Monday, 30 April 2012

Best Coast - The Only Place


When Best Coast released their debut album Crazy For You in 2010, hype was generated. So much god damn hype led to a series of tours and EP releases with fellow California lo-fi dude Wavves. I know what you're thinking, links. We have several links to external sites for your interests because the angry mob called for 'inner linking'. I don't want to stray too far off topic, unfortunately this album isn’t very good so I can't actually concentrate. I'm trying to be open and give constructive criticism to the duo, Bobb & Beth.. This is harder than I thought. Look at that bear for instance! Man handling California like it's his bitch. The album cover pretty much sums up The Only Place... Dull, unoriginal, bland, boring, bullshit, 'bare'.. Not minimalistic and not 'post-modern' or some garage-surf-lo-fi-punk-core type thing. That’s enough of that for an opening paragraph, on to the music.

I take it back actually; let's talk about the new Beach Boys album. You know a band with actual song writing talent and technical skill. That's what I call surf-pop, delivering the "true" sound of the (not quite so) best coast. Repetition has always been a problem in this genre. Many artists fail to live up to their expectation because of their follow up album, and Best Coast are no different. There are not many differences between this album and Crazy For You. I could maybe mention the production style and the lyrical differences insipid sound. For starters the opening track and, unsurprisingly, lead single The Only Place has one of the worst lyrical themes of 2012. I am correct, it is 2012 and Bethany is still writing tracks about her precious beaches and sunshine. You could describe this track as an ode to California; I personally see it as a cheap and tacky move. For instance, "We have fun, we have fun, we have fun." I'm sorry dear, but you can't trick me into having fun listening to this bullshit. The guitar riff is extremely flat and her vocal drones have little to no effect on what was supposed to be the 'Best Coast sound'. Production is far crisper, which leaves a massive gap, since the original rawness of the debut album has been replaced by a simple 'rock' sound. This sound continues on Why I Cry with one of the worst song structures possible. It honestly is a huge step down, with Beth wailing her vocals and the predictable, utterly predictable guitar which becomes a nuisance pretty fast.

Last Year salvages some credibility with a respectable guitar riff. Its heaviness carries the track because Bethany has gone full retard with her lyrics and vocal effort here. She hasn't improved her vocal style, and what style she had (with the reverberated layers and shit), has been taken away in Jon Brion's production. You're asking why he's stripped away the raw sound, I can't tell you because it will be a mystery for many decades. He has basically taken the Best Coast out of Best Coast by pulling out the studio effects. It may be intended to sound more 'realistic', but with cat loving Bethany Cosentino on vocals, all hope of sophistication is taken away in one swift vocal wail. The shortest track 'My Life' is also the one to avoid. There's not a lot in this track, it's just a standard Best Coast album track with a repetitive guitar riff and a wailing Bethany vocal. I wasn’t expecting this track to be GOAT, but I wanted it to at least keep me entertained. Sure, I can listen to it, but the progression and her vocal is unbearable. It will be a recurring critical analysis for this album. And it's an analysis that shouldn’t surface as much as it does… Boring.

Best Coast needs to experiment more. These time signatures and song structures are all very basic and feature diddly-squat originality. No One Like You is their attempt at sounding 'retro' and soulful, however it comes across completely differently in my ears. This track actually has a creative acoustic guitar riff on the right side of the track; it's just almost entirely obscured by the Bethany Cosentino wails. The drumming is standard, as is the bass, and the electric guitar, and the lyrics. The song is a write off because it requires no talent what so ever (sorry for that guys). How They Want Me To Be carries on where No One Like You left off, slow and boring. I can't help but describe this album as boring because it's just filled with these mind numbingly boring tracks about Bethany's dreams and her relationship troubles (yet again). How They Want Me To Be does actually have a hint of sadness and melancholy, but only momentarily… Before the wails kick in and the simplistic guitar riff continues.

The barre chords are everywhere and I can't get them out of my head. Better Girl (sorry for the link, it's not at all relevant, but it does have a better girl, and Best Coast). Anyway, Better Girl has a very basic guitar riff again. I'm boring myself describing the basic barre guitar riffs because it's just getting silly now. How they can market this baloney is beyond me. Her voice sounds respectable during the chorus, but again with the wails… Please stop. There is no fuzz, no imagery and no 'summer feel'. Best Coast has lost all their charm by releasing this album, and the later tracks show. 'Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To' has an urge to descend into noise, but never really challenges the production skills of Jon Brion. 'Dreaming My Life Away' is painful to listen to. It's moments like this when an album should just stop, because it has no artistic value or any actual presentable features. It's incredible how stark this track sounds. Beth's vocals are horrible and the twinkling keyboards are minimal and are again obscured by the annoyingly simple bass riff and simplistic dynamics.

Best Coast leaves the best tracks till last on The Only Place. The final two are honestly the best on the album by a country mile. The enigmatic 'Let's Go Home' has the best lyrics on the album and Bethany actually sings these well in a well-spoken concise manner. The guitar sounds great and so does the shimmering reverberated effects on the right side. Still, it's no I Want You. The closing track is typically filled with four barre chords which I'm certain, they've used before. There is a melancholy sparkle on Up All Night, it's a different kind of Best Coast track because it allows Bethany to clearly express in a singer-songwriter style rather than the typical repetitive structures. The structure here is repetitive, but it's better than many tracks on this album. It's a sweet closing track; unfortunately it doesn’t hit the right mark.

In summary, it’s not as if Best Coast has improved since 2010. Rather, they've slumped in every way imaginable. The production on this album is a complete shambles and the dedicated fan base will be hunting down the 'direction' change for this albums sound. It's just not resonating with me and I'm sure many other listeners will say the same. I had an open mind coming into this album, mainly due to my moderately positive review of their debut album Crazy For You. I'm generally gutted that Best Coast has released a flawed album this time round. It's always difficult to record a follow up album, and Best Coast seem to have fell beneath the cracks of pressure and record label time constraints on this one. I can't really offer any advice to the duo either. If I was a close friend, I would tell them to experiment more and scrap the basic four barre chords and simplistic drumming for some serious instrumentation and musical skill.
~Eddie

3.4

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