I’ve been a mess of late…
Health problems…physical and mental.
Burn out at work.
A invisible weight pushing me down…down…down…
Salvation can come from unusual sources.
Sunlight bathes the cobbles of the Cowgate as I wend my way to the Mash House to bend the knee and doff my cap to Kiwi jazz enthusiasts and guitar pop wonders The Beths.
The sun so rarely shines in Scotland that it causes a form of collective madness when it does. Clothing is rent from pasty, malnourished and morbidly obese bodies with vulgar haste and people sacrifice their first born as a form of thanks to the Gods for this most bounteous of gifts.
To drag us back indoors on a night like this requires something remarkable and The Beths are exactly that.
Such is the buzz around them that the venue is filled to the point of bursting. Bodies already twisted and broken from the sunshine are pushed to combustion point as they are squished and squashed together in the subterranean bunker that is the Mash House.
The atmosphere is expectant and charged with the sort of enthusiasm normally reserved for bands with more than one album to their name. Of course when you’re only album is as flawless as “Future Me Hates Me” this energy is easier to understand.
The last time I saw a band with one album under their belt in such a small venue create this sort of feverish anticipation it was The Strokes. Fine company to be in.
“Future Me Hates Me” kicks things off and kicks the already frenzied audience into a state of near hysteria. Hands clap, feet stomp, every word is sung back like a Gospel sermon call and response, which is appropriate because the level of adoration here is close to the religious.
The Beths are alarmingly charming…a spiky, angular, new wave sort of charm. Delicate in places and driven by a “Raw Power” sort of energy that clashes beautifully with the tender heart of the lyrics. At one point the noise coming from the stage is a filthy, furious, magical mess of the sound of the Cocteau Twins being put through their paces by the New York Dolls.
It’s difficult to watch this and not slowly become aware that lurking under the surface of these seemingly simple pop charms are very complex, clever, carefully constructed and crafty musical wonders. Maybe it is their background in jazz? Like the Funk Brothers are Motown, The Beths seem to be creating a swirling, sublime, swaggering rock and roll that can only really come from musicians who understand, well, music.
Part way through the gig Elizabeth Stokes tells us that on their journey North today she saw her first badger. A sweet tale. Someone from somewhere else seeing something they wouldn’t see at home. “It was dead.” she concludes. There is a twinkle in her eye as she says it but you can’t help but feel that this anecdote says something about the band…the innocent, the charming, the beautiful sitting side by side by the things that lurk in the shadows; death, loneliness, heartache and misery.
When they play a new song it is received by the crowd like a greatest hit and before it ends people are singing along with the chorus. Something wonderful lies at the heart of The Beths. When I get home I settle down in front of my computer and start sending out a link to various YouTube clips of the band to everyone in my address book. Like a recent convert to a religion I want to share the good news…help bring the hope of the hopeful to others.
The Beths…music to save and soothe your soul.