Best Coast Makes Talking Cat Wishes Come True at Grand Central, July 10
|Photo by Ian Witlen|
With Those Darlins
Grand Central, Miami
July 10, 2012
Better Than: The second Best Coast?
"I hate the ocean," Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino confessed from Grand Central's stage last night. "I think it's freaky."
Ignore that this is a shock on par with the Archies coming forward as a bunch of diabetics. Her hatred didn't stop Cosentino from taking a dip in in Miami's waters earlier in the day, she said. And music's reigning littoral supremacist's conclusion about Miami?
"You guys are like the best coast of the east coast."
Ding! Ding! Ding! Eat it, west coast of Florida. Breathe through your nose so you don't choke, Outer Banks. Hey, Chesapeake Bay, we just texted a photo of this to your bitch of a boyfriend, the Delmarva Peninsula. More like the Smell-marva Penin-suck-la.
But what about the show itself? Well, forget the criticism of the band's second album, that Jon Brion's more nuanced production left it sounding too glossy and polite. Cosentino's laconic stoner croon is too at peace to really call what Best Coast does garage rock. Live, however, the guitars have more crunch and the drums have more snap than on the breezier studio recordings.
Best Coast drew from both albums and two early singles to make for a relatively seamless set. Most of the variation from recorded material came from Cosentino's partner in Best Coast, Bobb Bruno.
Bobb is a hulking figure who sweats through his heavy metal shirts as the neck of his guitar pitches and yaws. Bruno builds Best Coast's songs by taking Cosentino's guitar and vocal demos and adding the rest of the instrumentation. In concert, he's constantly switching out guitars to vary the tone. He's the one who can give a song a punk edge or the sad slide of early rock melancholy. At times, he seems more into Cosentino's deeply personal songs than she is.
Before the show, he told us, "I just love Bethany's voice and a lot of the things she's singing about, I can relate to in some way. I spend so much time with her on tour. When she's singing about something on tour, I know where it's coming from."
Best Coast's songs are so effortlessly catchy that each one feels like a cover from a favorite mixtape. There's something vague and overlapping about the sound; the songs share common chords and lyrics, but isn't that how life works? Every day isn't really a new grand adventure. More often, it's the same things over and over.
The band's simplicity is deceptive. Take for example a song like "Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To" from their most recent album. It's a mix of stop-start drums, a cutting guitar line, and Cosentino dragging words out into a disinterested wail. According to Bruno, the lyrics shifted between the original demos and the final version.
"The focus used to be more about criticism from people calling us sellouts," Bruno said. "In the end, she and Jon Brion felt the lyrics could be improved on and she went back to work on them. There are some remnants of the original version in there but the new focus takes it to a different place."
Best Coast recast a song about their highly specific professional discontent into a highly relatable relationship song. Making the specific something that's universal and inescapable from the ear is what great pop music is all about.
There's no value in hectoring on about how many times Cosentino sang the words "crazy," "sun," and "fun." You might as well tell an Eskimo that building igloos from ice is getting old and he should really look into expanding his palette.
Best Coast is about the small things feeling like big things solely because they're your things. The songs are about adding some summertime romance to a broken air conditioner and finding sand in your shoes the first time you wear them again after coming home from the beach. Or at least, it can be about that if you want it to be. Maybe it's same-y tripe to you, just in the way some people look out to sea and are faced with the end of the world and others find possibility.