: Best Coast – [Album]
DATE: 08-05-15
REVIEW BY: G.Murray Thomas
ALBUM: California Nights
LABEL: Harvest/Universal

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Are Best Coast trying to be the new Ramones? Not by copying their music, but by repeating their career model. That is, by developing a signature sound and sticking with it album after album. Both bands have a style which is both catchy and hard edged; where the Ramones crossed the Beach Boys with Stooges, Best Coast blend Phil Spector with grunge. It’s a style which can stand repetition and remain fun; a style which only requires slight variations to still bring pleasure (at least three albums in) to those who hear and appreciate it. And, frankly, both bands celebrate being dumb. Or at least not being profound.

Which is all to say that I don’t hear a lot of difference between California Nights and Best Coast’s debut Crazy for You. They continue with poppy vocals and fuzzed out guitars. California Nightsdoes have a cleaner production, but that only means the fuzz on the guitars is hi-def (which is both an oxymoron and pointless). And, to be honest, like the Ramones, there isn’t a lot of variety between the individual songs. There are exceptions to this, most notably the title song and album closer “Wasted Time,” which slows down and spaces out, just as Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin had a couple of ballads and even a tease of guitar solo. But for the most part, the individual songs are just variations on the theme.

As for my “dumb” comment, I will admit there is a slight maturing of Bethany Cosentino’s lyrics here, but it’s the growth from high school heartache to college-age confusion. There is an attempt at profundity, but it’s the profundity of a dorm room stoner session, which is to say, not that profound at all. “What is life?/ What is love?/ What is the meaning of it all?/ Do I even care?/  Or is it just that I am so unaware?” (“So Unaware”) “The weight of the world/ presses down on my shoulders/ I’m a big girl now/ but I don’t feel much older/ I wish I had a friend/ to tell me that I’m fine.” (“When Will I Change”)

In fact, like their first album, getting stoned continues to be a major theme, and even source of inspiration on California Nights; although, in another hint of maturity, it is no longer everything. In the title song she sings “I never want to get so high/ that I can’t come back down/ to real life.” Now whether that’s an anti-drug message, especially in the context of all the rest of the pot smoke on this record, I’ll let you decide.

The question is, can they sustain a career like this? Do they even want to? The Ramones did, but they are the exception; repeating their formula ad nauseum was part of their identity. But we, as audience, generally grow tired of bands who repeat themselves too many times. Of course, if they try anything too new, we complain that we liked their old sound better. And once they reach the status of the Stones or the Who, the last thing we want to hear from them is anything new – just give us the hits.

Best Coast has a long ways to go before that happens. In the meantime, no matter how catchy their sound is, I doubt they can sustain it for even another album or two, let alone twenty years – and I doubt they would want to. There is enough songwriting talent here to make me want to hear it taken in another direction, to expand on the subtlety of “Wasted Time,” to push themselves into new territory. I won’t hold my breath, but I do hope their next album incorporates a broader palette.



California Nights
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .


Best Coast – [Album]

Thursday, 23 December 2010

There are some musical hybrids which just don't sound right. The perfect example of a dubious musical mixture would be a lo-fi version of Phil Spector, for example; on paper, it simply should not work. Yet L.A. band Best Coast pull it off.

The similarities that Best Coast's new album, Crazy For You, hold to Spector are right up front; earnest female vocals bouncing on top of a wall of sound. The melodies are very Spector-ish too, and Bethany Cosentino's voice has that particular timbre he captured so well. Sealing the deal, the lyrics all express an adolescent version of romantic longing.

In many ways, those similarities would seal the comparative deal between Crazy For You and Phil Spector's productions, but that wall of sound is all fuzzy around the edges. Rather than piling a score of horns, guitars and keyboards on top of each other, a similar impression gets left on each song, but it is all produced by a distorted guitar. In fact, it is somewhat amazing how this under-produced album can sound so similar to Spector's over-produced singles.

The comparisons really break down when one listens closely to the lyrics. Sure, the choruses are all sweet and yearning; lines like “I wish he was my boyfriend,” “Every time you go away/ I feel like I could cry” and “Every day I wake up/ and thank the stars above/ for sending me a man/ I could truly love” are just the tip of the romantic iceberg on an album dominated but such familiar thematic turns,  but the verses turn out to be at least reflective of a much more contemporary sensibility, if not downright cynical. I can't quite picture Ronnie Spector or Darlene Love singing “Nothing makes me happy/ not even TV/ or a bunch of weed” and therein lies the significant thematic difference between Best Coast and anything Phil Spector produced: the ideas are similar, but Best Coast's approach is decidedly more contemporary – in fact, Best Coast an ideal updating of that sound. There is always a place for romantic desire expressed through bouncy melodies, and Best Coast have found a way to package this for the modern ear with Crazy For You. They have enough indie cred that one can enjoy this CD without feeling too schmaltzy, or fearing ridicule from those “cooler” than we may be.



Crazy For You is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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