Beabadoobee – ‘Fake It Flowers’ review: the sound of a modern guitar great in bloom

The journey from bedroom-pop hero to bonafide rock star is completed in bruising fashion on the Londoner's stunning debut album of anthemic slacker rock

Two years ago, Beabadobee released ‘Coffee’, a spindly tale recorded in her bedroom in London. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a love for lo-fi heroes Daniel Johnston and Elliot Smith, its lullaby melodies and sweet lyrics of devotion (“I like it when you hold me tight”) depicted an attempt to abate the roughest of hangovers. The results are fairly unremarkable, a tentative display of the diary entry songwriting the teenager was beginning to explore.

Earlier this year, a dreary TikTok-favoured remix by Canadian lo-fi artist Powfu – in which he samples the twee chorus – brought the song and 20-year-old Beatrice Kristi to a wider audience; it was played a reported 4.1 billion times in March 2020. But the mantra for Bea has changed. No longer satisfied with playing it understated or the idea that her voice should be subdued, she’s got the guitars plugged in, the drums heavy and the influences outrageously blatant. As she put it at this year’s NME Awards: “We need more chicks on stage.”

The timing has been fortuitous. Finding inspiration in the home environment is now commonplace for the foreseeable future, but last year’s gnarly ‘Space Cadet’ EP saw her embrace her inner rock star beyond air guitaring in the bedroom mirror. The unashamed ‘I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus’ saw her pay her dues to the Pavement frontman, while Sonic Youth got a stylistic look-in (though no name check) on ‘She Plays Bass’ and ‘Are You Sure’. A handful of headline shows – one had enough ticket requests to fill Brixton Academy, not the 150-capacity upstairs room of the London pub in which they were actually held – saw her capitalise on the hype, as did arena support slots with Dirty Hit label mates The 1975.

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The songs from that period are frantic, untamed and all the better for it. But ‘Fake It Flowers’ is complete and polished in a way those songs just weren’t. What was once buoyed by unbridled enthusiasm is now mastered by Bea’s restraint – she can be loud, but contemplative too. It’s a thrilling debut from Gen-Z’s newest guitar hero, for sure, but also a building block to a career beyond when the rock’n’roll antics wear off.

One of the album’s greatest triumphs is the fact that Bea’s duality – rock star-slash-kitchy-introvert – is displayed so explosively is the album’s greatest triumphs. Neither part cedes space to the other; the two sides of her persona stand confidently shoulder-to-shoulder, intimate melodies giving way to choruses that, in another time, would have enraptured the masses live in concert (nevermind).

Opener ‘Care’ has a dreamy start but that lasts scarcely 20 seconds before a jackhammer of a chorus clatters in. That force similarly decimates ‘Dye It Red’, ‘Worth It’ and, most notably, ‘Charlie Brown’, where the ferocity of Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ explodes with Bea’s  own unbridled rage – it’s fierce enough to leave Snoopy a shaking, snivelling mess.

To her credit, she’s unafraid to embrace the cliche of being born in the wrong generation. Last year, Bea told NME quite bluntly that she “wants to live in the ‘90s” – and why the hell not? The orchestral overtones to the Smashing Pumpkins-sized ‘Sorry’ hark back to a time when rock bands were unafraid of spaffing production budgets, while the grunge-pop chorus of ‘Together’ is Elastica-sized chorus for a new generation. To pillage the past for inspiration is not uncommon, but few enjoy their joyride as much as Bea does.

The sonic evolution is bolstered by lyricism that traces her ability to communicate emotions bluntly – largely about the ups and downs of romance. Spiteful ripostes run through ‘Further Away’ (“They say the moon’s far away but your brain’s further”), but the make-up on ‘Horen Sarrison’ is sweet in a way that only young love can be, as the lush sounds of Blur’s ‘The Universal’ swell in the background; “You are the smell of pavement after the rain / You are the last empty seat on a train”. On ‘Charlie Brown’ she confronts the periods of self-harm that she endured, towering above but never forgetting those days.

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And there are nods to her early era, keeping things lo-fi on ‘Back To Mars’ – a continuation with her creative inspiration of outer-space – and ‘How Was Your Day’. While jarring when plonked next to anthemic rock, this establishes space to detail her songwriting evolution; it’s an ample reminder of the thrill of witnessing emerging artists hone their craft. The scribblings in the margins and on-the-fly adjustments sit proudly to the breakthroughs and failures. Eventually, a full picture of an artist emerges.

The leap from bedroom-dweller to teenage riot instigator has been a swift and fruitful one, and what could be considered derivative is genuine in every sense. Circumstance might dictate that bedroom songwriting is back on the cards for Bea as the slow crawl to the return of live shows continues, but there’s a rock-solid foundation for the years to come.

Details

Beabadoobee Fake It Flowers

Release date: October 16

Record label: Dirty Hit

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