The Beths are back with a new album Experts In A Dying Field, and I wondering why bunting isn’t being strung up and street parties are not being prepped to celebrate the fact. The chemical reaction that takes place when Jonathan Pearce (guitar, vocals, keys), Benjamin Sinclair (bass, vocals) and Tristan Deck (drums, vocals) get together to work on singer/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes’ songs is lightning in a bottle. As a band they demonstrate a natural telepathy and if you’ve been lucky enough to see them live, you’ll know there is no difference in the lockstep playing and tight harmonies that you hear on their records and how they sound on stage.
There’s a duality on this album with the Hi-Vis happiness of the playing often acting as a contrast to often anxious nature of the lyrics:
“Can we erase our history, is it as easy as this? Plausible deniability I swear I’ve never heard of it, and I can close the door on us, but the room still exists, and I know you’re in it” – ‘Experts In A Dying Field’
“You’re a good actor, must be a drag to know me when I’m down. Get such a workout talking in circles here then back around. You tell me sweetly you wouldn’t have me any other way, you’re not a liar but I can’t believe you when I’m in this state” – ‘A Passing Rain’
“I wish that I could freeze time go to the wild soak up the quiet ‘til I’m dripping wet with it. Then I would drive home go to my room wring myself out that would be the end of it. Instead, it’s white noise, sufferingly loud, it’s wearing me down. I’m up to my ears in it, it’s like a wave break into my head again and again, how are you not hearing it” – ‘Silence Is Golden’
The title track is wistful and swells with its sense of loss, ‘Silence Is Golden’ beautifully captures that build-up of white noise with syncopated drums keeping you on edge and guitars threatening to blow speaker cones. That’s followed by the soothing ‘Your Side’ with its gentle chunk-chunk of guitar, background ‘ooohs’ and a melody that floats like a feather. You get the fit-to-burst jangle of guitars on ‘Head In The Clouds’, the glorious judder of ‘Best Left’ and that repeated chord in ‘Change In The Weather’ which hits a beat before you think it will (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it). The Beths can go from the poppier end of The Beatles on ‘I Want To Listen’, with its descending bass lines and oohs and aahs, to the gravel scrape of fear in the rock operetta ‘I Told That I Was Afraid’, before closing the album with the undertow of ‘2am’ where the instruments threaten to drag the vocal under.
In a crowded field of bands that take a shot of whisky with their pop, The Beths are a country mile ahead. Guitars, bass, drums and voice always combine to celebrate the whole. Like adjusting a lens to bring everything into sharp focus they pull all the elements of their music together from the Beach Boy-lush harmonies over superlative tunes, to the perfect riff at the perfect moment. The Beths’ propulsive optimism hits me right in the central amygdala and, in the same way rooms have resonant frequencies, I vibrate with joy when listening to them. If you listen to any Beths album when you’re out walking, you’ll get there much quicker and be happier when you arrive. Given the dreadful times we’ve all been through, and what may lie ahead, I vote that their music gets played constantly in all public spaces and that doctors prescribe their albums instead of anti-depressants.
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Review by Paul F Cook
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