I considered myself a lucky man when I found an incredible indie-pop album in world filled of horrible, plastic, pathetic, insipid music. Many of today’s popular guitar-driven bands just do not have the magic that music lovers need. Many music lovers miss that special feeling that we felt in pop bands like Television Personalities, Felt, Jasmine Minks, House Of Love, Close Lobsters, The Stone Roses, The Razorcuts and others.
Released by The Bus Stop Label, “The Way We Never Were” by The Beatifics is an album that has some of that magic that made us fall in love with pop music. The Beatifics are a Minneapolis band that released their debut album “How I Learned To Stop Worrying” on the now defunct No Alternative label. After 6 long years, Chris Dorn and The Beatifics have returned with an album that is worth the wait.
While most of their songs are guitar-driven tracks with a typical pop song structure, they are not afraid to experiment a little while maintaining an intense passion behind their songwriting. Chris Dorn is not only a gifted pop songwriter but his voice is reminiscent of the soft styles of The Razorcuts, complemented by hard guitar. It all balances out to create a 10-song sophomore album that is short, sweet, and has the power to make the listener play it over and over again.
Some pop music has the power to be the soundtrack for life. A certain song can be perfect for poignant moments. (“Primitive Painters” by Felt or anything from the first Slowdive album is a perfect example.) In the case of The Beatifics, the song “February” is not only the best song on the album, but one of the best guitar-driven poignant pop songs to be recorded in a long time. The mid-tempo waltz-like rhythm of the guitars and drums just slowly dance along as Chris Dorn’s lyrics and vocals make you feel the nostalgia.
The chorus has that powerful emotion complemented by the harder guitars. Dorn sings: “…And all of those nights / that just faded away / Along with the memories…” I felt like I was in a John Hughes movie (one of the good ones like Breakfast Club). “February” is just a perfect emotional pop song.
Another perfect pop song is the acoustic “Outro”. The song is so short, so sad, and so perfect that I do not want to ruin it with descriptions or lyrical quotes.
After the emotional and poignant tracks, the pure powerful pop remains, such as “The Only One”. Chris Dorn not only has a grasp on good lyrics but good guitar melodies as well. Dorn sings: “…You’ll always be the bitter thing that I could never play for keeps / Exactly like the kind of dream that never lets you back asleep / You could be any other girl / A solution waiting to be sold / That you’re the only one…”
The second track on the album, “After All”, is a very upbeat, intelligent pop song. It is not simple nor is it plastic. It’s kind of pop we love. The opening track, “Sorry Yesterdays”, has the melancholy that The Beatifics had on their debut album. It is a wonderful opener for the album but does not represent the intensity or emotion that follows throughout the LP. “In The Meantime” has a strong rock/blues guitar riff that holds the powerful feelings that the song encompasses. “…Without you, I’ve got nothing to do in the meantime…” Another very good track is “Between The Lines”. These are just all well-produced and well-executed guitar-driven pop tracks that have that intensity without gimmicks.
There is some minor experimentation on “The Way We Never Were” that works incredibly well. “Pt. 2” is a tiny instrumental that has a serious drum-machine hip-hop beat driving the track. It just sounds so cool. As different as it sounds from the rest of the album, the flow of the LP is never broken in any way. “When It’s Whenever” also has a thick, somewhat dance beat that drives the track. The keyboard melodies and guitars along with Dorn’s high-pitched voice make this something special. “…You’re just so far away from what yesterday could know…”, Dorn sings in the chorus. While it is a straightforward pop song, the beats give it a more experimental feel. This is a perfect example of a band taking risks and doing things different without being something they are not.
Even though the LP is almost flawless, there is only one song that could almost be put in the category of filler. “Different Stars” is a very short and slow track that tries to have the same poignant or special feel as “February” but does not come close. While the music and the vocals are all well done, the lyrics about stars and the sky just sound to trite and typical for a band like this. The Beatifics have done better and since every single other song is wonderful, this one filler track is acceptable.
“The Way We Never Were” by The Beatifics is an extremely short and very tight album that is filled with matchless, poignant pop tracks. As the title suggests, the album is filled with feelings of nostalgia, regret, sadness, acceptance, anger, and a little happiness. With the music, The Beatifics find beauty in sadness. While “How I Learned To Stop Worrying” was an accomplished album, “The Way We Never Were” is better in almost every way. The second LP shows their maturity, their creativity, their vulnerability, and their willingness to take chances. Indie-pop has not sounded so good in such a long time. The Beatifics have put the magic back in pop music. “The Way We Never Were” by The Beatifics is the way it should be
The Way We Never Were (2002)
Record Label: The Bus Stop Label