"I wake up to the morning sun, when did my life stop being so fun?" Bethany Cosentino wonders in "Do You Love Me Like You Used To", "Moods may swing, moods my change", in another, "To go back in time i, make the wrong feel right", she worries in another. This is the only place? This is the bright new West Coast world?
Well, yes. I was never a big believer in Bethany and her partner Bob Bruno's Best Coast. Not only were the melodies, so popular, off their first album Crazy For You, too slight for my tastes, the surf and turf sound lapidary and the lyrics weak. I didn't like them.
But the title track off their Jon Brion produced "The Only Place" is one of the best songs of the year, and the album is a wonderfully faded sound: it is like the sun on a tea cosy: the shades are barely decipherable and there is something sort of sad and lost about it.
So what you have is 40 minutes of beautifully upsetting sound: it is depressive in a way West Coast music really isn't: or is but it is hard to decipher from this distance. It is the Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler and Brian Wilson at his most depressive, the sound is full of pop thrills but the tone is subdued and if Bethany is happy, why doesn't she sound it and say it: "It's no fun…" she iterates before steamrolling through things that are misplaced in "Fun Fun Fun"… because, in the end "We have fun when we like".
Bethany is looking through the barrel of her twenties and mortality seems to dog her here. The melodic archness is not quite relaxed, there is a tenseness to her, the lightness of "Crazy For You" is weighted down on "Better Girl": It is not merely a neat trick, it is also an original trick.Not happy songs about sad things but light songs about heavy things.
The album hangs real tough, from the excellent title track and for 35 minutes to the perfect on my room for twenty somethings penultimate, "Let's Go Home" , a deeply felt on the coach self portrait. And the better still, end of days "Up All Night". And in between the songs sink you so deep into them, they are like waking dreams of life on what might well be the best coast. It beats down on you what might be the endless summer, heat of the day till the night when the beach is closed and aging and longing and time in the only place moves slowly longingly away. It is fun when we like.