Beachniks – In Color (self-released)
By Erika Elizabeth
Indie-pop (in all of its cardigan-sporting mutations) has long relied on a certain degree of childlike whimsy and ramshackle amateurism, driven by the idea that any group of friends with enough Pastels and Jonathan Richman records and access to instruments that they may or may not know how to play properly can start a band and write songs dealing with unrequited crushes. The “anyone can do it” attitude was what I found so immediately endearing in the legions of indie-pop bands that maybe only lasted long enough to put out a cassette or a couple of singles and do an interview in a fanzine or two before splintering and perhaps starting 10 more bands that put out a cassette or a couple of singles and did an interview in a fanzine or two. It’s why I finally picked up a bass guitar for the first time in my mid-20s after sitting alone in my apartment for too long listening to Beat Happening and Cub, and tried to start a band even though I really didn’t know what in the hell I was doing (and still don’t).
Brooklyn’s Beachniks have all feet firmly planted in the crayon-smudged, C86-worshipping waters of naivety familiar to anyone who has ever owned a K Records release (the cover art is a picture of a watercolor paintbox, there’s a song called ‘Cycle By’ with a vintage bike bell used as a supporting instrument, etc), but their giddy, freewheeling pop songs never seem forced or cliche, in large part because they’ve adhered to the cardinal rule of indie-pop: it really helps if it’s FUN, and no, saccharine is not the same thing as FUN. Of course, music isn’t always about fun, but when it comes down to my pop music, I’m just saying I’d much rather hang out with Jad Fair than Lou Reed.
Yes, there’s plenty of gleeful off-key harmonies and la-la-las and yeah-yeah-yeahs, but lucky for Beachniks, boy/girl duets that sound like The Vaselines if they sang simultaneously in both Russian & Hebrew have yet to become a tired cliche.
There’s a liberal use of wobbly roller-rink organ and Girls In The Garage-inspired sass, particularly on the awesome rave-up ‘Spy On Me’, which reminds me of the late, great, and underrated Texan combo The Kiss-Offs.
‘I Can’t Stand You’ pairs a galloping drum beat with deadpan boy vocals in the foreground and shouted female vocals in the background proclaiming, naturally, “I can’t stand you!”, bringing to mind another indie-pop put-down classic (Shop Assistants’ ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You’) without sounding like they should be a Postcard Records tribute act playing the depressing cover band night at your local dive bar.
Basically, Beachniks sound like they’d be way more fun to have play at your next twee-pop sock-hop than, say, Veronica Falls. It’s a bunch of friends hanging out together and banging out odd, charming pop songs in under-two-minute bursts, and you can tell from listening to it that the whole reason that they’re playing music together because it’s genuinely FUN, which makes all of the difference in the world.