Beach House – B-Sides and Rarities

First off: what’s the point of reviewing a B-Sides and Rarities collection? It’s a treasure trove for the musical archeologist, a gimmick for the fans, and (perhaps) a cash cow for the band itself, or a way of coming clean. But there’s no story there, it’s as unimaginative as a stamp collection. Think of it like this: if B-Sides and Rarities were a book, it would be an absurdity. And therefore much more interesting, ironically. As it is, it’s a collection of mostly mediocre tracks (now that would be a great album title).

(Incidentally, Beach House is probably the ‘biggest’ band I’ve reviewed in a long time).

Yet… I remember seeing them live right around Teen Dream, unlocking my bike afterwards still hearing the noise in my ears, and Beach House isn’t even a noisy band, but their sound is so all-encompassing, I remember that and thinking it was the best thing ever. But Beach House is like bureaucracy. It starts nice and small, but ever-so-slowly, inevitably, it disastrously accrues more and more monstrous parts, growing into the cumbersome uniform mass it is now. It’s no surprise my favourite tracks on B-Sides are ‘Rain In Numbers’, the very oldest one, dating back to 2005 – the scatter-piano reminds me of ‘Catterpillar’, which inexplicably used to be the Cure song I liked most around the same time I saw Beach House live – and an absolutely deranged version of Teen Dream stand-out ‘Norway’; but that’s all old glory. Sure, ‘Chariot’ is a fairly decent new single, but it’s simply not as light-footed as it should be. Beach House has always been dreamy, indeed, to the point of becoming the definition of dream-pop, and one should remember that even the heaviest dream is as light as a feather in all its non-material existence.

Overall, B-Sides and Rarities is worth a listen for whoever is or was interested in Beach House’s music. It shows, despite the lack of chronological order, the way the band has developed – for the worse – and some of the older tracks were surprisingly raw, even though the band has apparently remixed some of them to better fit their ‘current aesthetics’. I don’t trust that at all. Other highlights include the playful version of ‘Used to Be’ and ‘The Arrangement’ – both Teen Dream era, again. If in doubt, blame Pitchfork. (Another tempting analogy is Twin Peaks, which also peaked early and slowly declined by becoming too large for its own fundaments. Of course, Beach House sounds like the Twin Peaks soundtrack too. But at least TP got it’s third season revival; whether that will happen for Beach House is something we’ll yet have to see).

-- Caspar Jacobs, July 4, 2017