Beulah The Coast Is Never Clear

[Vellocette; 2001]

Styles: indie-pop, alternative pop
Others: Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo, Elf Power

Psychologists say that 85% of our makeup can be attributed to our parents. If that is the case, my folks directly influenced 85% of my listening habits. Like most adolescents, my parents carted me around from soccer practice to the movies to friends’ houses. These rides were always marked by the constant struggle over the radio station. I wanted my MTV, my mother wanted her “American Bandstand”. Seeing as she drove, she always won. I was constantly imposed with such artists as Buddy Holly, The Platters and Chubby Checker. Now, as I am long past my “shotgun” calling days, I find myself appreciating those quaint pop melodies that you want to tap your toes and hum along with. But, with a modern twist.

One of those groups that continue to create records in the vane of yesterday is Beulah. Part of the Elephant 6 Collective (love or hate), Beulah has stamped out a name for themselves with a mixture of old Beach Boys melodies and a combination of strings and horns. Their most recent album, The Coast is Never Clear, finds the septet expanding their sound where When Your Heartstrings Break left off.

Where Heartstrings left us with quaint pop melodies, The Coast expands into a full-length album setting up each song for the next. What we get is a new expanding sound from a well-evolved band. The first song, "Hello Resolven" starts out the album with replicating harmonies and lyrics to the point where one is wondering if they are listening to a scratched vinyl. However, this soon segues into the upbeat, rambunctious "A Good Man is Easy to Kill", full of flutes, trumpets and other contraptions. The album has this connection throughout its entire 12-song list bringing us to a slow relaxing melody, such as "Gene Autry," before knocking out another toe-tapping encounter with "Silver Lining." This definitely is an enjoyable transition from their last album, which made a few indie Top 10 Lists.

However, the one downfall is that some of the songs appear to be takeoffs of their first album Handsome Western States. This was one of the criticism’s levied against their sophomore LP Heartstrings. I really didn’t see any accuracy to that assessment when I read these reviews a couple of years ago. After re-examining Handsome, however, there does seem to be some tunes that are built out of others. This does not take away anything from the record itself though. If you are hearing Beulah for the first time, or if this is the third Beulah album to your collection, it will definitely not disappoint. By the end of the year this album should be on many indie pop Top 10 Lists. Not because its been a bad year for music, but because this is a first-rate album.

1. Hello Resolven
2. A Good Man Is Easy to Kill
3. What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?
4. Gene Autry
5. Silver Lining
6. Popular Mechanics for Lovers
7. Gravity's Bringing Us Down
8. Hey Brother
9. I'll Be Your Lampshade
10. Cruel Minor Change
11. Burned by the Sun
12. Night Is the Day Turned Inside Out