First things first: There isn’t a track called “Killer Tofu” on this whole album. Not one. As the title suggests, these Beets are singing about staying home, rather than destructive soy-based protein sources. They do have some of that Beatles-y pop to their sound, but it’s buried inside a batch of gruff garage pop rather than any mod sensibilities. Proudly coming out of Jackson Heights, Queens, the four-piece is releasing this follow-up to 2009’s debut LP, The Beets Spit In The Face of People Who Don’t Want To Be Cool. This time, Stay Home keeps the same aesthetics (both musically, and with their, odd, hand-colored album cover) but with a whole new set of tracks.
Scribbled across the bottom of the disc is the promise that this is “A collection of 13 new songs about staying home by: The Beets”, and that promise is fulfilled. There’s also a picture of some sort of giant native man slicing into the head of a photographer, but that’s a whole different story, probably. But, from the start, the effortless, twist-and-shout-worthy music is the real draw. “Cold Lips” opens the disc, with group shouted vocals, a simple, chugging guitar progression and loping bass line. It’s all on the edge of sloppy, but a “we’ve had a lot of whiskey and are enjoying ourselves” sloppy, rather than an unpracticed or uncaring one. “Dead” follows at a slower pace, vocalist/guitarist Juan Wauters shaking at the center of the track, his yelping vocals the star.
Throughout, the drumming is amazingly and perfectly simple. This isn’t music for giant drum fills; instead, it seems to have been done on the sparest of kits, perhaps two drums, while it sounds like an upturned bucket and clicking drumsticks on “Hens and Roosters”. That ramshackle, lo-fi aesthetic comes across as a ploy on so many records, but combined with the group’s aching vocals and loose guitar-work, everything fits into a puzzle of sincerity, like they only had the bucket while writing the song and decided it sounded pretty good.
“Watching T.V.” is a chanty garage pop tune about itself. “Pops N’ Me” follows, caterwauling call and response vocals over more of the same, musically. They seem to work at two paces and two paces only, but it only gets old after listening through the album three and a half times. It helps that the songs tend to top off at about two minutes and 12 seconds, never outlasting their purpose. The tom-rushed, screaming bridge in the middle of “Pops” is the perfect example of changing the pace to keep attention, coming in the middle of a slow, wilting tune.
At times it’s tough to figure out whether everything sounds cute or scuzzy, which I think is kind of the point. Songs like the insistent “Knock on Wood” and the surf ballad-y “Just a Whim” capture the best points of 60s pop, but their loud, un-channeled group vocals and sublimely straight-forward percussion keep things fresh. “I would do it, but I know it’s just a whim right now” everybody hollers, and it sounds like they mean it. There are elements of that fuzzy surf pop that dominated last year, parts of the garage rock revival, but not depending on any vein of hip too dominantly. It’s just fun and fresh and, as a whole, good pop music.