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The Beths - Expert In A Dying Field (Album Review)

Tuesday, 20 September 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

“Can we erase our history?” This is the question posed by Elizabeth Stokes on the first line of The Beths’ new record ‘Expert In A Dying Field’. As much a plea as it is a request, it suggests that Stokes is looking to draw a line in the sand—romantically, platonically or professionally—to allow bygones to be bygones in the pursuit of a happier future.

The record feels like an exorcism and confrontation with missteps of the past, whether that is putting faith in the wrong person or leaving things to linger when it would have been better to walk away. “Some things are best left to rot,” she sings on Best Left.

Stokes does not wallow, though, taking time to ponder the good times that have passed, and bask in the wonderment of those who stick around, who follow us to our lowest ebb so that they can be the hand to pull us back.

“I cave like I was built to break / You stay like it’s a passing rain / I cave like I was built to break / You stay as if it’s not in vain,” she sings on Passing Rain.

The Beths are very good at what they do and on their third record they remain a shimmering powerhouse of pop-punk and slacker rock. They tear into tracks such as Silence Is Golden, shredding and then discarding riffs, knowing that they have a pool more than deep enough to pull from. Hailing from Auckland, they carry a certain college rock cool along with the pop smarts of New Zealand’s Flying Nun set.

‘Expert In A Dying Field’ is a joy-filled listen—an uplifting examination of the trials Stokes has faced, overcome and is certain to face again. It is also an album on which the group show a promising new disposition towards taking risks. Slow burners such as Your Side and 2am find them comfortable in a slower setting, without the need for a shield of distorted guitars. 

Three albums in and still ascending, The Beths have made their best album so far, not only as a musical force but as a vehicle for Stokes’ lyrics. She may ask “Can we erase our history?” but based on the contentment emanating from the speakers and the position her band find themselves in, you can’t help wondering would she want to even if she could?

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