Rhythm Room, Phoenix
November 9, 2010
A comment left on my Facebook check-in at last Night's Best Coast concert at Rhythm Room:
"Good luck listening to the same song with different lyrics over and over!"
The friend who left that is half right about the LA-based garagey, surfy, lo-fi indie pop band in question. The songs do sound the same. Actually, though, the lyrics on Best Coast's debut album, Crazy For You, don't vary much, either. Mostly, they're about unrequited love. Sometimes, they're about sitting around being lonely. Occasionally, they're about wishing cats could talk. The phrases "miss you" and "I wish" must appear in half the tracks. Ditto for the words "crazy" and "high" as self-applied by the singer.
Yes, Best Coast singer/lyricist Bethany Cosentino and her musical partner Bobb Bruno have a (ahem) steady sound and (cough) consistent themes. I personally find it endearing. Maybe the lovesick-girl-pours-her-heart-over-massive-reverb formula they masterfully cultivated on their album -- and during their 45-minute set at last night's sold-out show -- wouldn't work under circumstances where bigger ambitions were required, but they haven't faced those circumstances.
Crazy For You and this tour aren't supposed to be Tommy II. This project is just about taking cute little pop songs and feeding them through enough retro reverb to make Julian Casablancas blush. It's almost willfully unambitious, yet it works.
Cosentino isn't singing about the occult or infusing her lyrics with high-brown literary references because that's not her world. She's a mostly-happy SoCal girl with boy problems and little interest in the trappings of modern record-making technology. She and Bruno have enough talent to pull that off.
Actually, while the smiley picture below doesn't show it, Constentino seemed a little irritable last night. She wasn't, like, near the sort of on-stage meltdown her boyfriend, Wavves dude Nathan Williams, famously had in Spain, but the soundguy wasn't meeting her expectations and she seemed a little bored/annoyed. Maybe that sounds problematic, but it wasn't -- the bratitude works very well with the character she's creating.
So, while another Up On The Sun writer may have presented Bethany with "the award for most insufferable indie-pop star of 2010" (this was hyperbole; no such award exists) I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the three-piece touring version of the band play songs like "Crazy For You," "Sun Was High (So Was I)," and "Bratty B" while a mostly chillaxed crowd bopped their heads along. I also adored the loose version of "Boyfriend," which is indie's much-needed answer to Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me," and a helluva song.
Through the one-song encore that felt like an pleasantly awkward end to an otherwise effortless first date, Best Coast perfectly channeled the vibe of their record live. That's all anyone could hope for, I think.
Maybe people want something more substantial given all the hype, but to me it seems clear Best Coast is just a kid singing about what she knows using the chords she can figure out. Since when was that a sin?Critic's Notebook:
Last Night: Best Coast at Rhythm Room.
Personal Bias: I've sorta been digging this LA lo-fi scene for awhile... We've previously lauded No Age and I've written a column comparing a local punk kid to Wavves. I also gave the first Wavves album more points than any other critic in last year's Pazz & Jop poll.
The Crowd: As I left I saw a few kids calling their parents for rides.... Yikes.
Overheard In The Crowd: "It's my birthdaaaaay!" The birthday girl got to go up and "sing" a song with the band. The song, "Summer Mood," was introduced as "Scorpio Mood," in honor of the birthday girl's zodiac sign.
Random Notebook Dump: The Hole/Best Coast comparison seems to be gaining traction... there's only one song that really supports it, sonically. That's "Honey," a BC song that could totally go on a Hole record.
Also, this is worth showing. Best bass drum ever?