You get to a point in life when you don’t need any more new friends. I have enough old friends I can barely find the time for that to make the time for new friends is nigh on impossible. I’m not an unfriendly person. Far from it. But the circle of friends I have is rich and varied and more than enough to enhance my life for the rest of it. And it’s like this with music. I don’t have the energy or the inkling (or the cash) to invest in new music when there’s so much brilliant stuff from the past I’m happy to revisit and replay and re-evaluate, and occasionally re-buy if I fall for the remastered/repackaged/enriched audio blah blah blah that the record companies know folk like me can’t resist.
Now and again though, a new record comes along that demands my attention. The current Arctic Monkeys’ album is one such thing, even if the band didn’t quite reach out with an advance copy and ask for it to be featured Plain Or Pan. I’m regularly sent music, mainly from new bands looking for a bit of exposure. Once in a blue moon, an mp3 will arrive that stops me in my stubborn tracks. A couple of months ago it was The Saxophones that hooked me, awful name ‘n all. This time around, it’s The Beths.
If you’re of a certain age – and as you’re reading a blog with a tagline that reads Outdated Music For Outdated People, I’d suggest you may well be, you’ll be quick to point out that The Beths sound like nothing new. Which is good, isn’t it? I suspect that, like me, many of you also don’t have the time to invest in getting into new music. Familiarity, like an old Marks & Spencer v-neck or Songs From Northern Britain is just fine.
The Beths take all the best parts of that window in time post-grunge and pre-Britpop when American guitars ruled the alternative airwaves. A quick listen to them and you’ll spot obvious nods to The Breeders and Belly and suchlike. There’s a studied looseness and seemingly sloppy approach to how it all hangs together, but of course, there’s nothing sloppy about it at all.
All four Beths met in Auckland New Zealand as jazz students, and they can really play. They could’ve chosen to take a Steely Dan/Ben Folds route to showcase their talents. Instead, they’ve gone for an update on slacker rock. Fancy-pants chords chime on top of counter melodies. Mercurial, quicksilver guitar riffs are tight and taut, wrapped around the melodies as snug as a straightjacket, the only sloppiness on show being intended rather than unavoidable.
On current single Happy Unhappy, there’s a fantastically furious mangled guitar solo that sounds like J Mascis being spun at 200rpm in a KitchenAid food blender. The vocals, a saccharine-sweet rush that embraces singer Elizabeth Stokes’ Auckland twang and wraps it around sunkissed harmonies in the chorus bring to mind fellow Southern Hemispherian Courtney Barnett, one of the few new acts I like, even if despite my best intentions, I can’t seem to find the time to properly invest in her. It’s very 6 Music and “ones to watch out for” and, suddenly, when it was the last thing I was looking for, I have a new friend. I suggest you invite The Beths in for a cuppa and a chat about your favourite records. I reckon you’ll have a lot in common.
The album , Future Me Hates Me is out on 10th August. Visit the band’s Bandcamp page to stream, order and what not.