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Beach Fossils - Clash The Truth

There is this term that became trendy a few years ago, Chillwave. It was used to describe the murky, mushy quagmire that had developed out of dream pop and genuine lo-fi music and taken over the indie world for a season or two. Artists like Real Estate, Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes, all came along and attempted to chill us all out. What this music achieved was a brief soundtrack to a hazy, reverb soaked, sepia toned summer that burned brightly and quickly. There was little value in dissecting this trend and these artists, although many thousands did, because the sound they were creating was never a blueprint for future progression or longevity. It has become a tainted genre, spoken of by those who still identify with it in hushed tones and listened to only when the private session box on Spotify is ticked.

One band to emerge from this mess was Beach Fossils. Their self-titled debut was released in 2010 and rather than feel like a reaction to the hefty winds that were blowing at the time, it served itself as a natural sound from a band unconcerned with the ways of that summer. Tracks like Daydream recalled the ease with which artists like Sonic Youth and even Dick Dale conjured a well sorted pop melody from a mixture of single plucks and a simple yet focused bassline. My belief is the band were mistakenly tied up amongst this cultural wash-land. Their DNA was much closer related to acts like Best Coast and Wavves, the surf rock/pop that had been popular since 1961 and will remain popular until we evolve past the need for ears.

The difficulty then became how to release music that can be misconstrued as chillwave in a time when the genre has become defunct and outwardly rejected. The lovely thing about Beach Fossils is they seem unconcerned. Clash The Truth is no huge step forwards, backwards or otherwise from their debut album, and whilst there are subtle but noticeable differences they don't appear to have succumbed to any preconcieved requirements for progression from the genre they were mistakenly caught up in.

The first two tracks are actually quite stunning. My overriding reaction was immediately Joy Division. That clanging guitar riff in the title track backed by Dustin Payseur's dead pan delivery combine to create that paranoid, caged mentality the famous British band harnessed so brilliantly. Beach Fossils bring a more naiive viewpoint to the table, 'Life can be so vicious / That we can't even appreciate its purities / We get so excited  / That we can't feel any of our insecurities' which is an endearing quality, but ultimately detracts from anxiety laden sonic they've strummed. Complexity is sought but not always achieved, but it's a damn sight more ambitious than contemporaries such as Best Coast.

Sleep Apnea serves to prolong this melancholic haze. It's an odd opening triumvrate. Each track has its individual charm but it serves to lull the listener in to a mid 90s apathetic depression. 'I’m staring at the sky but I can’t tell which way my thoughts are travelling / I try to listen to your words but I can’t feel my head and it’s unraveling'. 'I won't lie and tell you it's alright'. Gosh. It's enough to wonder just how sincere Payseur is, he conjures Curtis levels of dank and introspection. It's such an odd feeling then when Careless employs a much brighter rhythmic endeavour that sees Payseur cast off his mental shackles and revel in a power pop melody pleading his case for well deserved carelessness. It definitely signals a shift in focus on the record, Taking Off (probably the best track on the record) progresses past his careless phase and in to a more structured attempt at positivity. Still grounded within the reality that he believes his mind is creating, 'I’m taking off again, it feels like is a sin / Am I excited or am I just so confused?' he could be referring to any number of drug fuelled lost moments or planned rendezvous with elation in mind but not in actuality.

The whole second half of the record reads like an elongated sunday session, a hazy, dreary day after that awakens at 1pm with beautiful sunlight and a mate at your bed-side with a cold beer and a huge smile. And the beach. Where the first 3 tracks are the beach on a cold, wet day, the next 11 sees the sun burst through the clouds and surf pop dominate. The brilliant Birthday employs Lanterna levels of epic journey guitar, some dirty feedback and Payseur delivering a dreamy lost performance, 'If they fall down / What will you say? / But you don't care / Feels are your day' It actually inspires that careless truth of a perfect summer day.

There is a subtle variety that wasn't touched on in their debut record. Interludes like Modern Holiday, an oddly placed electronic piece, and the aptly named Brighter, provide fleeting moments of diversion. For the first time drums also take a starring role, 90 seconds in to Burn You Down the kit explodes, casting off the shackles of every other Fossils tracks to barnstorm the song and even induce an instance of head banging. Vitally, it serves to provide a missing link in the Beach Fossils armory. You feel an elaboration would not go astray on other parts of this record, especially tracks such as Caustic Cross, which is quite hard-edged but lacks a vital element due to the valium-soaked drum performance. Still, those few minutes of aggression do inspire a belief that, although moving at the speed of continental drift, progression is a capability and reality for the band.

6.5/10 Oddly enough, I think culturally this is an important record. Whilst Best Coast managed to remind us all that there is viable and spin-worthy music still to be made that touches on that lost genre of 2009 and 2010, Beach Fossils enforce it with a solid record that doesn't rest on pretension or precedent. You can easily lose yourself more than once in this release, and whilst Payseur may not be scaling any lyrical heights or reinventing any musical wheels, he is creating good honest music that doesn't adhere to the Williamsburg (yes I used Williamsburg, I finally added a cultural reference) whims.
Best Tracks: Taking Off, Generational Synthetic, Birthday

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