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Beachniks – Brighton Beach

Tuesday 20 December 2011
Words Spindle

New York’s Beachniks are pretty much my favourite band right now and as far as I know, I might be their only fan. When I first contacted them, their bassist, Serge, actually wrote back to me asking, “How did you hear about us?”

They’re somewhat unknown to most, not because they’re bad, no, they’re really awesome and as far as I know, their status is all of their own volition, for whatever reason. Perhaps they don’t want to be that well known except for a small, yet rabid, cult status like that of Bill Cosby and His White Pudding Pops and it may very well be because past and present members are also in other big groups in New York including Crystal Stilts, Sea Lions, and the German Measles.

They’re not completely unknown either. They’ve actually grown a steadily increasing ring of fans, almost every one of them being other respected New York acts like the Beets. Quite simply, they’re musicians’ musicians in the truest sense, like writers’ writer Sherwood Anderson was to Hemingway and Faulkner, or more plainly and contemporary, actors’ actor Vincent D’Onofrio. Yes, Beachniks are the Vincent D’Onofrio of music.

But Beachniks seriously make some of the most exciting music today and it’s hard not to fall in love the moment you listen to them. It wasn’t even live when I first heard (and I still haven’t been to a show) but an outdated MySpace page and I immediately became completely obsessed with them.

They’re a part of this amazing and constantly exciting groups of bands coming out of New York currently mixing art with garage; the true descendents of the Velvet Underground. All of these groups are highly intellectual and conceptual art bands, but they combine it with a general sloppiness, short song length, and/or other assorted punk sensibilities to undermine any lingering suspicions of ego. So, even though bands like Beachniks might sound somewhat ‘punk’ by no means are they to be misconstrued as punks. They’re all about as smart as they come. The four songs on this 7” are raw and, like a lot of these bands, it sounds like they don’t rehearse (if only trying to sound like they don’t) leading their songs to almost fall apart, but like others it’s all on purpose and brilliantly strategic.

Seriously, it’s quite clear these bands aren’t for everyone, but as Mark Deming wrote of the Beets, “If your idea of a good time is digging Beat Happening, the Shaggs… chances are you’re going to rank… [them] a lot higher on the cool scale.” However, what’s so interesting and fascinating about the Beachniks is that while it’s quite well known that Beets play very basic and simple instrumentals, the Beachniks on the other hand are actually all really skilled musicians; they just choose not to brag about it.

But this may be where it gets most interesting. This 7” is actually a couple years old, but I’ve heard a couple of the tracks from their upcoming debut album In Color. Gary Olson, of the Ladybug Transistor, has been helping them record at Marlborough Farms and since, their recorded sound has actually become considerably tighter and even more polished, while still retaining the attitude of their original recordings. Olson actually recorded for the Beets on their new album as well, leading to a polishing as well, but for the Beachniks his presence also naturally spotlighted and proved just how good of musicians they actually are. Olson may very well be the John Cale to their Stooges.

I highly suggest checking out this 7”; it’s impossible to not play it over and over again, but as far as I am concerned, it is nothing compared to how good In Color will be.