February 14, 2013

Album Review: Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth

It was around this time last year when Beach Fossils announced they had begun recording their sophomore effort Clash the Truth in light of then-guitarist Zachary Cole Smith’s plans to release his debut LP under his buzzy new side-project, DIIV. "People have been playing this pretty music that's quiet and melodic and while there's beauty in that, in making this album I've just ended up wanting to rebel against myself and make something really noisy,” he told SPIN of the band’s next step, and first preview “Shallow” didn’t give you any reason to doubt that would happen. The dynamic of the foggish Brooklyn indie rockers has evolved beyond stylistic standpoints since those words were published, however, with Cole Smith departing to concentrate full-time on DIIV’s climbing success as well as bassist John Peña over the summer to his project, Heavenly Beat (Payseur's longtime friend Thomas Gardner has since filled the kit spot, while Jack Doyle Smith of Craft Spells and Tommy Davidson round up the bass and secondary guitar slots.) Clash the Truth has its fair share of fury, but its revelations are most telling in Beach Fossils striving to inhabit a comfortable new shell.

The revolving door over the last several months puts Payseur under the microscope to deliver on his own, but Beach Fossils has never been much of a collective group input anyway. It began as a solo baby from the start, with the frontman recording and playing all instruments on 2009's self-titled debut while 2010's moody aggressor What a Pleasure EP featured assistance only from Peña. Gardner now finds himself promoted to Payseur’s right-hand man in the studio -- sharing some of Clash the Truth’s songwriting credits along the way – yet Beach Fossils’ sophomore sound is embedded in Payseur’s past life and current transitions. Growing up punk, he and Gardner mine the genre’s kinetic feel for sputtering tempos, confining them inside the walls of lo-fi's smaller spaces to bouncy effects ("Generational Synthetic," “Shallow,” “Burn You Down") and ignoring boundaries altogether in others, resulting in some of Clash the Truth's most viscerally-tapped reactions ("Careless," "Birthday.") As a lyricist, Payseur projects himself at the edge of "adult" while contemplating all the right questions, beginning with the LP's standout opener "Clash the Truth," a track that subtly walks the same line New Order did in the wake of Joy Division's death and before they bedazzled post-punk with a new wave lacquer, and others that stay on course with the Captured Tracks roster modus operandi of crafting spangled guitar-pop over dreary layers at mid-tempo intimacy ("Taking Off," "In Vertigo" [featuring Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino], "Caustic Cross.")

Clash the Truth doesn't necessarily offer a wealth of surprises if its a brand new Beach Fossils you are anticipating, but it bolsters the project into one that bites into itself with hunger and just the right amount of aggression to separate itself from past relationships. Producer Ben Greenberg (of the Men) captures all sides of Payseur and Gardner's intensity in the studio to an effect where you can sense the album's charged moments will translate wonderfully into loud and uninhibited versions on stage. In the title track, Dustin Payseur recites a laundry list of desires ("Dream, rebel, trust, youth, free, life, clash, truth...") that provide some context as to what Clash the Truth represents: A delivery on commitment, growth and most significantly -- honesty.

Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth will be released February 19, 2013 on Captured Tracks.

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