Beachheads is a four-piece indie rock band from Stavanger, Norway. Beachy Head is a notorious cliff face in East Sussex, off which people regularly step and let gravity do the rest. Beachheads are marginally more cheerful than their geographical near-namesake, but it's a close-run thing. The Nordics have become synonymous with their 'noir'. At face value, Beachheads' eponymous debut album is musically energetic, pulsating with punk-pop and jangling with a soupçon of Husker Dü and a dash of Cast. Lyrically, akin to a Scandi winter, it has significantly more shade than light.
The preoccupying sorrow of vocalist and lyricist, Børild, when penning the words to these songs, can't be ignored. The death of his father last year suffuses many songs and we vividly relive the very worst moments. It's just a matter of whether you feel existentially robust enough to stomach such consistent exposure to someone else's bereavement. This Norse grimness can feel as relentless as many of the guitar lines. Album opener, "Moment of Truth," driven by insistent bass and drums, takes us through that moment when medical news could really go either way (it goes really badly); in the track "Treasure Chest," excitingly piratical on paper, the titular object transpires as a coffin and the procession in "Procession," with its ritualistic drum battery, is (you're probably ahead of me.) funereal.
Rather than pure hyperbolic gloom-mongering, there is genuine warmth to the songs - with 'memories as precious gifts', commemorating a well-respected man 'always giving, never asking back' and Børild's commitment to his father to 'remember your life, your kindness,/ and pass it on'. The song "Despair", has a distinctly Ronseal quality, however. It's raw - like sushi; sushi with a bit too much wasabi on it.
Bassist Marvin and guitarist Vidar joined recently from Stavanger metallers, Kvelertak, to explore a more diverse musical range, which is evident in "Give Me Some Love" - Teenage Fanclub-meets-Counting Crows-meets-Oasis. It is an appeal from a disaffected lover to revitalise flagging passions - 'We're not so starry-eyed anymore/ I still adore you like I did before.' This is almost the light relief on the album, were it not for the incongruous, straight-up love song "Una", with refreshing, 'Ooooh-na' harmonies and the pleasingly poetic notion of losing control to love as 'dancing in and out of tune'. By the album-closing "It Feels Alright", it's fifty-fifty whether talk of starting 'another life' involves empowerment and catharsis, or whether we're back to cliff faces again.
I was unusually knackered after listening to this album and almost abandoned Dry January. I hope something utterly marvellous befalls the members of Beachheads in 2017 and that it dominates their next recording.
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