The ink spilled on the Beets so far has included words like “primitive, simple, amateurish,” but these should be followed by the phrase “in the best way possible.” The group’s latest effort, Let The Poison Out, falls back on the same bare fundamentals as its past two LPs but with some marked improvements in quality and style. The album features the same drive of jangly Spanish guitar, thumping bass drum and toms in a pop framework. Bass guitar is deceptively simple but lends the strength of a good backbone to the tracks. Singer Juan Wauters, originally from Uruguay, laces the vocals of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus or perhaps Beck Hansen with a Latin edge. The result is a unique if not a particularly diverse record that’s much, much clearer sounding this time around.
The album itself is infectiously chill. The tempo stays at low pressure, and Wauters’ delivery is deliberately languid. Before you know it you’ll be won over and swaying and singing along (to the parts you can understand, anyway). Chord structure and timing are constant for most of the record with only a few changes in tempo. Choppy acoustic guitar leads the way, broken up by simple drum breaks, guitar and bass licks and chord solos. The Beets seems to have the same disdain for traditional solos as the Ramones’ did. If many of the songs sound the same it’s because many of them rely on similar patterns. But don’t misunderstand them; the band members aren’t so much repeating themselves as they are crafting a theme.
Where the Beets lacks flair in its musicianship, the players make up for it in their singing. There are plenty of great choruses, oohs and ahhs and dashes of backing vocal to enjoy. It’s also nice that you can actually hear Wauters as opposed to him drowning in the buzz filtering of previous releases. His “Won, teu, tree, foe” count offs for instance give the record some charm and personality. The only track in Spanish, “Preso Voy,” is a nice detour even if it isn’t so far off the beaten path. The lyrics aren’t completely cryptic; things do take shape. “To you, the haircut matters more than what is right below/You’re just like them,” sings Wauters on opener “You Don’t Want Kids To Be Dead.” “Do just what seems right to you,” he says, adding “Do it well/If not don’t bother, man/If you don’t care, then who will?” But it hardly seems to matter that that song could serve as a generational mantra for the apathetic, that “Let Clock Work” is about a girl or that “I Might Have Built A Horse” is about life and death when you’re singing along to choruses of “oh no, no no” and “chu chu de du.”
If its last record, Stay Home, is about shutting yourself in, Let The Poison Out is about letting yourself out. “Doing As I Do” sums it up nicely, pointing out that God and the Devil aren’t really invested in you or what you do, but that you should be. It’s a self-actualizing message delivered in a lazy, strung-out drawl.