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Are Best Coast the most badass band to come out of Los Angeles since their slacker rock predecessors Pavement? Or, are they unassuming victims of The Internet Hype, unfussed by the thought of catching up with everyone’s expectations?
Disappointingly, the Californian trio’s performance at the Scala last week steers towards the latter. It barely rouses the rigid audience: even lo-fi linchpin Beth Cosentino’s limited connection with them in-between songs (“I don’t care how cool you are, dance!”) generates a tepid response. There’s a self-conscious shuffle here, a pogo-jump there, but no unabashed flailing as you might expect from a sold-out venue of folks watching their New Favourite Band.
But they’re not just frozen from the cold. Best Coast’s debut, Crazy For You, has stormed sundry year end lists this month and quite right too - it’s a balmy summer’s day of intensely infectious yet sparse grunge-informed surf-pop. Live, however, it’s underwhelming; one repetitive road trip of carefree sunshine-y-ness that jars with the icy night and lacks the kind of gripping and ferocious intensity you desperately want to feel wrapped up in. Especially from a band who do angst and alienation so well. Afterwards, we learned that they fired their way through 19 songs: it felt like just five.
Still, packed underneath a bearded man’s armpit (the show is sold out, of course), we hear bassist Bobb Bruno and newest drummer, ex-Vivian Girl Ali Koehler, all casually cool superhero librarian, adding a clipped Sixties pop rhythm section, which clashes perfectly with Cosentino’s nonchalant fuzz-chords. And it is charming, as oft-noted about them. For every part that Cosentino is Courtney Love, she is Zooey Deschanel too. New single ‘Boyfriend’ is an adorable, dejected love song with gorgeous girl-group harmonies wafting through it; Bethany’s meandering vocals at the start of ‘I Want You’ are spot-on; and ‘Goodbye’ is her at her most punk, growling through the song’s exasperated chorus.
And yet, the 15-year-old me feels like scrubbing their name off my notebook. She is wildy infuriated that a frontwoman like Cosentino, one whose stripped-back and whimsical bedroom ballads resonate on such a weirdly intense level, is so lacking in presence. Cute? Yes. But mesmerising? Not at all. There’s no constant feeling that something unpredictable about to happen that keeps you hanging on her every last note. My teenage riot grrrl craves the deceiving innocence of similarly scuzzy, girl-powered LA twosome Giant Drag, L7’s Donna Spark’s socio-political tampon-lobbing and even, perhaps, Love’s disorderly flooziness mouthing her wonderful songs. It’s all too polite, too inoffensive.
Then again, Cosentino is a nice girl who likes cats and spliffs, used to work in Lush, and probably knits Christmas jumpers while on tour. And she probably – and again, quite rightly – doesn’t care. So we can only be hopeful, then, that the best is yet to come. At least, that’s what the 15-year-old me wants.
photo by Danielle Goldstein
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