Bigger Picture EP
I may be biased in thinking that the 90s produced some of the greatest guitar music of all time. From the shoegazers to the slackers to the grungemeisters to the metalheads, it was a glorious time to be alive. I may be biased because that was when I was a young’un, going to gigs, writing reviews, interviewing the odd artist. Oh. Wait. Well, I’m not a young’un anymore. As for 90s guitar music, it seems the kids agree with me, as we are experiencing an explosion of neo-90s music, on both sides of the Atlantic. The kids, it seems, are alright.
Beachtape are from Brighton, in the UK, and burst onto the scene away back in 2017 with the Hold Music ep, they released a single, ‘Fix it Up’ b/w ‘Figure It Out’ in 2018, and now they return with the Bigger Picture ep. In their short time together, they have managed to earn accolades from the likes of The Independent and Consequence of Sound. Now you can add The Typescript to the list.
Beachtape’s sound is centred around the guitars Rory Sear and Robbie Carman, and Sear’s laidback, sunshiney vocals. Bassist Andy Kemp and drummer Leo Kenyon provide the rhythm. Bigger Picture opens with the first single, ‘Somewhere Better,’ which draws to mind the likes of Teenage Fanclub in their heyday.
The band reports that ‘These songs are inspired by our day to day lives, monotonous ways, relationships and the changes entailed. The EP was written and recorded over a few months where a lot changed. Bigger Picturere presents our outlook on moving forward from a weird time for us. Coincidentally into the even weirder time we are living in now with what’s going in the world.’
Indeed. The world is fucking strange these days, between Brexit, Trumpism, Russia, and Covid-19. And that’s just the start of it. Beachtape have also felt the effects of Covid-19, as they were slated to play the doomed SXSW this year. And, of course, they’re kids, they’re in their early 20s, when everything changes and nothing changes, oftentimes on the same day, or even within the same hour.
Anyway. Back to the music. After ‘Somewhere Better,’ which soars along on a 90s riff, we slide into the slacker rock of ‘Loose Ends,’ which, I think, is my favourite track. Propelled by a riff that would not have been out of place on Ride’s Leave Them All Behind, Sear notes that
I’ve got too much time on my hands
Too much time and not enough plans
I’ve got loose ends, old friends, cut me some slack
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And one behind my back
I’ve got too much time on my hands.
It’s also interesting to see the massive impact Courtney Barnett has had on indie rock, from her distinct guitar-playing to her laid-back, monotonal slacker vocals. Beachtape don’t go the full-Barnett here, they’re too smart for that, but they are certainly in her echo chamber.
I personally dig the opening riff of ‘Think Like You,’ which steps out from behind the 90s influences and is Beachtape at their most fully formed. If I didn’t already cop to loving ‘Loose Ends,’ I’d say this is my favourite track. A chugging rhythm guitar and bass, with the drums chugging along, sees a soaring lead. Sear’s vocals are buried so low in the track, you can just about make them out. It’s also the shortest track, only 1 minute, 46 seconds.
The ep ends with ‘Somebody Like Hugh,’ which follows the quiet/loud manifesto of the 90s, and Sear’s vocals are still buried deep in the mix.
Beachtape are, obviously, part of a 90s revival, but they’re too skilled as musicians and too smart to be fully caught in the vortex of the Slacker Decade (as if we were really slackers, working two jobs, going to school, playing in a band all at once), they don’t simply rehash Ride and Teenage Fanclub. Instead, they pay homage to the greats, but they are their own thing. It is always dangerous to fashion yourself as a revivalist, in that to do so properly, you need to know yourself, so that your own voice stays clear in all of this. And on Bigger Picture, Beachtape do exactly that.