Though its indie roots aren't entirely buried, Beulah is far easier to imagine springing to life from a seashell surfing the band to shore, à la Botticelli's "Venus," than slaving over a four-track in somebody's dank garage. Likewise, ignore at all costs the band mythology about frontmen and founders Miles Surosky and Bill Swan meeting while working in the mailroom of a San Fran securities firm; it simply can't be true. Skip ahead, instead, to 1999's When Your Heartstrings Break, a Gidget-gets-stoned fantasia on two-inch tape and the album that, in its zealous multi-instrumentalism and time-warped pop sensibility, cemented Beulah's reputation as the most coherent of the Elephant 6 bands.
The recently released follow-up, The Coast Is Never Clear, doesn't get up to much more than Heartstrings. Songs like "A Good Man Is Easy to Kill," "Silver Lining," and "Popular Mechanics of Love" filter a grab-bag of styles -- old-time country, lounge-pop, mariachi, mid-'90s college rock -- through the prism of sun-bleached '60s pop, every song emerging all trippy and rainbow-hued. Old hat, but who cares? Complaining that Beulah is repeating itself is a bit like complaining that the sun hasn't done anything interesting for a while.
And anyway, if you really must puncture the bliss in order to feel you're having a credible musical experience, go ahead and glom onto Surosky's neutered-Malkmus sneer and masochistic lyrics, or deconstruct the crushing hidden meanings in his fading-tan metaphors. Resist the airy melodies; try. The rest of us, who are just about ready for springtime good and proper, shall close our eyes to the incongruousness of Beulah playing a cramped and grimy club, order a round of daiquiris from some disbelieving bartender, and let Beulah spin a soundtrack to our dreams.
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