photo & text by nacrowe
the NEW ZEALAND four-piece THE BETHS is everything you want in an INDIE ROCK band. elements like MEMORABLE melodies, tight song construction with THOUGHTFUL, EARNEST LYRICS and a knowing dry sense of HUMOR sans any pretension. its just JOYFUL, HONEST music presented well with INTENTION and CARE. having spent time with musicians in a recording studio setting its always interested me how difficult it is to construct something that sounds LIGHT and EFFORTLESS.
all that being said, my initial impression of their second release JUMP ROPE GAZERS (CARPARK, 2020) is that such is an astonishing CREATIVE as well as TECHNICAL achievement. such is even more IMPRESSIVE knowing that much of their SONGWRITING and RECORDING is done at lead guitarist JONATHAN PEARCE's home studio in AUCKLAND, where he is an active in-demand ENGINEER. PRODUCTION WORK is exceedingly difficult on both a technical and customer expectations level, so the fact that he can balance those INTENSE inter-group dynamics is deeply telling. STANDOUT tracks include "DYING TO BELIEVE," "JUMP ROPE GAZERS," "MARS, THE GOD OF WAR," and "I'M NOT GETTING EXCITED." on the latter track when the solo comes in and rips it is made all the more jarring and EXCITING by how it juxtaposes in terms of AGGRESSION and feel with the more LAIDBACK vocals of ELIZABETH STOKES. at the very least, the band is adept at navigating SONG COMPOSITION and SONIC DYNAMICS in an emotionally AFFECTING manner. similarly STOKES has a UNIQUE, seemingly EFFORTLESS VOCAL DELIVERY that has a tendency to TONALLY SHIFT multiple times, even within a PHRASE, providing forward MOMENTUM and CONTRAST between VERSES and CHORUSES. i wonder if she had theater training since that feels like a very professional move, the utilization of STRETCHING and MODULATING SYLLABLES to bend language to your own creative will. the only other ROCK AND ROLL singer that comes to mind who does a similar thing (albeit to a much different end) is ROBERT SMITH of THE CURE. you hear that sort of thing all the time in the JAZZ PHRASING and ELOCUTION of CELEBRATED and generationally TALENTED singers like ELLA FITZGERALD and SARAH VAUGAN. STOKES does not have their RANGE, CONTROL or TONE, but she does seem to have the INTUITION and INSTINCT to vocally MANIPULATE SOUND to her advantage all the same.
i think on JUMP ROPE GLAZERS, THE BETHS continued a trajectory they were on since their debut FUTURE ME HATES ME (CARPARK, 2018), that later culminated and came into full fruition on their third release EXPERT IN A DYING FIELD (CARPARK, 2022), which found them expanding their SONGWRITING and PRODUCTION range. all their records are worth checking out and JUMP ROPE GLAZERS is no different. i think they are a PROMISING band that are on to something UNQUE and EXCITING.