Bethany Cosentino’s music has always been derivative and virtually every listener confronted with her scuzzy garage rock has been aware of the fact. So whether ‘The Only Place’ succeeds, as a suitable follow-up is a stupid question if you consider that it contains all the elements of an adrenaline-fuelled first record which turned heads with its ‘don’t-give-a-f**k’ temperament and charming attitude.
On the last record, Cosentino was in love with a few boys and the only refuge she found from love troubles came from her home state. Now, she writes about touring, seeing every sight there is to see before harking back to those glory days of staying indoors and playing video games. Erring on the side of repetitive it might be, but like Califor-ni-a, ‘The Only Place’ is not without its charms. The title track steers straight from the route of the last album, right up to the very depths of her somewhat limited imagination. Personal but restricted in its ability to actually say anything, you can both relate to the content on the album or ignore it on a whim.
This is a record somewhat lacking in new ideas. Not that it’s a particular issue. Best Coast’s charm has always stemmed from their immediacy; their ability to produce something dumb but oh-so-sweet on first listen. Strangely, ‘The Only Place’ plays a few curveballs on early plays, with its glossy production (courtesy of Jon Brion) giving it all almost off-putting sheen, where Bethany’s signatory scruffy image can be washed off in a millisecond. Fortunately it grows into a more capable being, with undeniably repetitive hooks embedding themselves in the corners of your conscience.
Perhaps the most insightful access capable of being gained from ‘The Only Place’ is Bethany’s claim of “I don’t want to be who they want me to be”; initially released last summer in the midst of recording, it’s a telling reminder of the bratty-ness and confidence that the singer’s managed to sport from very the start of her career. Record label pressures or even passive aggressive letters from fans won’t stop her from writing catchy pop songs, regardless of their simplicity.
The tailend of the album explores a more inventive output, with ‘Let’s Go Home’ battling out with the sedated closer ‘Up All Night’ (which, by the way, is almost worryingly similar in sound and structure to ‘How They Want Me To Be’) in terms of providing a fitting swansong. Best Coast will never win over the cynics who like their music to sport a more assured style of intelligence and invention, but for those who fell in love with the sunburnt stoner of old, there’s plenty more to revel in, here.
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