Bethany Consentino is a busy woman. Not only has she recently announced a clothing line for hip high street store Urban Outfitters, her band Best Coast have released the follow up to their surprisingly popular debut Crazy for You. Perhaps the best way to describe sophomore effort The Only Placeis as a love letter to California but, for the most part, Consentino and bandmate Bobb Bruno fail to make me fall in love.
The record opens with the title track and the change is instantly noticeable. No more lo-fi fuzziness; with a new record comes a new, cleaner, more polished sound. The lyrics on this track could well have been written by the Cali tourist board, with countless references to the beach, the sun and the sea (familiar themes throughout, as you’ll discover). It’s catchy enough but fails to ignite any sparks of excitement or do much. It’s clear Consentino has grown more confident in her voice and music, something especially evident in “Why I Cry”as she cries out “you seem to think you know everything.”
Things continue in a similar vein for the next half an hour or so. There are some tracks that are more interesting than others; “No One Like You”has a high school prom feeling to it, verging on alt. country, whilst “Better Girl” executes Consentino’s simple lyrics in the best way possible. Album closer “Up All Night”provides the highpoint of the record, with plaintive strumming and some beautiful, tear-jerking strings towards the end but fails to make up for the rest of the album.
Overall the eleven tracks that feature on this record sound so similar it’s hard to differentiate. There’s no denying The Only Place is very closely related to Crazy for You, but the latter had that edge of being new and raw, and actually sounding like a bunch of kids bashing out tracks in a garage. This follow-up is just too clean and sterile. It aims for pure, simple ’60s pop, but there’s simplicity and there’s boring.
Consentino’s never claimed to be the world’s best lyricist but some of her writing on this album reach new levels of clumsy banality. “Last Year”,for example, where she writes “what a year this day has been/what a day this year has been”, which doesn’t really say or mean anything. A common criticism of Consentino’s songwriting is an over-reliance on a group of tired, clichéd tropes; sun, sand, boys, weed, cats, sitting around in the sun with boys and cats and weed. Whilst in small doses, stock lyrical themes are fine and dandy (where would rock ‘n’ roll be if young guys complain about girls not loving them?), but Best Coast take it to the extreme and edge close to parody.
It’s perfect for days spent lying in the sun but aside from that the repetitiveness of this LP makes it bland and boring. Sadly underwhelming, after a promising opening shot.