Basement Beside Myself

Basement Beside Myself
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Remember early 2000s rock? No? That's fine — realistically, people don't think about it much anymore. So here's a quick reminder: There was Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American and Lifehouse's No Name Face in 2001, Silverchair's Diorama in 2002 and Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown in 2003. Remember those? They were albums that challenged the chronically bad-tempered and/or comically hyper-masculine status quo of the post-grunge period by reminding people to lighten up a bit — rock music could actually be fun! It helped make them massively popular then, despite being mostly irrelevant now.
 
Here in 2018, Basement's music is like a throwback to an era that feels longer ago than it actually is. The British group's stylistic arc, from their 2011 debut I Wish I Could Stay Here to this year's Beside Myself, has gradually pushed aside their rainy English gloom in favour of songs that are sunny and upbeat — if only in sound, rather than subject — and would almost certainly be rock-radio hits if only it were 15 years ago.
 
On their fourth record, they hit their stride early with "Disconnect" and "Be Here Now," each boasting a big, shimmering chorus that contrasts with the record's theme of feeling stuck somewhere you'd rather not be — in particular, the struggle to stay out of your own head and spend more time in the present.
 
In keeping with its theme, Beside Myself is constantly shifting between songs that are bright and peppy ("Keepsake" and "New Coast," which channel Jimmy Eat World more than any) and others that jack up the emotional intensity ("Nothing Left" and "Ultraviolet"), as if they were slipping in and out of their anxieties as they wrote it. The mellowed-out closer "Right Here" borrows a page from Pavement's playbook — perhaps unintentionally — while "Stigmata" has a particularly Deftones-y sound (and not just because it's an extremely Deftones-y song title). But it's "Slip Away" and "Reason For Breathing" that inject something far more potent into the mix, with Basement's grungier, riff-heavy sound from their excellent sophomore record Colourmeinkindness making a bit of a comeback.
 
This variety, while maintaining consistency, is what makes the record a return to form after their rather one-dimensional third effort, Promise Everything. Here, Basement offer fresh takes on a proven style that's been gone long enough to be forgotten, but not long enough for a revival. If you're not going to invent something completely one-of-a-kind — a rare feat in 21st-century rock music — then that's not a bad position to be in. (Fueled by Ramen)