The Beths Continue Their Humble Quest on Whip-Smart 'Expert in a Dying Field'

BY Ian GormelyPublished Sep 13, 2022

New albums from the Beths are not capital "E" events. There are no new eras declared, no wiping of social media accounts, no new visual aesthetic to tie the whole thing together. Rather, they are humble affairs, with a few interviews and some praise-filled reviews to mark the occasion, followed by the ever-present tour. 

There are still a thousand bands like the Beths in this regard, though we tend to give them a lot less attention than we once did. Deference and self-awareness aren't qualities that get you noticed in the attention economy. Oh, pity the humble indie rock band!  

With the title of their third album, the Aukland, NZ four-piece are referring to the expertise that one accrues after a relationship has ended. But it's not hard to imagine a band whose influences, broadly speaking, span the Dunedin sound (the Chills), '80s American underground (R.E.M.) and Glaswegian indie-pop (Teenage Fanclub) not finding parallels with their own place in the current cultural tumult.

Working through the dissolution of a long-term relationship, Expert in a Dying Field both refines and expands on the sound of their previous LPs. "Knees Deep," reportedly a last minute addition to the record, captures the band's energy perfectly, showcasing their knack for memorable riffs and self-deprecating lyrics."The shame!" singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes exclaims, "I wish that I was brave enough to dive in / but I never have been and never will be." 

Elsewhere the band sharpen the skills they've deployed in the past. The title track's harmonies build to a honey sweet wall of sound; the barnstorming riffs on "Silence is Golden" are more breakneck and the hooks on "Head in the Clouds" are stickier than ever. They find similar success even when they break their usual stylistic molds — "I Want to Listen" is a twee-pop outlier, while "Best Left" proves that, given the opportunity, the quartet can elevate their sound to arena rafter heights. 

Joke or not, the Beths — Stokes, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Tristan Deck — are very much experts at what they do. It's what's elevated them to a place where they're spoken of in the same breath as more conceptually ambitious, though by no means superior, peers. 

Big concepts and big venues aren't always the best mediums for the band's message though, which continues to find universality in little intimacies. "2am," the record's slow burn closer, compares and contrasts Stokes and her partner's optimistic early days with the reality of what they've become in the present. "Do you feel it?" she asks throughout, and frankly it's hard to imagine anyone but a humble indie rock band communicating this emotion with such overwhelming intimacy. Dying field or not, the Beths' third LP is a reaffirmation that the band are ready and willing to go down with the ship.
(Carpark Records)

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