I'm always impressed by groups that can make a collection of distinct songs without changing much in the formula that composes each one. By sparing themselves a lot of the melancholy and slowed choruses inherent to dreamy guitar pop, Beach Fossils has made a sophomore record that feels emotionally charged without ever having to resort to gimmicks or overcompensation on mood or texture. At the core of each song is genuine pop, driven by a real desire to communicate ideas clearly.
Clash The Truth is a pop record which succeeds on very modest principles. I'm never averse to a musician throwing a lot of ideas into an album—the more the merrier if it works—but I'm still earnestly respectful of a band that takes their own process to heart and works on improving that and just that. Clash The Truth tries to make the most with a few guitars, a drum set, a handful of delay pedals, and a pleasant voice, following fairly similar templates for each song. Even at its most transparent—probably on “Brighter,” the obligatory throwaway ambient interlude—there's a unique voice here that can't be easily replicated.
Usually, I would be worried about this kind of stringent structuring, but it works magnificently in the hands of talented songwriters. Primary member Dustin Payseur knows exactly when to hold back, when to pace himself, and when to drop in a second guitar melody or an offbeat drum fill. There's an edge of post-punk or surf rock or shoegaze present which varies with each piece, but it's distanced just far enough away that I find myself thinking of it as an aftertaste. Instead, I hear that primary sound, nondescript but essential, which speaks confidently on songs like “Careless” and “Shallow” as if it had always been accepted practice to seamlessly blend all these genres.
When Kazu Makino arrives for guest vocals it's perhaps a little too obvious, and songs like “Ascension” play out like a quick attempt to pad the album's somewhat brief 35 minute playing time, but these are minor disappointments. Once the caffeinated surf punk of “Crashed Out” finishes off, all is right again. Beach Fossils have made it clear that they are another group perfectly playing their roles and having fun doing so. Good for them.