So the comment on the Jens Lekman post got me thinking … If it’s upbeat music with depressing lyrics you want, I might as well just lead you straight to the mother lode.
Meet Beulah, one of my top five favorite bands of all-time — no caveats — and one of my top five favorite songs that they ever recorded. You do the math on how much I love this little gem.
Beulah: “Landslide Baby” [from Yoko, 2003]
If that ain’t pop perfection, I don’t know what is. Read on below.
Beulah broke up in 2004 as soon as they finished touring for Yoko. Though the San Francisco-based band claimed before the album’s release that they were going to break up if it didn’t go gold, you’ve gotta think that a band that spent its days on indie labels without grabbing serious radio play was simply ready to call it quits.
The entirety of their catalog is filled with sunny melodies, a sound that initially landed them an affiliation with the Elephant Six music collective, which included other poppy bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control and Apples in Stereo.
Beulah, however, resented being lumped into a “scene,” and chief songwriter Miles Kurosky — who can often be found walking around the Mission/Noe Valley — went so far as to deliberately avoid including any “ba ba ba” choruses on Yoko, though you can find them on every one of Beulah’s other albums.
Anyway, between the recording of 2001’s excellent The Coast is Never Clear and Yoko, nearly every member of the band coped with divorce or serious breakups, while Kurosky broke up with the girl he thought he would marry. Add that to a band tiring of cramming themselves into a van to suffer through endless hours of heartburn while slamming convenience store food on their way to the next gig and you’ve got a recipe for a bunch of downer songs.
Not that Beulah were strangers to those themes already — while their first records were a bit more inscrutable lyrically, much of The Coast was aimed at former lovers and heartbreak in general. But the hooks and melodies stayed anthemic, even if they contained lyrics like “Everybody drowns sad and lonely.” The only difference is that Yoko is wracked with guilt, submission and resignation, and there’s no vagueness to shield targets from lines like “You always knew it/ You saw right through it/ So why’d you have to go?”
So yeah … beautiful both for its unflinching honesty and its devastating songwriting, Yoko is a must-own for those who cherish catchy tunes, singalong choruses and/or have a heart. And the ability to maintain at least a semblance of a sense of humor throughout the storm — hey, they had the self-awareness to name their breakup album about breakups Yoko, after all. Enjoy.