Directed by Sports Team. Single out now on Carpark Records.
Woo hoo, the Beths are back with another batch of New Zealand power pop with all the hooks and harmonies we’ve come to expect.
Liz Stokes says the song is “a kind of anxiety dream. It’s a bit muddled, a bit frantic, a bit sinister. It’s what came out of my guitar in late 2020, post NZ election (and US election). I was limply reaching for optimism about the future, but was really just marinating in dread.”
I think we’ve got our new motto: Limply reaching for optimism, marinating in dread.
Not as immediately catchy as the singles from 2018’a Future Me Hates Me, the latest from the New Zealand’s finest takes a while to sink in. The hooks are more subtle, but they’re in there.
I’ve never been the dramatic type
But if I don’t see your face tonight
I… well I guess I’ll be fine
I’m still regretting not going to see the Beths when they played a tiny venue in my town last year. Can’t remember what my lame excuse was for not going, but I can guarantee it was stupid. It sure would be fun to see a show at a club, wouldn’t it?
Don’t you wish you lived in New Zealand right now, where they have effectively beat this fucking coronavirus? I do. Apparently, I’m not alone: 80,000 Americans expressed interest in relocating in May. I guess “I’m moving to New Zealand” is the new “I’m moving to Canada.”
At least maybe then we would get to hang out with the Beths.
This is not a cover of the 1983 Billy Joel classic off An Innocent Man, but that’s okay. The Beths have released almost as many singles from their album Future Me Hates Me as old BJ released from his. And while the Beths haven’t managed to dent the mainstream pop charts yet, it would be hard to argue that it’s any fault of their songcraft.
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
Elizabeth Stokes told Under the Radar that “Uptown Girl” is “basically about self-destructive behavior, when you’re angry at someone or you feel like somebody’s wronged you and your mode of revenge is to fuck yourself up. It’s very flawed logic but it seems to make sense at the time. It’s kinda that, it’s what that song is about. At the time all of my friend’s were going through weird shit so it was also building on their experiences as well.”
If there was justice in the world, Stokes would already be getting tired of her high class toys and all her presents from her uptown boys.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is, of course, the saddest Christmas song ever. Which is why it’s one of the best. The lyrics promise that our troubles will be out of sight, but the melody tells the truth: our troubles are here to stay, next year and forever after.
The song was originally sung by Judy Garland and nobody can conjure false optimism better. Frank Sinatra recorded his version in a state of near suicidal depression in the midst of his breakup with Ava Gardner, but the lyrics were still too sad for him. He asked the songwriters to change the line “until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” and they came up with “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”
Sixty years later the Beths have recorded a version that perfectly captures this doomed attempt at jolliness. And their video nails it as well. Puppet videos rarely evoke this much emotional connection. I’m not going to spoil the ending but you should watch it.
What’s up with Australasia? Why do New Zealand and Australia generate such clever guitar-based pop music?
Future heartbreak, future headaches
Wide-eyed nights late lying awake
With future cold shakes from stupid mistakes
Future me hates me for
The Beths’ Elizabeth Stokes says, “There’s a lot of sad sincerity in the lyrics that relies on the music having a light heart and sense of humor to keep it from being too earnest. That’s another New Zealand thing. We’re putting our hearts on our sleeves—and then apologizing for it.”
Maybe that’s what it is. But that doesn’t explain how they come up with such catchy hooks. I guess it will remain a mystery along with kiwi birds and three-eyed lizards.