It is surprising how unsurprising it is that sunshine, reverb and nostalgia have become signifiers of hipster culture. Not only has there been no collective yawn of “what the hell is going on?” but hardly have I heard a single curmudgeonly snarl against the sandy, well-tanned version of indie (sometimes psychedelic) pop that has been covering itself in fantastically colored robes and slouch-backed making the rounds, well, around the world. Obviously, there are still plenty of dark, dark musical holes to throw oneself down, so my point is not that there is a lack of that sort of thing going on, but that is slightly amusing that some of the most cartoonishly self-conscious people in the world are circled around a god made of sunshine, teenage heartbreak, and drug-sprung surf maneuvers.
Maybe Best Coast does not fit perfectly into this equation, and maybe there was some undercurrent of sun-worship naiveté rippling under our feet for a long time, but Best Coast have definitely managed better than anyone else to translate the heart of Southern California’s appeal into short, dreamy bursts of indie pop as indebted to the huge, spiraling harmonies of 1960s surf rock and girl groups, as to the bratty, punkish indie-garage that has been reinventing itself over and over again since punk’s power to grab headlines and annoy elders did a nose dive and planted itself straight into the seafloor.
This is an off-the-cuff history, a little nonsense to put the world into better perspective. Anyway, I have reservations about letting myself get carried away on the Best Coast beach boat, but I often get carried away nonetheless. “Sun Was High (So Was I)” was a stroke of brilliance, a pipeline of unwinding feedback and melancholy desire that could be played on repeat a whole lot of times before its charm waned. Nothing on Crazy for You touches its strange, magnetic appeal, but there is still a lot here to recommend itself. I have become especially fond of the songs on which Bethany Cosentino’s voice takes a Patsy Cline turn, as on the hollowed out, twang-implied, “Our Deal,” a song that could exist in another time save for Cosentino’s complaint that her errant lover has made off with not only her money, but also her beloved weed. The album actually closes with something not so far removed from this, when the speed of “Each and Every Day” crashes into a slow, bouncing bout of washing vocals floating around behind Cosentino’s repeated claim that happiness could be had “each and every day.”
Every song here is about a relationship of the amorous sort. It is light on any particularly acute observations of male-female adoration/anathema, but it is notable that Best Coast seems able to make well-worn clichés sound like undeniable truths that could set you on a course through the shipwrecks of your romantic life up to today, and perhaps even make you feel like you can finally explain the complex mess that became of you and your others through the application of phrases that had seemed to you before staggeringly empty. I do not know whether to embrace this phenomenon or try to build up some sort of automatic defense to it. For now, I will stay on the embracing side of things.
Anyway, I still can get lost, without regrets, in the love/ hate maze outlined by the title cut and say, yeah, hey, that’s me and you, baby. But sometimes I can’t help but feel a shot of joy when the lyrics disappear and the oceanic swelling and contraction of Cosentino’s many, many layers of oohing harmony pour over the proceedings like the hippest sun balm ever conjured by the sand gods and their scantily clad, In-N-Out-scarfing mistresses in the wan, but enchanting Los Angeles that floats its signals into the imaginations of even those who know better.
The Crystals – Greatest Hits
Velocity Girl – Copacetic
Vivian Girls – Everything Goes Wrong
Video: “When I’m With You”