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"Crazy For You"

Best Coast – Crazy For You
20 July 2010, 22:52 Written by Matthew Britton

Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson was born on October 15th 1984. Raised by Christian parents, she sang in church as a child and, shortly before turning 17, released an album entitled Katy Hudson. 11 tracks of soft rock and pop with a wholly religious slant, it was noted at the time by Christianity Today that she would “almost certainly go far in this business”.

Bethany Cosentino is currently 24 years old. She attended Eugene Lang college in New York state, spending her stunted days there longing for her home on the west coast. Upon her return to California, she started playing psychedelic, drone inspired music with her friend Amanda Brown under the name Pocahaunted.

There are a lot of things that make a pop star, all of them completely subjective. There are people who will sacrifice almost anything to make the cut. Katy Hudson took up her mother’s maiden name of Perry in order to avoided confusion with actress Kate Hudson before leaving home shortly after the release of her debut. Signed and dropped by various labels, it took several years of perseverance before the breakthrough – 2008’s One Of The Boys finally propelling her to international superstardom.

Consentino’s involvement with Pocahaunted eventually wound down. Now recording by herself, she took on the moniker of Best Coast and started putting things out on her own accord via MySpace – odes to love, her home state and to getting high, it didn’t take long before every hipster with an internet connection was hyping the tracks on blogs; beautiful, fuzzy pop songs, leisurely in their delivery and backed by a singer both technically accomplished and extremely passionate. The sound of lost days on the beach, hours of tepid daydreaming and of early twenties ennui, it encapsulates everything mythicised about the west coast of the United States.

On her latest single, ‘California Gurls’, Katy Perry aims to do for the city what Empire State of Mind did for New York. The lyrics tell of “layin’ underneath palm trees”, proclaiming that California girls are “unforgettable….fine, fresh, fierce” and that they will “melt your popsicle”. Neon and as saccharine sweet as the confectionary the promotional video is based around, for it’s catchy chorus and hyperactive backing beats the song ultimately rings hollow, an empty attempt to top the charts by any means necessary. Of all the reactions to the song, a tweet via Best Coast’s twitter account probably best sums it up: “Oh I hate Katy Perry so much, you do not represent California girls, bitch”.

Even without the weight of an enormous marketing team behind her, the tabloids following her every move and a former drug addict and womaniser as a fiancée, on her first album Crazy for You, Bethany Cosentino proves she is more of a star than her more recognised rival could ever be. Whilst the demos were purposefully scuzzy, distorted and difficult, the addition of Bobb Bruno to the line-up seems to have unlocked pop sensibilities that seemed to elude earlier work whilst losing none of the ethic that was so vital to it.

Put out by Wichita, Crazy For You‘s relatively paltry running time of 29 minutes is more than made up for by the undoubted quality its 12 tracks. Opener and first single ‘Boyfriend’ sets the tone, a heady mixture of doo-wah pop, garage rock and lo-fi energy; a wonderfully rich seam which the duo plough throughout much of the release. Many of the songs are interchangeable with pacing being the only real variable, a languid yet pulsating undercurrent remaining throughout. The band seem to have mastered one style and stick by it ferociously and, as it turns out, justifiably so.

The influence of Phil Spector looms large over Crazy for You, with the wall of sound sounding as impressive and impervious as it ever did with The Ronettes. However, far from hiding in the shadow of such giants, Best Coast positively make it their own, infusing the no-fi, punk that LA’s The Smell has cultivated in the area, the result being tracks that have subtlety and nous whilst still remaining accessible. Being close personal friends with the likes of Wavves and recently borrowing a drummer from Vivian Girls, as well as growing up in such a vibrant local scene, must have, by osmosis at the very least, influenced the record. You could never imagine the band scouring Wikipedia in search of a collaborator in the same way Snoop Dogg was discovered for his cameo on ‘California Gurls’, which is surely a good thing.

Of course, for all the work put into arrangements, reverb and guitar, the main instrument on show here is still Cosentino’s voice. With a lot less class and a little more drive, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine her appearing on the kind of talent shows that Perry herself has sat on the panel of. The mid album marker of ‘I Want To’ may have fallen flat with someone of lesser ability. Instead, it is breathtaking, as Bethany showcases her vocal range with an almost unbelievable ease, flickering between notes without even nearly bordering on showmanship. When she sings of heartbreak and longing (as she consistently does) you can genuinely feel the yearning in the delivery of the simple, effective lyrics. Much of Crazy for You’s near maudlin magnificence is hung on her knack of meandering through a tune in the most melodic way imaginable, and it reaps the rewards in remarkable style.

This very much feels like a record that has been lived, the culmination of a lifestyle rather than that of effort to chase a market. Indeed, that character even spills out onto the front cover, with Bethany’s cat Snacks peering out from the montage landscape. The main effect of all this is that the record already sounds something close to seminal – if not one of the definitive efforts of 2010, certainly one of the most important to come out of the west coast in the past few years. In amongst the chiming riffs and tuneful caterwauling, there are lines of such amazing clarity that they can’t help raise a smile – “I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk” being the most obvious example. None of the songs on this album are ever going to get to number one, and weekly sales for Katy Perry’s forthcoming third studio album will probably dwarf what Best Coast’s debut will sell during it’s lifetime. But whilst the future Mrs Russell Brand sells increasingly large chunks of her remaining credibility through photoshoots, ghost written singles and demographic driven videos, it’s blatantly clear to anyone who listens to Crazy for You who the real California Girl is.


Best Coast: ‘Boyfriend’

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