In The Garage Where I Belong
Anyone can play garage rock; that’s implied in the sub-genre’s name. All you need is three friends, a case of PBR and a garage. Oh — and some instruments. The implication is that the fun is not in the creating or the listening, but in the playing. The downside, of course, is that you may not find an audience for your indulgences save the neighbors and their dogs. New York’s Nude Beach is, for the most part, an exception to this. Their latest effort, 77, is filled with well-crafted pop songs delivered with raw intensity that make you want to stay and have another beer.
Don’t be deceived by the slow opening track, “Used to It,” with its Jesus and Mary Chain melody over The Thrills’ alt-country arrangements. 77 accelerates to a proper tempo and tone on “I’m Not Like You,” where singer/guitarist Chuck Betz channels Tom Petty with a touch of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. The three chords chug along nicely over a catchy melody, but a well-placed riff and unexpected dissonance reveal Betz’ skills as a songwriter. “Yesterday” follows this pattern, but we get a respite on “Time,” a low-fi ballad that could have had a spot on Let It Be. If you listen carefully, you can appreciate the care that went into the studio performance – the metronomic flanger, the burnt-edge overdrive. These things could not have happened by accident.
“See My Way” is the highlight on 77. It sounds familiar, borrowing a little from the Pixies here, the Replacements there, but the end result is original and irresistible. The album continues in this way, and that is also its downfall. If this was the midpoint, the listener would happily coast to the end. But 77 is 18 songs long, which is about seven too many. It’s meant to play like a double album, but there’s not enough distinction between “sides” to warrant it. The garage door stayed open too long, and the Nude Beach played until the last neighbor and dog went home, leaving nobody unhappy, but also not wanting more.