The third album from The Beths sets out its stall almost too perfectly.
Opening with the title track, we learn that the “dying field” is love (or “learning to love”, at least), and we might only hope to become an expert over time, when we’ve asked ourselves “how do you know it’s over when you can’t let go?” enough times. It’s perfectly constructed, polished pop-rock with a nice vocal line and some warm, comforting backing vocals. It’s ultimately ambiguous, but not unhopeful, and never less than supremely catchy.
Despite the lack of skuzz, it’s a great summation of everything that’s great about this album as it takes occasionally rote arrangements, or a style that’ve been done a million times, and throws some excellent lyrics over it. It’s almost jarring to hear the sort of music that might have soundtracked a ’90s teen comedy (‘A Passing Rain’, ‘I Told You I Was Afraid’), with intricate storytelling that takes the minutiae of modern life to explore grand themes of love and loss and living (‘Best Left’, the title track).
‘Knees Deep’ and ‘Silence is Golden’ show off the excellent guitar lines that gild Stokes’ tales, the latter especially exploding into a great, angular solo towards the end. ‘When You Know You Know’ is the best cut, along with the title track, with Stokes mixing up her vocals between high and low while indulging in almost stream-of-consciousness lyricism (I’d say it was if the lyrics weren’t so well constructed). There’s a little more bite to the arrangement which harks back to previous bangers like ‘Future Me Hates Me’ standout ‘Happy Unhappy’.
When they veer away from their comfort zone there can be mixed results, like the schmaltzy ‘Your Side’ and Americana-leaning ‘I Want to Listen’. Final song, ‘2AM’, is a slower, more mournful cut, but it descends into a loose instrumental jam that ends the album on a curious note. It’s a far cry from the catchy power chords and lyrical sharpness that characterise the whole, but shows that they might have a few tricks up their sleeve for the future.