The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (digital outlets)

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The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (digital outlets)

When the Beths played to a capacity crowd at the Auckland Town Hall in November 2020 an excitable group of late-teen girls waited outside an hour before doors opened. However, despite the band's standing with that demographic, they were in the minority.

A large proportion of the crowd were in their late 30s and a considerable number unquestionably fortysomething. But many knew every word singer/songwriter Liz Stokes delivered, and bayed in anticipation when guitarist Jonathan Pearce stepped forward for a fist-tight solo.

Little more than two years on from their debut album Future Me Hates Me and a visibly nervous set before a student radio crowd at The Other's Way festival, the Beths had become major contenders.

Their second album Jump Rope Gazers (2020) released shortly before their Town Hall showing confirmed their grip on fizzing, energetic, post-punk power pop, there'd been international touring opening for the likes of the Pixies and critical acclaim by important taste-makers at Rolling Stone, Stereogum and Pitchfork.

They had global management, smart but inexpensive videos and a personable social media presence which meant a rapid upward trajectory from indie.rock favourites to mainstream acceptance.

Earlier this year Jesse Mulligan on RNZ National introduced the new single Knees Deep from their forthcoming Expert in a Dying Field album (the low-budget video has them bungy-jumping off Auckland's Harbour Bridge) and described them as the station's favourite band. They made an in-studio appearance on the day of the album's release.

The reason for their wide appeal from teens to middle New Zealand is because the Beths write half-familiar, exuberant, economic and immediately enjoyable pop-rock with burred edges. The added dimension is Stokes' self-deprecating, wry, anxious and self-doubting lyrics.

If their bristling pop hooks don't always surprise – those a decade or two older than the band could pick influences from chorus-crafters Blondie, the Buzzcocks, Cars, Exponents, Lemonheads, Courtneys and Taylor Swift – then Stokes' lyrics elevate them.

The opening lines of Expert in a Dying Field's title track announce the break-up angst at the album's core: “Can we erase our history, is it as easy as this? . . . I can close the door on us but the room still exists and I know you're in it”.

Knees Deep is replete with a water metaphor; the furious words of Silence is Golden arrive at breakneck speed with a guitar shred matching Stokes' emotional white noise; the failed relationship is dealt to on the punchy Best Left (“to rot”).

Your Side captures the intersection of love and need; uncertainty anchors the power pop of Change in the Weather . . .

Expert in a Dying Field is a continuum of the Beths' taut, established sound but Stokes' insightful open-heart surgery on her emotions and her assured delivery is their point of difference in a very crowded field.

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Expert in a Dying Field is available now digitally, on CD and limited edition vinyl.



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