Recently I stumbled across this beautiful clip of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction which relates to oscillating chemical reactions (give it a look but for your own sanity mute the music) and I was thinking about it when I came to write this review. Every music lover has a small number of acts that hold a special place way above the bands they simply like. These are bands that vibrate at the same frequency as the listener and raise both dopamine levels and grin-response. The Beths create that chemical reaction in me. I am a Mentos dropped into their musical Coke, and the wave of emotion I get from their music is one of life’s great pleasures, reminding me how much their music is like drawing water from the well of life. Brace yourself: I may gush more than a burst water main.
Jump Rope Gazers (JRG) is the follow up to 2018’s luminous debut album Future Me Hates Me, a hard record to follow in anyone’s catalogue but The Beths have not been found wanting. JRG crackles with Beths trademarks: riffs and tunes, tunes and riffs, ESP tightness between all the musicians (The Smiths might have been The Beths if someone had slipped Prozac in their tea) and those lush, sub-tropical harmonies. They are expert pilots at punching through the dark clouds of fuzzed power chords into a clear-sky-chorus drenched in the sunlight of their unified voices. On JRG we have another ten perfect-pop vignettes; 38 minutes in this, the weirdest of years, to bask in like a sunlamp in winter. As is often the case the first album celebrates the sheer joy of being in a band; a gang of like-minded people who discover they can make an amazing noise and that amazing noise fills people’s hearts with joy and makes them jump up and down. Then you tour, and tour, AND TOUR. Often halfway round the world because you discover that discerning music lovers of Europe love your quirky pop euphoria and year after year more and more people want more and more. So, it’s no surprise that separation from friends and loved ones are high among the themes of this album. It’s sad anyone experiences anxiety in any form, but it has given this album a depth that, while it doesn’t detract the carefree shine of previous songs, adds a poignant quality that will no doubt chime with many people.
The songs range from the vivacious, like opening tracks ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’ and ‘Dying to Believe’ to the reflective, as in the looking-out-to-sea melancholy of title track ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ and ‘Do You Want Me Now’ with its tick-tick drums that seem to echo a clock when you’re awake in the middle of the night wrestling with decisions and emotions or ‘You Are A Beam of Light’, a rolling prayer of a song which is as simple in execution as its themes of love in difficult times are complex. The Beths command the field of light and dark. They can rumble on the launch pad for half a song of anticipation before igniting the rocket engines and firing us into a fiery chorus or middle eight. Liz Stokes might be the main songwriter, but this album would not be the sheer delight it is without a band who are not only exceptional musicians but know how to serve the song, the whole and not the individual ego.
The Beths may not resonate with you as they do with me but if you listen to this album in the summer sun with socially distanced friends and it gives you even a small amount of the boost if gives me then it won’t be wasted. Not since I first heard the Wannadies album Bagsy Me have I been as in thrall to the sheer joy a band can bring. Whether it’s making me walk faster when they come up on my MP3 player, bouncing on the sofa watching a lockdown gig on Facebook or emerging from one of their gigs flooded with endorphins I celebrate a world that has The Beths in it and can’t wait to see them in Europe in 2021. If Thelma & Louise had had The Beths on their car stereo, they would have carried on driving through amazing landscapes and never gone off the cliff.
Review by Paul F Cook