La Castanya, Spain
by Glòria Guso
Balearic quartet Beach Beach are back after two years with an album that excels at extending the summer into the first warnings of the fall with songs made of jangle-y guitars and power pop riffs. This music may fool us and give us the illusion of prolonging the summer mood and softening the return to school and work, but the luminosity of the melodies is in fact masking the feeling of melancholy and gloom expressed in the lyrics. This is not the only contrast we can find in The Sea, an album inspired –so the band members say- by the namesake book of Blai Bonet, the Majorcan writer, where he says: “This is the war that comes after all peace, this war that penetrates the earth, creates dark caves and arouses lust. Like the sea does.”
Beach Beach’s debut album, Tasteless Peace (2012), was a poppy evolution of their previous works (the “Leeuwenhoek” group of songs, 2010), where the influence of American hardcore, math-rock and garage bands was pretty clear. Tasteless Peace was an excellent statement of what Beach Beach were and wanted to be: melomaniac musicians that could shake all their favorite music and squeeze something new from it. It is the kind of band that makes you think when listening to their records, to look for references and possible comparisons in your head, even if at the end it seems impossible to describe their music in only a few words. If that album recalled Teenage Fanclub, Teardrop Explodes and Dinosaur Jr among others, The Sea tosses in The Hit Parade, Josef K, the Beach Boys, Orange Juice and some kiwi pop references to lighten things up. For the recording of this album, Beach Beach relied on the stable live formation with drummer Àngel and guitar player Lluís, both members of the other Majorcan but based in Barcelona band Da Souza. This addition has surely given the songs some solidity and a different personality from previous compositions, so as does the fact that Tomeu and Pau also play in other bands (Kana Kapila, Extraperlo).
The Sea opens with a jingle, a possible opening song for a film about surfing that drives direct to the release single and one of the hits in this record. “Just Like Before” is the song that better embodies the underlying conflict present throughout the album, with its crystal clear guitars and its melodic filigrees somehow masking the gloomy lyrics that tell a story of love and disenchantment. This is what this album is about: growing up, not finding one’s place, not being able to process changes, feeling out of place. Is it nostalgia? We all grow old, but it is less painful if we can bounce our heads to songs like “A Weak Song,” with its powerful drum arrangements, “Fishbowl” with very colorful guitars and an intense resumption or “Narrow Fingers”, maybe the most C86-like song in “The Sea”. My personal favorite is “No Joy No Drama,”maybe because it gathers the sound of Tasteless Peace and its references from nineties rock in a more obvious way –doesn’t the uprising at the end remind you of “Plants”?- or maybe just because it is more epic than the rest. “Always Masking” has the most beautiful background vocals which, combined with the rocky guitars, make another hit.
Considering the evolution, it looks as if The Sea would mark a turning point in Beach Beach’s style. I hope it doesn’t, because I really like the blend of nineties rock clichés with kiwi pop details and the nice, well-sung, voice tracks that were already the trademark of their previous album. I do like their new poppier songs “White Clothes” (which they chose for their last videoclip) or “Busy Lips” (which makes me think about Madness, specially of the Absolutely album), but they have a more evident revival taste that doesn’t make this album as convincing as it could be. However, even if it is not a risky or radical change, the evolution towards a more mature sound is interesting and, above all, effective.