Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Let's be very clear here: This local four-piece doesn't reinvent the wheel.
But Elsewhere is of the unshakable opinion that bristling power-pop doesn't require any kind of overhaul, just that it be done loudly and with enthusiasm.
So when the Beths -- who play the soon-come Others Way Festival in Auckland, see below -- hit a midpoint between Nirvana, the pure pop of the Courtneys and/or Courtney Barnett, powerchord Cheap Trick and an alt-rock Blondie (as they do on the title track here) you know indie-pop with its finger in a socket is in safe hands.
Rolling Stone certainly thinks so: In June it picked the Beths' Happy Unhappy here as one of their Songs for Summer (as it is now in the Northern Hemisphere) . . . and the band's similarly conceived debut EP Warm Blood was considered one of the year's best back in 2016 by our reviewer.
One of the great things about power-pop is its instant and enjoyable familiarity which invites you in (backing vocals, power chords, the verse-chorus template, more major than minor chords, fist-tight guitar solos etc) . . .
But of course it's what a band does with the formula after that.
The Beths push it into overdrive and away from the sonic sheen which has often been a hallmark of the genre: They make their songs about post-teen life'n'shit (try You Wouldn't Like Me and the title track) buzz and fizz with play-loud excitement.
Uptown Girl (“I'm going out tonight, I'm going to drink the whole town dry”) is halfway down the Ramones-sponsored track while others are still getting their running shoes on.
They intuitively know a lot of pop history (echoes of the Cars, Sixties double time handclap-clap); singer Elizabeth Stokes can sound as emotional as dispassionate (the VU/orgasmic Little Death, River Run); Whatever is slacker LA-meets-Blondie's New Wave; guitarist/producer Jonathan Pierce (ex-Artisan Guns and more) keeps a tight rein but shoves in the spurs; and . . .
This is pop music (10 songs across vinyl-length) which hooks its speedracer understanding to classic virtues – does it get any better or more essential than verse-chorus? – and does so with unashamed pleasure.
And the Beths are smart enough to know they didn't invent this stuff.
But . . . a wheel does not need reinventing, right?
Man, these kids – who all studied jazz at the University of Auckland – done good, huh?
Plug in, play loud and shamelessly dance like monkey on meth.