Listening to the Midwest Beat is a bit like riding with the Joad family: The band is crowded with personalities and conflicting tendencies, and it's liable to shed members -- most recently bassist Logan Kayne, who's carried on nicely with the New Villains. And sometimes this Madison garage-pop group deliberately risks piling too much into its vehicle of choice: a fevered beat, twangy guitars and teetering layers of vocal harmonies. On its albums At the Gates and Gone Not Lost, the Beat's songwriting instincts keep the potential excess in check, to giddy effect.
The new single "Apology Accepted" is the first time I've heard the band truly embrace their messy side. The track begins with a congenial guitar figure that wouldn't be out of place on a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, but soon it concludes in a splatter of angry guitars, smashed cymbals and a high-pitched sound that's either feedback or mindless whistling. Usually, the Beat's potential for chaos is contained within the song. For an example, listen to "Color Radio" from At the Gates, which speeds ahead coherently in spite of its madly chattering vocal harmonies and spinning-speaker organ. On "Apology Accepted," the band brings a bit of that chaos and leaves restraint behind, if only for a minute.
Before that surprising conclusion, though, "Apology Accepted" shows off singer-guitarist Matt Joyce's knack for writing sweet-sounding tunes about unhappy moments. Amid the song's bouncy drums and thick vocal harmonies, he's dealing with a real hard case: "I can't tell you what you should do/It's not my job to get through to you," he sings. Since the recipient of this qualified fuck-you will never hear let him "hear [himself] say 'apology accepted,'" perhaps he's entitled to finish the song with a noisy freak-out.
Though the Beat has plenty of bittersweet songs, I've never thought of their music as cathartic. "Apology Accepted" offers something like catharsis, especially as Joyce's guitar solo leads it from the final chorus into its noisy end.
The song is available through the Beat's Bandcamp page and can be downloaded below.
"Apology Accepted" was also released on a 7-inch single from Certified PR Records. This Florida label has reached into Wisconsin before to release a 7-inch from Milwaukee's great Sugar Stems. I'm still not sure how I feel about the single's other side, "Appaloosa," written by guitarist Kyle Denton, who joined the band after former member Ryan Adams left to spend more time with Milwaukee's Goodnight Loving and Jaill. Denton's lead vocals are dramatic and gravelly in a way that throws the band's sound off balance. As I implied above, the Midwest Beat explores many different kinds of sounds, including the jangly country leanings of Denton's material. But a little tenderness would make this song a much better fit for their repertoire.
Another label, Wild Honey Records, is putting out an LP of the band's singles from 2005 to 2011. I recommend checking it out, especially because it contains all six tracks from the band's debut EP from 2007.
The Midwest Beat plays Mickey's Tavern this Friday, Sept. 21, and will depart next week for a European tour.
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