Just when I think I’ve heard all I ever wanted to hear from a band under the umbrella of the Elephant 6 Recording Company/ Collective a band like Beulah comes around and smacks me upside the head, forcing me to take notice.
As a reminder for those who are mumbling to themselves, “E, just what the Hell is an Elephant 6 Collective?”, here’s a brief history from Allmusic.com:
“The Elephant 6 Recording Company collective, a coterie of like-minded lo-fi indie groups — including the Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Apples In Stereo — who shared musicians, ideas, and sensibilities, all who were influenced by the likes of the Beatles, the Zombies, Pink Floyd, and Sonic Youth — exchanged home recordings and played in each others bands throughout the ‘90’s.”
It sounds like a whole bunch of hippie nonsense, and maybe it was, but I’m here to tell you that this musical commune crafted some of the best, deliriously catchy pop albums of the last 20 or so years, without question. Beulah is the latest in a long line of E6 bands that have wormed their way into my heart by way of two incredibly catchy and well written ‘middle albums’ entitled When Your Heartstrings Break (1999) and The Coast Is Never Clear (2001). The difference between Beulah and other E6 bands such as Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Apples In Stereo is that the former ejects pretty much any overt experimentation in favor of very basic pop songs, songs that are almost traditional in nature. If there is any experimentation going on it is certainly buried deep in the mix. The songs, or what’s left, are simply great pop music that will make you smile, every time.
Now I have heard some comparisons between early Wilco (roots rock of Being Here) and Beulah, but I don’t hear it. The Wilco comparison I’d make, if forced, would be Summerteeth era Wilco, which just happens to be the best Wilco, more indebted to Brian Wilson than Gram Parsons.
Like always, I kind of wished I’d discovered these guys while they were still active, but no matter. The point is I found them, and they’re a keeper!