August 30, 2003

New Bethel "Inside the Blue Vera"

When I booked shows, I brought a pretty famous indie band to town. Of course, when these bands came through, local bands would always want to play, regardless of whether or not they were any good. "Support the local scene" was the motto, with no regard to actual talent. Anyway, this one particular band, who were like a fifth-rate Modest Mouse, were opening, and the drummer of Famous Indie Band came out to talk to me & the band, saying, "Man! you gotta check this band out! they're performing some AMAZING polyrhythms, and are extremely complicated!" I looked at him and said, "No, man, they're not innovative. They just don't know how to play." The fellow laughed at me--then, upon listening again, realized that, yeah, these kids were either super-geniuses who played stupid, or were just a bunch of amateurs who didn't really realize how brilliant they were.

New Bethel has found the perfect balance between charming amateurism and impressive skill, resulting in a fairly impressive debut mini-album, Inside the Blue Vera. In much the same way that Beat Happening charmed many a listener, New Bethel have a quite innocent-looking face, and you don't really mind it when they hit the wrong key or their singing doesn't hit the pitch just right. DO NOT BE FOOLED, though, by New Bethel's smile; much like Beat Happening, underneath the charm of innocence flows a river of experience. They know what they're doing, and Even though they seem quite loose--they're actually quite tight; they've toured up and down the land over the past few years--without an album to support!

Witness Inside the Blue Vera. It's a collection of new-wave driven indiepunk pop that is deceptively simple, yet musically rich. While "The Great Decline" may be a jazzy-pop rocker that's quite reminiscent of Wolfie, they switch gears on "Radio Started," a mellow, organ-driven instrumental that turns into mathrock-lite before chilling back out into a modern-day Percy Faith-style fade. New Bethel's wreckless interplay between mellow instrumental passages and art-rock codas mixed in with indiepop songs sung with arty indie-rock vocals certainly makes for one interesting mix.

Trouble is, it occasionally becomes slightly predictable, which is a shame, because they're otherwise utterly awesome. Such a heady mix works well on one or two songs, but it can be a bit annoying if it's not mixed up a little more. I'm not worried about it that much, though. See, I have this feeling that, in a live setting, all of these things come together onstage, where the singing probably isn't as self-aware. It should also be noted that the songs on Inside the Blue Vera are more instrumental than they are vocal. The songs often start off with one or two minutes of instrumental, one minute of singing, and then back into an instrumental passage. It almost feels as if New Bethel were an instrumental band who decided to add singing to the mix.

Flaws aside, New Bethel have me excited. Really excited. Here's to working out the flaws for that forthcoming full-length. If they get some of these minor bugs worked out--or if I just learn to get over it--then they'll have one really, really strong album. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. They're certainly one to keep a keen eye on for the future.

--Joseph Kyle

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