Best Coast – ‘Always Tomorrow’ review: fun, self-aware surf rock that’s high on ideas but low on ambition

Five years since their last album, the Cali duo return with a fresh outlook – though they could do with some fresher hooks too

In the five years since Best Coast’s last album, frontwoman Beth Cosentino has undergone something of a rejuvenation. She quit drinking a few years after kicking a wake-and-bake routine that only exacerbated her anxiety. She became wiser to and more accepting of life’s fickle nature. And she set about writing the follow-up to 2015’s ‘California Nights’. But sadly the well of creativity had somewhat dried up. “I would sit and try to write and nothing would come out,” she explained recently to the New York Times.

‘Always Tomorrow’ finds Cosentino, now in her thirties, starting afresh in a new decade. For the first time she’s enlisted bandmate Bobb Bruno to write songs when she felt unable to do so: a move that culminated in the LA duo’s most closely collaborative work yet (Cosentino’s autobiographical lyrics notwithstanding). In that NYT interview, the pair said that they wanted to avoid “rehashing the past” while nodding to their individual influences.

Cosentino is so self-aware that in ‘Wreckage’ she even admits she “kept on writing the same songs”. On that track, scuzzy, ‘80s FX guitars jolt a descending melody reminiscent of Green Day‘s ‘Brain Stew’ as Cosentino takes a hard look at herself: “No one’s saying that I’ve got to be perfect / So why do I keep pushing myself?”

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Album centrepiece ‘Rollercoaster’ is similarly compelling. Here, Cosentino and Bruno ease back into the ‘60s psych they flirted with on the ‘California Nights’ title track – all bass grooves, woozy harmonies and stings of reverb. “I am the same way that I used to be / Took away some substances that’s the only change I see,” Cosentino sings beautifully, taking stock of her journey while recognising there’s deeper roots to dig into.

New single ‘Different Light’ strikes the right balance of being an unmistakable Best Coast song without disengaging listeners for want of a solid hook. It’s a spunky slice of surf-pop that fires on all cylinders, from effortless drum signature switches to bursts of frilly choral harmonies. Cosentino has said that the bracing ‘Everything Has Changed’ (also a single) was written as a “vision of life I wished I was living”. The lyric “used to say that I was lazy / The lazy, crazy baby” is perhaps a reference to past criticism of her work.

Despite changes in Cosentino’s personal life, though, the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ remains stuck to her band’s brand of melodic indie and surf-rock. The musician may have broken free from a creative rut but she’s largely fallen back into comfortable habits (see: two/three-chord progressions and simplistic lyrics). ‘Make it Last’ and ‘Master of My Own Mind’ are just a couple of the album’s pop-punk filler tracks, the latter of which is stuffed with cliché (“So scared / Of the future / It hasn’t happened yet / So why’s it got me down / Down on the ground”).

Honest, self-referential lyrics like this sure are admirable but they don’t make Best Coast immune to criticism. ‘Always Tomorrow’ boasts a handful of punchy, promising songs but it’s frustratingly unambitious in scope. When the album treads old ground, the ideas are stale. Hopefully a bigger rejuvenation is on the horizon.

Details:

Release date: February 21

Record label: Concord

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