Best Coast – The Only Place

It bears no airs, nor even graces, and this is what saves it from mundanity.” – Dara Higgins on Best Coast‘s The Only Place.

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Spritely, semi jangly “surf pop” from California, the home of surf music. What this isn’t is Pet Sounds, although they seem to sing about the beach, so maybe that’s how they fit this particular pop sub-genus. Sure the sun shines in this music, but clearly these people have never surfed in Lahinch. Blog rock is how I would describe it. You know what I mean. Wave upon wave of blog guff suck at the shore, as you stand there in your speedos thinking “I’m not going in there”. Dead right, too.

So, while we argue the semantics of a pigeon holing oversimplification for the purposes of making journalists seem smart, we’re missing the music, man. And what’s it all about? It is, in essence, three minute, three chord, simple stuff. The simple stuff works, but it works best when it’s a deconstruction of the complexities of creativity. Here it seems, occasionally, that three chords was a struggle. At the start of the album The Only Place and When I Cry sound a little like the same song. Bethany Cosentino has a forthright voice. It lacks variation, but it makes up for that in personality.

Last Year is a kind of slow blues pastiche, where as No One Like You has that kind of In the Flesh by Blondie ¾ swing, referencing the great Spector hits of the sixties. There’s plenty of referencing going on here, a kind of box ticking for the various, expected genres.

The production is shiny chiming and clean, which is a shame. As the lion’s share of the instruments are played by Best Coast’s other half, Bobb Bruno, the playing does seem samey, lacking nuance, a bit craftless. Perhaps if they made the playing slightly more ramshackle, rather than adequate, and fuzzed it up a bit, the contrast between the backing tracks and the lead vocal would be more distinct, and Bethany’s voice, the USP here, would ring out even more. As it is, it’s nice pop music, restrained in its brevity, presented as such and not pretending to be otherwise. It bears no airs, nor even graces, and this is what saves it from mundanity. It does nothing for me, but as I write this, it’s pissing down outside. Maybe if we had a summer, this kind of barbeque music would be more appropriate.

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