“This is not our home, this is not my home”
Lord Mayor Makes 1,000 Speeches is the first official release by Lo-key rockers Beverly Tender. Above all, the six song EP stands as a document of change: a queasy cross-country trip haunted by dead dogs, underwater conversations, growing up, and more than anything, the overwhelming-ness of being in a new place. Comprised of Post-Wesleyan student Molly Hastings, drummer Tristan Brooks, and a new bassist referred to on their Facebook page simply as ‘Yvonne’, Beverly Tender played some of their first shows at Wesleyan before taking their specific brand of sprawling “dog rock” to Philadelphia, and later Raleigh. Channeling a number of influences and atmospheres, Lord Mayor flitters between intimate down-tempo nostalgia, angsty build-ups, and even brief brushes with bubbly indie-rock. As a debut record, Lord Mayor is quite the statement: packed with unfiltered emotion, inspired songwriting, and soaked in the golden brown of a hazy Pennsylvania afternoon.
The opening shuffle of “Wham-O-Blam-O” establishes the central dynamic at play on the album: spacious, open-strummed guitar, courtesy of Hastings, loose ambling drums from Brooks, and deep melodic underpinnings from the bass (who on this record was Liam, the guy who recorded and mixed the album).Vox and lyrics also come from Hastings, whose subdued croon is a defining element of the band’s sound. “Wham-O” moves from a dancey, minor key groove through languid drum hits and ends in a long build. The track evokes the best parts of early Modest Mouse (lyrics about highway driving included!) and culminates into a big splashy rock ending replete with overdriven guitars and shouted vocals.
Though occasionally explosive, Beverly Tender never loses sight of melody and one of the best parts of Bev’s sound is their uncanny ability to evoke rich, yet subtle passages from just guitar, bass and vocals. Take, for example, the post-dirge of “Living Beasts Full of Eyes”. Here, as Brook’s drums shamble playfully, Hasting sings ““I – I – I am trying to talk so loud/You – you – you can’t hear me now” over light strums of guitar. The parts themselves are subdued, but the interplay of the guitar and the nearly whispered lyrics lend the song an intensity and cohesion hard to find in any band, let alone one as young as Beverly Tender.
A sense of displacement and uncertainty characterizes large parts of the record, but never in a defeatist nature. Most of the songs were written directly after Beverly Tender moved to Philadelphia, and a handful of lyrics make reference to moving home, missing home, and feeling out of place. Many end in slow building sections that sweep into huge crescendos, often resulting in songs that aren’t depressing, but cathartic: a bi-product of positive struggle against forces in the real world.
On pseudo-single “Benji’s Song” the track cuts between radically different sections, demonstrating the band’s ability to craft unique tunes, softening up the listener with images of roadkill, eating dogs` fur, and piles of teeth sung over lurching guitar before breaking into a totally different direction. After a repetition of the eerily discordant chorus, “Benji’s Song” blows out into a full post-rock jam with double tracked guitars and a stuttering drum part, which I’m having a hard time describing as anything other than rad.
On my personal album highlight “Pretzel Drunk” the lyrics “Now I live on the East Coast / On my own” replace the upbeat pop of the intro with enveloping propulsions of driving guitars and open hi-hats, as Hastings and Brooks harmonize on lyrics about shedding tears for your Mom, Pa and the dog too. It’s the kind of memorable moment that the record is full of: a bridge, build, or ending of a song that is instantly recognizable and endlessly hummable.
Every track brings a different approach to the core of Beverly Tender’s sound and there is a variety of excellent tunes on the record. Album ender “Saltine Complex” begins as a slow waltz, with guitar and vocals hovering over gentle brushes on the snare, evoking images of languid days spent on the coast (East? West? who knows). This is music you close your eyes and sway to, evoking deep in your gut that sense of yearning usually reserved for Sofia Coppola films or Elliot Smith.
As the full band skims along in unison at the end of “Saltine Complex” Hasting’s intones, “I think, god, its not right to be here. Its not right.”
I think Bev’s got it all mixed up. Wherever they are on this record, it’s exactly where they need to be.