The New Zealanders’ third album takes their scuzzy, melodic guitar rock sound and adds extra muscle
There’s something obviously stirring in the continent of Oceania. While most attention has been given to the seemingly endless stream of talented artists coming out of Australia right now (this year alone, we’ve had new records from Stella Donnelly, Julia Jacklin and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever), their Kiwi neighbours are no slackers either.
Auckland’s The Beths have been releasing records since 2018 and, since their debut Future Me Hates Me, have quickly established themselves as one of the country’s most exciting bands. Support slots with the likes of The Breeders and Death Cab For Cutie have only enhanced their reputation, and their third record shows just how well they’ve mastered the art of power-pop.
It’s an appropriate album title too – for Elizabeth Stokes (the only ‘Beth’ in the group incidentally) and her group are indeed experts in the dying field of scuzzy, melodic guitar rock. In many ways it’s a throwback to that mid ’90s era of Teenage Fanclub, Belly and Elastica. This time round though, there seems added muscle – the riffs are more ferocious, the hooks more infectious. It sounds so focused you’d never guess that it was an album recorded under lockdown conditions.
Silence Is Golden could well be the best thing The Beths have recorded yet – full of fizzy guitar riffs and squealing feedback. When Stokes sings “the sound, the sound… I’d burn the city to the ground to turn it down” before launching into an incendiary guitar solo, you’re ready to light the match with her.
What makes The Beths a special proposition though is their love of melody – Knees Deep begins with the same chugging riff that propels Kelly Clarkson‘s Since U Been Gone, before exploding in a lovely harmony-laden track about anxiety and deep seated fears. Change In The Weather covers similar territory, throwing in unusual time changes to boot, while the frenzied I Told You That I Was Afraid is a strident, explosive rocker that already sounds like a live staple.
They’re equally adept at the quieter side of things too. Your Side is chugs along wistfully, and the lovely closing track 2am almost sways it’s way to a close. As ever with The Beths, it’s Stokes’ lyrics which give the song some extra emotional heft – “I know it’s always been a passing game, though it hurts, I still love you the same” before the guitars kick in to create an auditory maelstrom to bring the record to an end.
It sounds like the sort of album to raise The Beths to a new, higher profile – a record that builds on their already considerable positives and adds a few more layers to their sound. Expert In A Dying Field is the sound of a band going from strength to strength.