By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published on Culturespill.com
Best Coast is Neko Case trapped inside a Jan & Dean song. They’re what happens when the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” agrees to a schoolyard throwdown with Wanda Jackson’s “Heard-headed Woman.” They come through when the only thing you need to compliment your spiked lemonade on a blazing afternoon at the beach is an honest half-hour of syrupy surf pop and a good stereo to play it on.
They also are the bustling intersection somewhere in L.A. that witnessed the head-on collision of many bands over the years—Pocahaunted, Cold Wave, Mika Miko, Vivian Girls. Today the group has settled into its tight trio of Bobb Bruno, Ali Koehler and, most importantly, Bethany Cosentino, whose haunted vocals evoke visions of a plum horizon darkening at the edge of the sea in August as the V-shapes of birds swirl overhead.
It’s easy to criticize Best Coast’s latest LP Crazy for You for striking the single note of its sunny pop bias over and over again, but you can only feel that way about the record if you’re not listening closely enough. An evasive complexity lurks between these Pacific Ocean waves. “Boyfriend,” the record’s sublime single, joins the jangling atmospherics of Joy Division and The Cure with the 60s girl group pop of The Ronnettes, The Shangri-Las, or The Marvelettes. “Bratty B” sounds like an outtake from Hole’s Live Through This recorded deep inside an echo chamber. And if equally majestic tracks like “I Want To,” “Crazy for You” or “The End” merely lengthen the same recipe, they also illustrate the band’s genius for shining the light of their sound through a prism of countless colors.
That is the very genius on which some of the greatest bands in history have founded their fortunes. Pair any two singles by the Stones or the Beach Boys against each other and you’ll hear songs that differ from one another about as much as sorrow differs from sadness. We can begrudge them for it, sure, but they’ve been laughing their critics all the way to the nearest bank for half a century now. Really, who are we kidding? It works, and don’t pretend like either band hasn’t taken your money too at one point or another.
Even if Crazy for You seems to spend much of its mere 30 minutes in length looking as far back in time as the band’s previous records have, it also breathes new life into glories attained and abandoned by peers such as The Thrills and their own ode to the “best coast,” So Much for the City. This record may be steeped in sounds excavated long ago by the influences they brandish like a badge, but somehow that’s exactly why it is such a fresh, inviting and welcome listen. And it helps that there is not a single bum track on the whole album.