Jump Rope Gazers
Just what is so special about this band, I wondered to no one when watching them live. And they won me over in that moment. Competent-af. (That could be the name of their albums – both of them). The Beths, the little Auckland band that could and did and is and they earned a fearsome live reputation making buzzy power pop that bristled with energy if not actual ideas and was instantly likeable enough – and served with something that didn’t sniff of arrogance whatsoever. So that was hella bonus eh!
And so even as I didn’t personally find the music memorable after the moment passed I marked them up for nailing it and seeming nice and good and it wasn’t just cute-enough – it was meticulously shaped, groomed just right but with some intentionally spiky bits, some messy edges that were made to look a bit off. The Beths made music that was like a modern haircut. It has its own story of a lived experience that leaps out of any textbook and takes its own walk around the block. But is it real? Is it actually anything? Is clever enough?
I gave Future Me Hates Me enough spins to remind myself that what would have maybe won a bronze in 1996 or 2001 or 2003 was now a gold standard because the numbers in support said so. Then I left the album – and the band – alone. Wished them all well. They were out there doing the work. I wasn’t. What the fuck would I know.
Two years on and many more stages were hit with The Beths impactful live performances; clever musicianship that hugged the songs tight as it let them go out into the adoring audiences of all ages. The kids caught up in the scene. The oldies so sure the kids of today had been listening to the things they still liked too – so not just applauding the current band for its current sound but congratulating themselves on assumed good and wide-ranging taste.
And now we have second album, Jump Rope Gazers which could totally be called Competent-AF but could also be called Will This Do? or Hope You Like It? And many people will love it since it sounds a lot like The Beths. Anything that propelled the first album along on its path, not so much a snotty charm as a clever sense of timing around the unfurling of melody, the placement of hooks, the sharpness of the arrangements (specifically the backing vocals and the layering) seems to have been airbrushed away. This is the Lead Singer Show. She’ll be off to a solo album or side-gig very soon I imagine. Some Suit will require the band to blur behind her and just be a supportive unit rather than a collective one.
And the back half of this record just sounds like late-career Fur Patrol, and about as memorable. Which is to say that nothing is terrible but nothing is there for anything longer than the three or four minutes it takes to say it and hear it.
The Beths have an energy about what they do live that will continue to propel them. But they’re making three star music for a two star world. So people are putting their effort together with the allegedly uninspiring time/s and awarding them five stars in the ultimate of Musical Fairplay Awards.
You will read plenty of rave reviews elsewhere though. So there’ll always be that option.
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