'Jump Rope Gazers', the latest album from New Zealand-based outfit The Beths, has quite a lot going on. Over its ten tracks that clock in just shy of forty minutes in total, the band diversity their output, taking the listener on a journey through multiple soundscapes – from scuzzy indie rock, to bedroom pop, to even acoustic ballads by the time you’re about to finish the album off.
It’s an encouraging listen, an album that shows the band off as considerably less than a one-trick pony. They sound convincing, self-assured even of every new audible direction and flavour that they encourage us to sample on this project. It’s a shame, then, that the album itself, is not all that memorable.
It can so often be the way that a band can look to spread their wings and try out new things and end up feeling muddled by what they eventually create. This isn’t the case with this album. It’s a record that is genuinely exciting in places and delivers its songs in a manner that feels enchanting enough at the time. But unlike some of the seriously great projects we have been treated to as music fans already this year, 'Jump Rope Gazers' doesn’t latch onto you where it matters. It doesn’t have those one or two absolute killer tracks that you can’t get enough of, nor does it have a concept that is overtly interesting, nor does it push the boundaries of any of the multiple genres and sounds that are on display here.
It’s for this reason that it largely reminded me, whilst listening to it, of the Ex Hex’s 'It’s Real'. An album that felt great when it was being played, felt genuinely strong and an album of the year contender. And then, once it stopped and you spent some time away from it, it became less and less revelatory, less and less impactful, less and less memorable.
There certainly is enough stuff on this new Beths project to like – an opening run from 'I’m Not Getting Excited' to the title track “Jump Rope Gazers” is a strong enough opening. As you descend through the tracklist, other high points such as “Out Of Sight” reveal themselves to you as a listener, offering up hooks and riffs, melodies and lyrics that can’t help but catch your ear. Heading through the album’s final exchanges, and the diminishing stature of the songs is evident, penultimate track 'You’re A Beam Of Light' ironically enough being where the darkness begins to set in.
It’s an album that Beths fans will doubtless like very much, and it offers a strong mission statement to the future that this is a band hungry to expand and determined to explore the hitherto untrodden ground. It’s just a shame that, on this project alone, they’ve not delivered anything of career-defining merit.
Words: Mike Watkins
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