Let The Poison Out, The Beets
Hardly Art, USA
by Souad-Martin Saoudi
The Beets could easily be described as just another innocent lo-fi act from New York, but this Jackson Heights band of outsiders manages to compose atypical tunes that create an inimitable and infectious slacker rock garage sound and a delirious washed out image. Their loose, laid-back approach has influences as broad as The Ramones (their self-proclaimed idols), The Beach Boys, Queen, Uruguayan cult band Chicos Electricos, and singer songwriter Eduardo Mateo. The band was formed in 2008 but the journey started when Juan Wauters, who emigrated from Uruguay, met José Garcia, who shares both Bolivian and Colombian origins, in art class at LaGuardia Community College. Since then, they have been making reverb and distortion drenched garage pop. Unfortunately, since their first show in May of 2008, The Beets have gone through at least ten different drummers. The release of their third LP demonstrates the band’s incremental improvements and also suggests they have found in Chie Mori the perfect percussive match. The band can also count on the Matthew Volz’s collaboration, who creates all of the cover art and plays the recorder from time to time.
Spit in the Face of People Who Don't Want to Be Cool, their first LP, has baffled more than one listener. Through Wauters' rare nasal melodies, almost screamed gang vocals, and mid-tempo percussions, The Beets have shown how far a lo-fidelity, effortless production can be taken. And as much as it annoyed me not to understand exactly what they were doing, I found myself having the urge to listen to this 30-minute album about "being cool” over and over again; I wanted to feel like I was finally a part of this crazy bunch that stands up in the face of adversity and gives the finger to all the posers and lame fools out there trying so hard to be relevant. Their second album, Stay Home, whose title is an allusion to the Ramones' Leave Home, which had comparably messy psychedelic melodies. Though the sloppy chords and muted vocals felt familiar, songs such as “Watching TV" and "Pops N Me" wisely advise us that it’s sometimes better just to stay home and hang out with the ones we love.
While maintaining the inclination for short and playful songs loaded with heartwarming lyrics, Let the Poison Out, with its occasional overdubbing, has a much clearer, cleaner sound. The title references an illustrious radio moment on Howard Stern’s show. The phrase was uttered by Dave Lampert, dance instructor and creator of the Sybian saddle (an imposing masturbation device) during a demonstration by a famous porn star. Recorded in two days at Marlborough Farms by Gary Olsen of Ladybug Transistor, Let the Poison Out still has a shambolic DIY vibe, yet the indolent chanted lyrics have gained a decipherable quality. Chie Mori's sweet vocals also give the band a new edge. While the not so buoyant opener “You Don’t Want Kids To Be Dead” plays with our conscience and alludes to Sid Vicious and Frankenstein, “Now I live” gives us a much better feeling with its higher tempo. Words like “I’m cloudy, but inside I’m only sun” make the tambourine-inflected “Let Clock Work” an instant sing-along. Wauters’s ability to sincerely depict the ordinary is asserted in “Doing As I Do,” their first single. Kicking off with “don’t be afraid you will not die, and if you die, whatever,” Wauters expresses, with a rather existentialist viewpoint, his thoughts on the meaning of life. The song asserts that in order to survive in this absurd world one must do what one wants and be free because Jesus, God, and Satan don’t really care. The lovesick, metaphorical “I Don’t Know” and accelerated “Friends of Friends,” with their solid chord changes are definite standouts. True to their habits, The Beets' newest LP contains a song in Spanish about being drunk and killing your neighbor entitled "Preso Voy" and the experimental interlude “Eat No Dick 3.” This kind of quartet with lots of attitude reiterate with this third LP their great dedication to making art together.
Some may unwisely peg them as always sounding the same, however, the band’s charm lies precisely in their capacity to draw listeners into their surreal and absurd world. There is a disconcerting authenticity and simplicity about them that perhaps only their live shows can reveal. With a kitschy Native American doll decorating the stage and Volz’s banners proclaiming auto-derisive slogans like “I’d rather watch paint dry,” Wauters, Garcia, and Mori’s evident chemistry and stage presence make these spontaneous performances seem like big dislocated parties where you feel happy you got invited. The whimsical, folksy experiment of Wauters once again captures the feeling of a chemically altered campfire sing-along session on Let the Poison Out, an album “about getting everything out of your system,” being yourself, and being free, which is arguably the best “collection of songs” the Beets have produced yet.