There is something about Best Coast’s debut album Crazy for You that makes people go, well, crazy. To date, the album has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from indie media outlets, and everyone from Bill Murray to Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame) is a fan. Given the preponderance of Best Coast coverage on NPR, your parents might even be fans. Sure, Best Coast might just be another buzz band in the grand scheme of things, but right now, they’re adored by almost everyone.
But why? What is it, exactly, that makes Crazy for You such a popular and critically-acclaimed album?
There’s an easy answer to that, really. Crazy for You is a catchy, simple pop album. To wit: the harmonies are saccharine-sweet. The lyrics are extremely simple and relatable. There is a ‘60s surf rock vibe running through the album, making the listener want to run to the California coastline for a quick tan—or perhaps break out their copy of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, either way.
If there is a common factor in every positive review of this album, it’s the sunny, Californian sound, which has been universally hailed as irresistible and catchy. Critics are so enamored of this quality, in fact, that they nonchalantly make excuses for the album’s transgressions. It’s worrying, for example, that frontwoman Bethany Cosentino’s lyrics receive so much praise for being “straightforward.” Cosentino likens herself to a lyricist circa 1966, not having a care in the world except for sunshine, pot, and love. The words “love,” “miss,” “want,” “weed,” “phone,” and “lazy” run across your eardrums so often, you become certain that you’re listening to some sort of hippie’s hymn. However, rather than emulating simple, doo-wop Supremes-esque lovelorn lyricism, Cosentino comes across as asinine. She laments in her best Liz Phair vocals on “Goodbye”: “Nothing makes me happy / not even TV or a bunch of weed,” evoking not the teenage innocence of yesteryear, but rather the indolence and unpleasantness of your neighborhood high school burnouts.
Cosentino’s partner in Best Coast, Bobb Bruno, is responsible for the band’s sound: the jangly, lo-fi guitars, drums that span from early ‘60s R&B rhythms all the way to punk, and far-off vocals that seem forever in reverie. The band is acknowledged as an update to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and this is a legitimate assessment. But Best Coast is just that—a cheap rendition of bands that already did it before and, frankly, better. Even the Jesus and Mary Chain borrowed from the Ronettes, making Crazy for You a derivative of a derivative. The psych-pop and surf rock motif has become stale in modern-day indie rock, and the complacency—nay, acceptance of this trend is borderline alarming. Cosentino knows she’s not bringing anything new to music, but her debut isn’t even interesting enough to demand your attention and differentiate Best Coast from hundreds of bands doing the same thing. To the album’s credit, Bruno occasionally livens up the lethargy and contributes something approaching original, adding some punk energy to a few songs, such as the last few moments of “I Want To”. It flashes, giving a glimmer of hope, but sadly, it leaves almost as fast as it came, burning out with the burnouts.
Granted, given the fact that Crazy for You blends these insipid lyrics and trite, overused musical tricks, perhaps you could argue that Best Coast does give us something relatively uncommon in indie rock. Indie, by default, is supposed to be a brainy, bookish genre, not averse to delivering simple pop melodies, yet maintaining a smart sensibility. Cosentino has mentioned that she wanted Best Coast to be more straightforward than most indie rock bands, and she succeeded there. Perhaps an indie band that rips off ‘60s pop, shying away from lofty lyrics in favor of vapid teenage journal entries, could be considered a new and refreshing thing—who knows? But now, they have amassed a following, all from people who (content with their own hypocrisy and incongruity) have abandoned their ideology for the sake of happy-go-lucky songs about getting high with cats. Maybe indie really is dead.