Right off the bat, I’m just going go ahead and admit that I don’t really like the new Best Coast album. Where the southern California lo-fi indie duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno excelled in their first album, 2010′s Crazy For You, they seem to have lost on the new album The Only Place, released a couple of weeks ago. Crazy For You was a super lo-fi surf pop album that was the perfect album to put on while cruising around in overly uncomfortable heat indexes. It was short, fun, drenched in reverb, filled with lyrics about how much Cosentino loves her cat and misses her boyfriend, and just never took itself too seriously. It knew it was just a fun little summer album.
That’s where The Only Place missteps, in my opinion. Bruno and Cosentino have obviously tried to get serious this time around, and it certainly shows. All the reverb is gone, and the songs just don’t sound fun anymore. Instead they’re mostly either mid-tempo or are downright slow and quiet. I respect that they wanted to move forward musically and artistically, but for me, personally it’s just a sound that I don’t find all that interesting. The question is, were the songs on The Only Place able to translate more properly in a live setting?
Yes and no. The reverb was back, which was an improvement, but the songs themselves just aren’t very good, I don’t think. The crowd at Lawrence’s Granada Theater was about maybe 80% full, yet starting about half way through the band’s set I could see people start trickling out. For a group who’s career was started off by writing upbeat fun summer jams, the crowd should have been bouncing around all over the place, but instead people were just standing there stiff as boards. That’s really all you could do, though. The Only Place was performed in it’s entirety, including all of the bonus tracks, so chances for the crowd to have fun with the performance were few and far between. The fact that Best Coast is playing the new album in it’s entirety like that, shows that they are obviously proud of it, and you can’t fault them for that. But I personally just don’t think a vast chunk of that album should be played live. Let alone 3 or 4 slow songs in a row.
If it sounds like I’m being harsh, I’m not trying to be. There WERE moments of good within the performance. The encore might as well have been what I wanted throughout the band’s entire set. It consisted of all older songs that sounded great, and what ended up being the best song of the night, in my opinion: a Fleetwood Mac cover. Why was it so good? Because it showcased Bethany Cosentino’s ability to actually SING. It made me realize just how much potential she could have as a songwriter and as a vocalist. Another moment of interest during the encore was Cosentino’s obsession with a piece of fabric thrown on the stage that simply said “Dog Cock” on it. Her stage banter is fun, and was more entertaining than the songs itself, which I hate to say. I guess I just liked Best Coat’s music as much as I like Cosentino’s personality.
Opening last night’s show was JEFF the Brotherhood, a duo of brother’s from Nashville. These dudes were LOUD and super grungy, almost sounding like they were time warped from the early 90s. At times, Singer/Guitarist Jake Orrall’s guitar tone reminded me of early Smashing Pumpkins, pre-bald Billy Corgan. Jake, complete with foxtail hanging from his belt, denim jacket, and a clear guitar with only the top 3 strings loaded in, set that stage on fire. His tones were so loud, that I begin to question whether he was coming out of the P.A. at all or if he was solely just emerging from his amps. At the end of their set, they performed what felt like one fifteen minute song, that turned into Jake standing on the side of the stage losing himself completely in his guitar, while his brother Jamin watched him for rhythm and tempo changes. It was magical. I felt like I was hanging out in these two dudes’ garage watching them jam. And quite honestly, JEFF the Brotherhood ended up getting a louder, more reactive response from the crowd all night, it seemed.
Which is why, in the end, I personally would have liked to have seen them headline, with Best Coast opening, maybe. I was fully enthralled with JEFF the entire time, but found myself bored on multiple occasions during Best Coast. And once again I don’t mean to sound so harsh about Best Coast. I understand and respect them wanting mature musically, I just don’t think they’ve found the right sound yet. Better luck next time?
By Richard Pepper
Photos by Erica Cassella