Beep Beep has a new record titled Enchanted Islands. Circle the word that best describes it: (a) good (b) bad (c) acid trippin’ phantasmagorical. They teach you in SAT prep classes that the longest answer is usually the right one.
The wearily worn joke: (Question) “How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (Answer) “Let’s go ride bikes!” Beep Beep most likely received Ritalin after driving their middle school teachers crazy, and I’m saying right here and now, that I’m glad they came off it. An album like Enchanted Islands – of which there are few – bubble in the background, sometimes simmering, sometimes boiling, steaming up. It moves and changes, never formulaic. Just as it seems familiarity with Enchanted Islands sinks in, it mercurially slips away.
What I’m trying to say is that Enchanted Islands is a rewarding album that will most likely never become blah from overuse. The guitars shy away from simple scales vying for the murky waters of atonality and modal phrases. A mathiness hangs around. The stops and starts bring a bit of post-punk scholasticism into it all; yet, jazz, world, folk, and even electro dialogue in the mix.
The lyrics of the album rest on breath. Elliott Smith may have been done to death, as members of Beep Beep readily admitted in a 2005 interview, but to steal and reinvent and recreate is the life of a good artist these days. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and that was 2000-plus years ago. That breathy staple of folkies post-Smith invigorates the score of Beep Beep, and falsetto in relief to the unpredictable attack of oddly time signatured guitar.
At fourteen tracks and forty-two minutes, there’s no time for mucking about. Get in, get out. Do what you got to do. At times, the bursts of songs herein appear to strive against each other. For instance, “Mermaid Struggle”’s precisely timed rock butts up against the disco/dance beat of “Secrets of the Well”, the next track. “Return to Me” goes even further, moving dangerously near “radio ready”. It may bother some that Beep Beep change so quickly and so readily. This a progressive album without the filler.
My ears are already weary from heavy use in 2009, but for those of us here at Consequence of Sound that plow through piles of music, it all becomes worth it with an album like Enchanted Islands; however, I tried to veer away from shameless superlatives launched at the collection. I’ve always thought you describe a good album rather than praise it. It’s painful, you know, when you see that guy, the one that goes up to a dignitary on the street and tells him what a great this or that he is. That guy, the one you wish would just leave well enough alone ends up making an ass out of himself, and for that matter, every Joe Blow that’s standing around watching.
The answer was “c”. In listening to Beep Beep, it can feel like taking a test at times. Concentration is involved, a keen sense of music history too (and music future). Think. Listen. Think. Tell others. Don’t gush. Listen. Smile.