Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dr. Estranged Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Best Coast

Los Angeles's Best Coast are the latest beneficiary/victim of the buzz/backlash cycle that's become standard procedure in the web's music covering sector. As such, they are generally met with either ejaculatory praise or total disdain and dismissal. Both views are inherently suspect and depressingly predictable. Whether one is swept up by the hype or acrimonious toward it, the reaction is to the coverage rather than the music, and therefore of little value. (A little tip for the contrarians: listening to music with hostile ears doesn't do yourself or the act in question any favors.)

Best Coast's debut album Crazy For You was released yesterday on the Mexican Summer label. Rather than drown ourselves in positive or negative hyperbole, let's try and take a balanced approach, shall we?

It's easy to hear why people are excited about this band. Singer/songwriter Bethany Cosentino's melodies are infectious and instantly memorable. They evoke the affable West (if not best) Coast tunefulness of everyone from Phil Spector to the Bangles. The band's sunny hooks are tempered with a C-86/K Records-style naiveté, both in lyrics and production. Songs like "Goodbye," "When The Sun Don't Shine" and "Each & Everyday" work as both expertly crafted pop and bedroom-recorded intimacy. It's an effective, borderline irresistible mix.

On the other hand, there's also sound reasons for why one might be less than impressed with Best Coast. While individual songs are undeniably affecting, taken together they begin to feel more affected. I'm not necessarily doubting Ms. Cosentino's sincerity but "girl pines for boy" is Best Coast's only subject matter, and their take on it isn't particularly nuanced or revelatory. After a while, the songs on Crazy For You play less like genuine longing and more like what one is supposed to sing about for pop songs such as these. Between this and general lack of sonic variety, the album summons redundancy at a scant 31 minutes.

Ultimately, Crazy For You is a record that offeres easy pleasures. It's just that those pleasures aren't particularly deep. However, Best Coast make pop music, in the classicist sense. And whoever said that pop music has to strive for depth or significance? Probably the same type of clod who'd tell you that U2 is better than ABBA.



David Glickman said...

Glad to hear that even gunk/art punk nerds like yourself love this album too. Seriously, this album is just perfect in every sense of the word. Thought I don't know if anything will ever match the greatness that was "Sun Was High (So Was I)".

PB said...

"Love" is a bit strong. As you can read in the review, there's a few things keeping the album from being a great work. But I do like it though. Enough to recommend it, at least. If I had to Pitchfork-ize the album and give it a numerical value, it would around 7 out of 10.

I do think Wounded Lion's debut is a better record.

Tim Duffy said...

The singles leading up to this album probably could've been swapped in for 4 of the tracks here for a better album, though some of those are nearly a year and a half old.

Still a solid record and a fair assessment.

PB said...

I don't know if adding or subtracting any songs would help, honestly. The album's main problem is sameness of sound. Most of the songs here are fine in their own right and I don't think swapping them out for "better" but similar-sounding songs would make for an improved listen.

They still got an 8.4 from P4K, right? Good to know they're 2.6 better than Wounded Lion.

David Glickman said...

Ok "love" may have been me just project my thoughts of the album into your words, but on the list of hyped blog albums that you were going to like too, this probably wasn't high on the perverbial list.