Oh man, to feel something! Something now! Sure, pull out our copies of On the Beach or Magnolia Electric Company or Pleased to Meet Me or I’m Stranded and feel the old reliable stunted dude feelings, place the concrete busts of our heads on those plinths, but that is an act of time travel. And if anything can be gleaned from all the Star Trek we watched during this year away from bohemian nightlife, it’s that time travel is bad. It messes things up then, now and in the future. So, yank the wires from the time machine that is your music predilection and get a spark with Michael Beach, Californian and Australian. Dreamer. Revisionist. Rock musician of now. All my friends have been made to listen to Dream Violence this week and now, you, friend.
The opening salvo “Irregardless” begins as a pulse of urgent guitar quickly becoming riff, grinding into groove and finding a longing voice almost three minutes in. Evolution of the species stuff. Gazing upward at the sky like that eyeball on the cover. A million ideas in one song because we may never sing another. Fucking A.
But we do! Beach trades in battered acoustic strumming like a stray Mountain Goat as well as Stonsey/Thundersy guitar lines and urgent cries for love eerily reminiscent to that of the late Jason Molina. “Metaphysical Dice” - great titles here - is a fine example. The bass ripples like a skateboarder navigating a subway entrance, while Beach pulls open his rib cage to offer his heart to annoyed commuters and maybe a lover.
There are mood pieces like “The Tower” and “You Know, Life Is Cheap” - rattly, nervous discordant Joy Divisionals that nail us to the floorboards and I am here for it. Even almost lovely songs like “Spring” do not spoil the fun of not being all that fun. E e cummings once wrote “a hellless hell of compulsory heaven-on-earth emphatically is not my pail of blueberries” and I believe Beach feels the same. As do I. I am exhausted of forced joy. No more healthful good feelings bringing purpose to our pandemic lives like another pop diva webstream.
A real human wants to strut through a beaded curtain to “Curtain of Night” and feel more wretched and dangerous than they are. This is the central nail holding up this album and the need for rock ‘n’ roll in the calm-down-times, to feel that evolution in a night out from person to lizard and back. That temporary romance with the world.
He gets his Neil Youngiest on the piano bemoaner “You Found Me Out” providing an exquisite comedown into an also Neil Youngy guitar tone exercise title track, into one last piano you-guessed-it sounding somber ballad appropriately titled “Sometimes I Get That Cold Feeling.” Neil Young should try doing this. Dream Violence is a beautiful record with a real desperate arc and a dark cavern to explore. It is thrilling to be lost in it.
Michael Beach Image by Sarah Gilsenan
Michael Beach website