“Misery loves me, but I don’t love her” sings Elizabeth Stokes on the opening track on the debut album from The Beths, “Future Me Hates Me” and, in that one line, she issues a clarion call to the grotesquely lonely…or to people like me; grotesque and lonely. It is the sort of line that you feel sure you must have heard before because it is such a universal truth…and yet it is that rarest of things, an original look on a common notion.
With Stokes and guitarist Jonathan Pearce having attended the same high school in Auckland they met, and began playing, with Benjamin Sinclair and Ivan Luketina-Johnston when they were studying jazz at the University of Auckland.
Did I say jazz?
I sure did.
The Beths are not that sort of band.
Instead of following the beatnik path of smooth grooves and swinging hep cats they formed the band to pay homage to the pop and roll bands of their younger years. The result is a thrilling, often dizzying, thrill ride of Madder Rose, The Pixies, The Ramones, Throwing Muses and other similarly intelligent, spiky, angular and awkward pop wonders.
Beneath the shimmering guitars and melodies so infectious that the World Health Organisation should issues some sort of warning about them there are lyrics that describe, maybe even define, the darker and more troubling aspects of the human condition…
Wide eyed nights late lying awake
With future cold shakes from stupid mistakes
(Future Me Hates Me)
I will go out tonight
I’m gonna drink the whole town dry
Put poison in my wine
And hope that you’re the one who dies
Crash the car we’ll hit the water
Brush the rock and wait for the maker
And if he doesn’t show
Heaven knows, heaven knows
I will make you feel so blue
These are songs that could save your life.
Stokes feels your pain.
Lonely in a crowded room?
The Beths understand.
Hope fading and hopelessness rising?
This is a band who will hold your hand and massage your heart.
In truth these are the sorts of songs that people think The Smiths wrote…but they didn’t, they flirted with honesty like this without ever committing to it. These are songs that lay bare the souls of everyone involved and invite you to find solace with them.
Let them soothe you.