and now for something completely different
July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
Matt DeMello would like to introduce you to Best Coast…
Part of me wants to believe that chanteuse/songwriter Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast wears multi-colored Ray Bans and sports oily, dyed-platinum hair with a sliver of tongue in cheek. The more cynical part of me knows better. While I’m sure she’s not being disingenuous, it’s probably no coincidence that Cosentino’s wardrobe and well orchestrated publicity also pose to introduce her to broader, hip-hop and electronica-absorbing sects of hipster bastion-cities like Brooklyn and Austin. Scenes that are essential to her continued success, but may not be immediately predisposed to her Beach Boys/Bunnymen echoing, surf rock. At the same time, I can’t help but be a little worried. Just how much of a lifespan does any up-and-comer like Cosentino think they’re going to get out of this image by July 2010? You don’t need to be a pop culture connoisseur to know that wearing oversized t-shirts, short shorts, having pale white skin, and a Win Butler-quaff-sporting boyfriend are not exactly the features of what most would call a trendsetter. And if the snowballing success of blogs-turned-flip-through-books like Look At This Fucking Hipster are any indicator, the half-life of this zeitgeist may be at long last close to over—at least in it’s current appearance.
Outside of Lady Gaga, dissecting the fashion sense of any pop star to such an extent would be making mounds out of mole hills. The same could be said of Cosentino if such a depiction of her image didn’t parallel how any given hype-skeptic will find her debut LP on first impression. One would expect these listeners to lightly accept Crazy For You (as well as Cosentino’s appearance) as pristinely disheveled, noting the calculated crests of artistic cohesion peppered with subtle gaffs where she’s trying too hard to make it all look effortless. This is a record championed by a viable and interesting personality whose distinctness does not rely on her potency, which is normally a sure-fire recipe for success. Her playful, subdued tone when articulating pop-song breakups maybe attractive as her visual appeal, but remains in no way as earth-shatteringly original as the media attention behind her would indicate.
The recent internet fervor enjoyed by Best Coast proves that, whether you like it or not, continued Brian Wilson idolization by garage rockists is entering its third straight decade with the wind in the sails. To the chagrin of those with more eclectic tastes, legions of neo-new wave soundalikes should be swiftly in tow. Even when they arrive, Best Coast’s music is strong enough to brave the front of any potential monotonous collective surrounding them. After repeated listens, it’s not hard to imagine a significant portion of the indie-rock community (including the more condescending group I just mentioned) consistently counting Bethany Cosentino in their go-to group of poster girls somewhere between Zooey Deschanel and Annie Clark. Now, I’m aware most female readers and die-hard fans of Best Coast’s previous EPs will take that last sentence, and most of this review for that matter, with a sexist grain of salt. While theirs would a respectable sentiment, it’s arguable that engaging Best Coast’s more superficial and feminine characteristics is a fair fight in light of their lyrical content. The band’s general artistic output thus far, and Crazy For You being no exception, can be taken as a lightly refridgerated dish served to the boys in Cosentino’s life to whom she just can’t say ‘no.’
The teenybopper narratives within Crazy For You are as vibrant as they are authentic where the emotional conclusions drawn from them, however seemingly bitter, are never delivered with the usual bite or force of vengeance. Cosentino instead smiles with the warmth of a Californian summer sun no matter what boy she’s begging to stay. Typically portrayed, these male figures are delightfully manipulative, immature, puppy-scoundrels that her mother has warned her about her whole life, as exemplified by the long-adored single “That’s the Way Boys Are.” Hardly playing the role of a strong-willed, independent woman fighting for what’s fair, Consentino insists that’s just the way she likes them on “When I’m With You.” A befitting motto for her would be ‘a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do,’ at least based on her priorities: the repetitious, swelling coda of “I hate sleeping alone” in the outro of the song provides the most infectious moment on the record. I could go on a lengthy comparison between Crazy For You and the recent article in last months’ Atlantic Monthly titled ‘Love, Actually: How girls reluctantly endure the hookup culture’ but I’ll spare you. The melody registers as eloquent and the same goes for Cosentino’s dead pan heartbreak, even if it’s all delivered with a coy smirk.
Taking into account the projected career arc of Best Coast’s future, this debut is likely to last in wikipedia-history books as a worthwhile first move, if only just that. The record admirably avoids the low-fi hallmarks of their previous releases, and for that Cosentino can be considered brave. After all, the road back to obscurity from success is paved with the good intentions of those buzz bands trying to foster career longevity by never leaving the faux-analog warmth of their bedroom demos. The band’s current crest of momentum, both creative and economic, is sure to keep them far from that often trodden path. The crop of singles on Crazy For You, both present and future (“Boyfriend” wisely leads the pack, the title track will likely follow, and after that my suggestion would be “Goodbye,”) will allow them to righteously thrive at summer festivals and within the blogosphere by year’s end. For those digesting the record holistically, the best songs are wisely arranged throughout the disc with only minimal filler (I guess I could do without “Bratty B.”) It’s tempting to end here by remarking ‘if only presentation was as easy’ but as Bethany Cosentino proves on Crazy For You that she’s well aware content is much more important than appearances.