The Beets’ music is an elementary and crayon-drawn illustration. The rudimentary sketch that acts as the album cover for third release Let the Poison Out lets the listener know this, albeit in an incongruously violent fashion. The album’s songs contain little violence or danger and barely even consider straying from the lo-fi and garage-rock blueprints. The ongoing rehashing of classic ‘60s garage sounds can be pleasant in a tune-out-the-world sort of way at times but, after 13 rickety turns from the Beets, one wishes for something, anything, with a little bite to it.
At times, the shambly stylings of Let the Poison Out succeed at being haphazard but still tuneful. Most of the album’s successes are stored in its first half. “You Don’t Want Kids To Be Dead” and “Now I Live” have an air of the Brian Jonestown Massacre about them, but are catchy enough in their own right. “Preso Voy” is a nice Spanish-sung treat.
It is after this point, however, when you begin to get the Beets’ gist and can ascertain within the first 20 seconds of any particular song whether you will be compelled to listen to the rest of it or not. This is garage rock in its purest, most wreckless form, with nary a surprise in store. By some turns, songs even appear shrill and tuneless, as is the case with “Wipe It Off,” which features some ingratiating backing vocals from the band’s new drummer, Chie Mori.
When Let the Poison Out reaches its halfway point, I find that I would rather be listening to a high school marching band’s cover of “Louie, Louie” instead of “Without You,” “As the World,” or virtually any of the other songs on this release. Still, there is something to be said for bands whose twin purposes are having fun with music and eschewing new developments in technology in order to uphold classic sounds from the past. On “I Think I Might Have Built a Horse” and elsewhere, all the instruments sound as if they are about to break; that the Beets can derive any measure of tunefulness from their gear is at least commendable. But when singer Juan Wauters tries to stretch his voice or attempt a guitar solo, one wishes the band would not explore beyond their means.
Throughout Let the Poison Out, my mind constantly returns to fictional band the Beets, from the ‘90’s Nickelodeon cartoon Doug. The two-dimensional Beets were a world away from the real-life band, both in sound and presentation. Still, even with a discography featuring psychedelic songs about tofu, the fictional Beets seem more real than the artists behind Let the Poison Out. If Wauters and company were to smooth just a few edges off of their garage rock roughness, they could appeal to fledging garage-rock grade schoolers. Another option would be to produce a Spanish-language garage-rock album, thus putting a nice spin on this ancient formula. The Beets do have skill enough to find a groove; it just may take a few more albums to do so.
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// Notes from the Road
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