Review by Stanton Swihart [-]
Like Guided by Voices, Beatnik Filmstars come across as weekend rock & roll stars who have a whole catalog bursting at the seams with brief, brilliant songs with weirdo titles, all done in a necessary lo-fi fashion and released haphazardly. Unlike Robert Pollard, though, with his faux-British accent and obvious British pop influence, Beatnik Filmstars actually are British, and their drily playful wistfulness and pop savvy take on a bit more of a pointed and coherent angularity, colored by direct influences such as the Fall, Wire, and Brit-pop. Beezer is another in the line of the band's strong albums, all of which build off the same template with the same accessibly experimental tendencies. Despite the fact that the album is a compilation of rare cuts, single tracks and outtakes collected from all corners of the band's career, it has a ragged coherence, and indeed, the songs are unkempt gems. As can be expected from a compilation, the songwriting is varied, and that variation only serves to enhance all of the Beatnik Filmstars' quirks and idiosyncrasies. They are equally capable of unhinged rock & roll ("50/50 Split"), electronic white noise ("White Relief"), back-porch acoustic blues filled with faux-drama ("8 Sq. Ft. Six Acoustic"), or straight buoyant pop ("Skill"). Despite Beezer's sometimes unevenness, the music never seems tossed off, but it is off-the-cuff and reckless. The discordance and lagging vocals hide the occasionally stunning and always present sophistication of the band, and the splayed messiness of the music belies their sleek sense of style and cutting perspective of life, especially evident on "Revolt into Style." Songs can easily catch a listener off-guard. The album hints at various British peers, from Belle & Sebastian (the instrumental "My Alter Ego") and Add N to X ("Killing Cowboys"), and "Gane's Space Nitemare" either subjects Stereolab to parody or flattery, but whichever it is, the song is a wonderful imitation that still manages to fit into Beatnik Filmstars' aesthetic vision easily. Perhaps the most prevalent source of inspiration for the band, though, is Pavement. Like that band, Beatnik Filmstars hide melodies in noise and let harmonies peek through the dissonance, throw in fragments of feedback and totally foreign sounds, shout their vocals through bullhorns, and play with a repetitive aggression that pounds the songs' charms into your brain and into your blood, and there is a definite postmodern sense of cut-up song construction. The band never works with a net or within a strict framework, yet its personality always shines through in the music. Beezer is a nonconformist's shot to the arm.