What you take from Crazy For You depends on how much you stomach Bethany Cosentino. Like her boyfriend, Wavves’ Nathan Williams, her songs are inseparably connected to her day to day concerns and personality – as far as can be told through her many interviews and tweets. Coming in at just under half an hour, there’s no time for different characters, voices, perspectives or any kind of crafty artifice in her lyrics. Instead we’re treated to tweet-length streams of angst-ridden thought that typically jump from weed, relationships, other girls, and cats (Snacks, to be specific). Lyrically, Crazy For You is the Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr (delete as applicable) of your typical teenage girl set to fuzzed-out garage pop; if the needy yearning and gentle rebelliousness of teenage girls isn’t your thing then you might want to look elsewhere. Even if it is, the album’s honesty in this regard is one of its most notable problems.
Bethany Cosentino is twenty-two year old college dropout living in the twenty first century and this is where the artifice comes in. Most teenage girls would be more likely to bookend a blog about their guy with the sugary g-pop of California Gurls rather than The Beach Boys or 60s girl groups that the album’s clearly indebted to. That the music on Crazy For You is as borrowed and out of time as the lyrics are goes without saying but it creates an awkward jarring. The dorky, naïve yearning of Spector produced girl groups like The Ronnettes is much travelled territory and Spector’s patented ‘wall of sound’ is an even more familiar aspect in the indie landscape, (shitgaze,C86) but here she’s talking about smoking weed. She’s talking about getting high and displaying affection for a cat in a way that can only be described as post-millennial, post-lolcat. She’s approaching this earnestly. When, say, the Vivian Girls pull off these tricks there’s a separation – ironic and in terms of artifice: they’re not characters in their own stories and they definitely don’t inject their own 21st century behaviors into that archetypal first-love template. In doing it here, it’s hard to say whether Cosentino wants to aggrandise her own experience by placing her struggling relationships and what drugs she takes in that mold – updating, contemporizing The Ronnettes – or if she simply wanted to revel in a more romantic time and aesthetic. Regardless, it never quite sits well and as a 21st century woman in a 1960s landscape, it’s not flattering how needy and dependant she sounds as a result of how earnestly she approaches the project – especially when (if you’re a nerd for these things) the ‘you’ in her songs is unavoidably another artist you listen to.
Lyrical concerns aside, Best Coast know how to write a hook-laden pop song. Their compositions are devilishly simple (four chords and a five note solo simple), to the point and infectiously catchy, communicating the sunny melancholia and yearning for past times lucidly in their retro production and lo-fi gnarl. By grabbing at the right signifiers the band manage to bring to mind sun warped polaroids, first loves, endless summers and the end of adolescence. As the Wavves record perfectly captures a snottier, punkier, more MTV and Technicolor summer spent surfing, skating and avoiding your lame parents, Crazy For You draws to mind more subdued, bittersweet tones and inflection of a summer or relationship past.
If you can stomach a disciple of the unapologetically rough ’n’ ready ‘learning on the job’ school of songwriting, aren’t fed up of the flood of lo-fi crate-diggers already on the scene, and don’t mind adolescent posing in your music (perhaps you are an adolescent!) then Crazy For You might just be for you. Despite the inherent Myspace quality to her lyrics, Cosentino knows how to mine a niche; beyond juxtapositions of tone and (perhaps intentionally) stoner-minded rhymes there are plenty of compelling, bittersweet and sinister turns – see Honey’s minor-key transformation from sweet love-ode to statement of stalkerish intent – that Brian Wilson would (almost) be proud of. And whilst her earnest approach creates as many problems as it solves, it is refreshing and offers a nice dose of emotional sincerity that’s more than appreciated. People will miss the point and fire the same salvos at Best Coast as they did at the Vivian Girls in 2008, but as an album it mostly achieves what it sets out to do. More importantly, it does it more compellingly than most of its peers in an increasingly crowded genre.