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Album review: Best Coast, "Crazy For You"

best coastBest Coast: brilliant, stupid or both?

By Chris Richards

If you remember a time when rock-and-roll was so idiotic it was genius, you remember 1977. That's when four New York numbskulls called the Ramones asserted themselves as the most vital and insipid force in American music.

In 2010, Bethany Cosentino seems only 25 percent as moronic as the Ramones, and by default, only 25 percent as brilliant. But maybe that's because she's the only member of her band.

As Best Coast, the California newcomer has written some of the most brainlessly charming rock songs since Joey, Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee roamed the Earth. The 23-year-old crams them tightly into "Crazy for You," an enchanting debut album on which the melodies glow, the guitars grind and the lyric sheet delivers the blunt-farce poetry of a drunken phone call.

Over the course of the album, Cosentino posits herself as a slacker-stoner-loser-loner with the eeny-weeniest of attention spans. So if you're like her, you'll want to skip ahead to "Goodbye," a song that parcels out all of Best Coast's sonic hallmarks in equal measure: serrated power chords, thumpity-thumping drums and Cosentino's deadpan singing - all dunked in reverb copious enough to make Phil Spector smile.

Then come the words.

"I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk," Cosentino sings, as if rattling off her last three Facebook status updates. She's killing time in the absence of an AWOL boyfriend, and as the song charges forward, our hero grows more goofily bereft. "Nothing makes me happy," she shrugs. "Not even TV or a bunch of weed." By the time she reaches the chorus, lovelorn ennui gives way to lovesick confusion: "I don't love you, but I don't hate you, I don't know how I feel."

"When I'm With You" - Best Coast

But on much of "Crazy for You," Cosentino knows exactly how she feels: lonely. This is an album of boy-crazy diary scribbles transposed into pining punk rock. Over the course of 31-odd minutes, the singer utters the phrase "I miss you" nearly two-dozen times.

"I miss you soooo much" serves as a heartsick incantation on the trundling "I Want to," before the song snaps into a sprint. "I want to go back to the first time, the first place," she declares repeatedly over a rush of snare drums and distortion.

And when she's not singing about being a slacker, she's singing like one, repeating lines over and over and over (and over and over). Considering slackerdom has always been the dominion of young men, there's something strangely compelling about this approach, giving "Crazy for You" an oddly triumphal undercurrent.

But despite her aloofness, the songwriter's finest moment comes in the form of a clear-eyed love song, "When I'm With You." Its refrain might as well be a credo for how romance is supposed to work when you're in your 20s : "When I'm with you, I have fun." In a world of tempestuous love songs, this one feels as clear and pure as Motown.
But for all of Best Coast's charms, there's one trait - some might call it a weakness - Cosentino shares with the likes of AC/DC, the Ramones, Slayer and countless other rock dinosaurs: Every song sounds the same.

There's a retort that's equally evergreen: Yeah, but what a great song!

Recommended tracks: "When I'm With You," "Goodbye," "Summer Mood," "I Want to"

By Chris Richards  |  July 27, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Album reviews  | Tags: Best Coast  
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The new track she did with Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Kid Cudi, "All Summer," is also fantastic. Cudi kills on it.

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | July 27, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Actually, she's not the only member of the band. Bob Bruno is the other mastermind behind Best Coast. FYI.

Posted by: amytoxin | July 27, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

@amytoxin - This was much debated here yesterday, but the CD art says "Best Coast is Bethany Cosentino." Respect to Bruno, though.

Posted by: ChrisRichards | July 27, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Also, don't forget that about 2 weeks ago, Beach House acquired Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler and the band is now a trio. Bethany is definitely in charge - a la Jack White being the ringleader of the White Stripes, etc.

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | July 27, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

^^^ errr, "Best Coast" not "Beach House" :)

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | July 27, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

We went with the "If Conor Oberst is Bright Eyes, then Bethany Cosentino is Best Coast" logic. (And not Beach House - haha).

Posted by: ChrisRichards | July 27, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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