Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
At a time when bands place a premium on lo-fi production values, the Beets deserve credit for taking it way too far. 2009's Spit in the Face of People Who Don't Want to Be Cool had a recording quality that was shoddy to the point of self-sabotage, forgoing noisy static for a sound that suggested the band had wrapped their microphones in damp towels before pressing the "record" button on a thrift-store answering machine. Their debut was a blend of 1960s rock swagger, infectious melodies, and wry humor, becoming a minor cult hit among the DIY set and receiving both an enthusiastic rave by John Darnielle and an opening slot for his Mountain Goats on tour in 2010.
The Beets' music suggests the Ramones playing with Beat Happening's chops and equipment, which is to say, their songs are good in a simple, willfully primitive way, and that they play in such a manner that the songs had better be good, because you're sure not listening for the nuances of the performance. That said, the Beets have improved just enough on their second album, Stay Home, that they sound less like hipsters feigning ineptitude than they did on their debut, Spit in the Face of People Who Don't Want to be Cool. Juan Wauters, the group's leader, still isn't much of a guitar player, but he's at least learned how to better fill up the spaces, and he isn't always egregiously out of tune (most of the time, sure, but not always), and bassist Jose Garcia and drummer Matthew Volz keep their beats dirt simple but hold down the groove solid and steady.
The pop stylings of The Beets, crafted in a lo-fi environment though they are, are in the driver's seat with this Jackson Heights band's second full-length, Stay Home. It's messy, it’s a bit malformed, and sometimes it’s just out of tune, but throughout this lo-fi outing, The Beets prove their pop ability. Sure, Stay Home may sound like it could have been recorded by gorillas with a modicum of mic-placement knowledge (gorillas don't come built with that sort of thing, but I assume if you can teach one sign language, you could teach one to put mics around a room and hit a 'record' button,) but that reading of the album overlooks its non-incidental attributes.
The Beets either don’t care at all if anyone hears them, or they care way, way too much. There’s no in-between. Like a number of indie-pop acts cropping up these days, the Beets deal in a fuzzy, lo-fi world. It rendered them nearly incoherent on their first record, Spit in the Face of People Who Don’t Want to Be Cool, but on Stay Home they brush off a little bit of the fuzz so you can at least make out the words.
First things first: There isn’t a track called “Killer Tofu” on this whole album. Not one. As the title suggests, these Beets are singing about staying home, rather than destructive soy-based protein sources. They do have some of that Beatles-y pop to their sound, but it’s buried inside a batch of gruff garage pop rather than any mod sensibilities.