The sound of sun-stunned drift, as opposed to slacker ennui.
Chris Power 2010-05-28
“Fossils” might be going a bit far, but this Brooklyn-based outfit led by Dustin Payseur certainly has close ties to two periods from rock’s past: their resolutely lo-fi sound carries echoes of early 80s indie blended with the fuzz of Nuggets-style 1960s garage rock. Imagine a New Order or a Jesus and Mary Chain nurtured by the southern US sun instead of Manchester or East Kilbride’s dreary rainfall and you’ll be on the right track.
Payseur’s vocal style is an attractively insouciant drawl, but his hip lackadaisicalness occasionally has a detrimental effect on his lyrics. Most of these songs are about doing nothing, or dedicate themselves to describing love in ways that are closer to a shrug than a heartfelt profession. But where someone like Wavves (a superficial contemporary whom it’s difficult not to compare to Beach Fossils) characterises boredom as a source of aggression and threat, Payseur remains sanguine about the not-much-happening world he sings about. This is the sound of sun-stunned drift, as opposed to slacker ennui.
Such a formula could make for an enervating listen, but this debut album is shot through with casually glorious melodies. Most guitarists would think they’d earned their paycheque for a year on the back of Sometimes, Youth and Daydream, but Payseur clearly has inspiration to burn. Each song is built around one of these joyous riffs, which are soon joined by rapidly picked basslines and some of the driest drums this side of The Cure’s A Forest. It’s simple, and for the most part devastatingly effective.
The most distinctive component of Beach Fossils’ sound is their rejection of traditional song structures, favouring instead a hypnotic repetitiousness. While Payseur’s melodic sense is clearly indebted to New Order and numerous C86 bands, the way it plays out in a song like Lazy Day, with its mesmerising, endlessly repeating broken chord, is closer to a raga than it is to traditional rock forms. This method of composition is central to what might be the album’s finest song, Window View, its lulling drone – at once richly melodic and a mournful dirge – the perfect accompaniment to the lyric’s description of a final meeting between lovers on a rainswept beach. It’s a valuable sign that, happy as they often are to kick back in the sun saying nothing much, Beach Fossils have the potential to depict situations where a shrug is no longer enough.