Album #181: The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Auckland, New Zealand
  • Label: Rough Trade
  • Best Track: Just Shy of Sure

I’ve long thought Iceland is the world’s ballsiest country, what with it being one of the few to punish the bankers and bail out the public after 2008 recession. Giving it a good run for its money these days though is New Zealand, helped mainly by its radical approach to politics that’s somewhat out of kilter with much of the Western world – electing a pleasant, sensible person as its leader!

From New Zealand come The Beths, with their second album Jump Rope Gazers released yesterday. These are a rare example of a band I would probably have liked just as much 20 years ago as I do today. The 16-year-old me would have loved their summery indie-rock veering into pop-punk. Meanwhile, the 36-year-old me appreciates the lack of whiny American vocals common in that genre. Additionally, the themes of their songs are a bit deeper than fancying your mate’s mum or whatever, centring on loneliness, regret and self-doubt.

There’s definitely more of a mature sound to this record than on their massively enjoyable 2018 debut Future Me Hates Me, which can often be codeword for saying it’s all gone a bit boring. Not so with this record though, because while the instant attraction is to go for the fast-paced pop nuggets like ‘Out of Sight’ and the opening two stonkers ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’ and ‘Dying to Believe’, some of the albums mellower and more reflective moments are among its best.

In particular, ‘Just Shy of Sure’ is a beautifully sad closer, while the intriguing hooks of ‘Do You Want Me Now’ grab your attention too. It’s tempting say they write great tunes, but that’s a little disrespectful. They write great songs.

Keeping the rowdy spirit of their debut but adding a more adult wistfulness, this is everything a second album should be.

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