Album Review: Beaches, She Beats

Just as the Melbourne music scene might be reaching breaking point on ukulele-driven pop, slack-jawed jangly guitars and homemade bedroom beats, Melbourne all-girl rock band Beaches re-emerge to drop that lysergic bliss back onto the thirsty tongue.It’s refreshing to hear neo-psychedelia brought back to its hippy-drippy core; cleverly ironic that it’s sobering in its ability to transcend and shift dimensions. But that’s what Beaches reinstates that they do best on their sophomore effort, She Beats, their latest offering in a six-year drought from the band. The question is: is this the set and setting for turning on, tuning in, and dropping out?In a long-winded answer, the Beaches brand of neo-psychedelia appeals to socio-freaks, those chasing natural highs or otherwise, and Triple R listeners, which could constrain listenership of mainstream audiences led by Richard Kingsmill. But that’s beside the point: on She Beats, Beaches now sound international, even out-of-this-world, and have shifted to occupy the same stratosphere as space rockers Wooden Shjips and psych sultans the Black Angels, as well as kicking into the same vein as alt-icons the Velvet Underground.That guitar inflection that rips aurally throughout the track, that partnering guitar with the buzzing tone and that rhythm guitar consuming and awash, the 90s alternative stringy bass line and the vocals as another instrument to layer on into the mix—it’s all woven into the tapestry and seamlessly to a T. Case in point is the third track “Dune” where Gillian Tucker’s bass line plods to start the track. Then the drums kick in along with the guitars, which with deep concentration can be unravelled to its elemental components. The guitars spiral the track away from garage rock, positioning it instead as rock made in garages on acid. And the vocal mix is heavenly but also textural like the discordant guitars. Similarly, other tracks capture this ethos: a DIY aesthetic on the girl-group harmonising track “Send Them Away” is a nonchalant yet assertive number; “Veda” is like the VU’s “European Son” in its buzzing airiness and feels layered yet sparse.And whilst those Beaches listeners who spun the debut record numerous times — perhaps finding an earworm in “Sandy” and a tribal marching hypnotism in “Horizon” — may find that there is a slight departure from those poppy, structured tracks, and some shining moments of swirling bliss that you can totally lose your head in. Naturally, these deep burns are the longest ones on the album, when the girls find their jamming groove. “Distance” starts off fragile before a bouncy bass line drops in and a screechy guitar cover the track. Vocally, it’s reminiscent of Camera Obscura, though the way voice is used is starkly different: the mantra “And we go faster” is repeated, ad nauseum, at a metronomic pace that compresses time without speeding it up, whilst another divine voice swims circles in your head, singing unintelligible mishmash.Later on, “Granite Snake” is a blood brother of the Black Angels despite its muted 90s bass line intro; it’s a trip in itself, where, when listening in headphones, the sound is coming from all directions, the sort of track that starts off as a light-nodder in concert before gradually resulting in a full-on head-banging once you dive in.To answer that original question though, it doesn’t really matter whether neo-psych/garage rock never gets its time in the slimy and sloppy sun, as it was made for those on the outskirts. And that’s how Beaches play it: they manage to tap into the neo-psych tradition quite well on this album which makes She Beats become the terrific soundtrack to melt into your very own couch for three quarters of an hour.by David Claridad

May 20th 2013
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