Thursday, September 13, 2018

Album Review: The Beths - Future Me Hates Me (2018)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up a copy of The Beths’ debut album, Future Me Hates Me. I reviewed the band’s opening gambit, the Warm Blood EP, for NZ Musician a few years ago, and I’d heard a couple of advance releases, ‘Great No One’ and ‘Happy Unhappy’. 

Yet cynical-old-me remained a touch suspicious that the glowing reviews appearing in Rolling Stone and on Pitchfork were merely a case of hyperbolic bandwagon-jumping. Mainly in relation to the generic and frequently-used “jangly guitar bands from New Zealand” angle. Not to mention indie pop’s seemingly relentless need to always come up with a new “next big thing”.

In a local context, at least, that was the weighty label worn very impressively last year by the similarly-geared Fazerdaze. This year, it looks as though The Beths have been tasked with filling that often extremely onerous vacancy. As the latest buzz-band according to those who supposedly know a thing or two about this stuff. It rather depends on how much credence you give Rolling Stone and/or Pitchfork, of course, but not all bands are well equipped enough to cope with such a burden. Many a talented bunch have just as quickly fallen off the radar after failing to meet unrealistic media-driven expectations.

So, having said all of that, I suspect The Beths have got the words “stay well-grounded” emblazoned boldly across the front page of the band’s constitution, and the only truly important question right now is – does Future Me Hates Me actually live up to any of that early hype?   

Short answer: Yes, I think it might just make the cut.

Long answer: the album is packed full of clever pop music, with great songcraft, and an abundance of hooks. Lyrically, there’s a nice balance, a good blend of the light and the dark; some weighty stuff mixed in with morsels of humour and a level of self-awareness not often found in a band with this youthful age demographic. As much as I usually cringe at throwing such blanket generalisations out there.

But perhaps the key element to the wider appeal of Future Me Hates Me is the sense that producer – and guitarist – Jonathan Pearce knew exactly how much dirt to leave in the mix when it came to adding spit and polish. There’s a raw edge to many of the tunes on the album. It’s post-punk indie 101. Girl-fronted guitar pop that’s a little bit frayed around the periphery. Universal, yet slightly bent, and even a touch subversive. 

The band keeps things focused and mostly tight throughout, underpinning the girl-next-door vocal nuances of the generally excellent Elizabeth Stokes, and there’s no question that The Beths have taken giant strides forward since the release of Warm Blood back in 2016. As good as that EP was, this feels like a much more mature piece of work. The sort of thing that usually happens when a band hones its craft in a live setting as often as this lot has over the past few years.

The album includes the popular live favourite ‘Whatever’ (originally found on Warm Blood), while other highlights include the title track itself, ‘Great No One’, and ‘Little Death’ … and more generally, you can expect to see Future Me Hates Me featuring regularly on those ubiquitous best-of-the-year album lists come November and December. In New Zealand, and elsewhere. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be on mine. 

Clear some space on the bandwagon, I’m climbing aboard.

No comments:

Post a Comment