The Coast Is Never Clear
Velocette Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/08/2002
While listening to the latest CD from the pop rock band Beulah, I realize what they have done here is quite extraordinary and there are three big reasons why I think The Coast Is Never Clear is such a wonderful listen:
First, there's the unique way that singer/songwriter Miles Kurosky has with a lyric. It is easy to see what I mean by looking at the track listing where you find songs with titles like "A Good Man Is Easy To Kill", "Popular Mechanics For Lovers", and "Night Is The Day Turned Inside Out". The lyrics inside these songs are likely to catch you off guard as well.
At first, the quirkiness of the material combined with Kurosky's slighty deadpan vocals seem kind of gimmicky, but repeated listenings will reveal a melancholy in the songs, almost as if the cleverness is masking a deeper hurt that the songwriter is trying to hide but doesn't quite succeed.
The second point are the melodies, which are strong, very strong, without being obviously hooky. I would guess that the band has listened to a lot of classic pop such as The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Big Star and Steely Dan. Points one and two make songs like the standout "Gene Autry", simultaneously the catchiest and saddest songs I've heard in a long time.
The last ingredient is the impeccable arrangements of the songs. Beulah is a seven piece outfit with the standard two guitars, bass and drums, plus a percussionist, trumpet, and keyboards. The last two make a big impression on Beulah's sound. The Bacharach influence is also in the arrangements which are tasty but imaginative. Other musicians are included to add to the sound. There's extra horns, strings, a steel guitar, and a generous use of backup vocals to create a lush but not slick sound.
But make no mistake, Beulah is essentially a rock band, and guitars dominate the punk influenced "Silver Lining". Also check out the fuzz bass beginning of "Gravity's Bringing Us Down", and the strange rhythm on the Squeeze-like "Cruel Minor Change", and you will see that there is more to the arrangements than just lushness.
If you are looking for something different yet at the same time comfortably familiar, then this is your album. I realize what I just wrote sounds like a paradox, but that the only way I can describe it. Beulah seems to hit all the right notes despite bringing in different influences and somehow manage to make all the pieces fit. To me, that makes The Coast Is Never Clear a stunning accomplishment.