Critics have compared this San Francisco pop ensemble to the Beatles and the Velvet Underground, to Love and Pavement, to the Beach Boys and Built to Spill–references so varied they probably tell you more about the critics than they do about Beulah. And writers who don’t haul out their rock encyclopedias inevitably pigeonhole the band with their bedroom-pop peers the Minders, Olivia Tremor Control, and the Apples in Stereo, all of whom are much more slavish in their devotion to 60s pop. Beulah’s sound is in fact fairly distinctive, set apart by Miles Kurosky’s tunefully malcontent songs, Bill Swan’s urbane horn arrangements, and the pair’s vocals, which frequently carry the melody in octaves. The band’s third album, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette), features at least 19 different instruments, including pedal steel, accordion, tamboura, hammer dulcimer, banjo, vibraphone, tenor sax, and Moog synthesizer, yet the arrangements are invariably spare and simple, creating drama not by orchestral overkill but by unusual combinations (the dirty guitar riff and sprightly flute of “A Good Man Is Easy to Kill”) or unexpected intervals (the unsettlingly wide harmonies of “Popular Mechanics for Lovers”). The new record isn’t much of a departure from their previous release, the excellent When Your Heartstrings Break, but maybe when you’re one of the few bands to find your own sound in the first place, departing from it isn’t such a big priority. Local hero David Singer opens. Thursday, October 11, 8 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Eilenby.