Releasing her debut album Fake It Flowers only three years after she first picked up the guitar at age 17; Beatrice Laus’s—aka beabadoobee—rise to fame would make Andy Warhol’s head spin. Learning her craft from YouTube tutorials, she uploaded her first song “Coffee” in 2017, a beautifully understated Elliott Smith style ballad, which got her signed to trendy Indie label Dirty Hit. She then attracted more media buzz in 2019 with the release of “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus” from her Space Cadet E.P, where Beatrice ditched her folk sound for an amped-up 90s alt-rock; singing “I wanted change, no one forced it”. In early 2020, “Coffee” got a second lease of life when it was sped up and looped to become the backbone of Canadian rapper Powfu’s platinum-selling sad-rap hit “death bed(coffee for your head)”. Then, within a month of turning 20 in June, she capped off her meteoric rise with the announcement of her debut album. It’s been an incredible few years but now it’s crunch time; is this album the start or the end of her 15 minutes of fame?
For a record rooted in 90s alt-rock and grunge, Beatrice’s debut often seems right on point. The fizzy grunge-pop of “Care” head-bangs away the social media haters while over the buffering riff of “Worth It”, Beatrice resigns herself to the frustrating nature of online relationships: “if I shut up, I’m scared I’ll drown.” The put-upon girlfriend of the twinkling “Dye It Red” defiantly claims back her independence from an abusive lover, whom Beatrice kisses off in style with a ripper of a middle eight guitar solo. While the circle-pit friendly “Charlie Brown” rages against all forms of self-harm; the irony of which won’t be wasted on anyone who has ever come out of mosh pit bruised and battered—but feeling alive.
The clean, glossy production really comes into it’s own away from the pit: the evocative use of cello and the sound of water on “Back to Mars” to invoke memory, the equalising of the electric guitar to the same volume of the strings on “Sorry” to give extra bite to Beatrice’s withering sarcasm, the cloudy reverb that surrounds a bickering couple’s war of words on “Further Away” to emphasise the gulf between them. On first listen, the warning to a lover on “Horen Sarrison”—“I don’t want you to feel too comfortable”—seems too buried in overwrought strings to make much impact, but repeated listens are the charm here: for all the track’s embellishments, the studied calm in Beatrice’s cooing voice feels more central on each listen.
“How Was Your Day” and closer “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene” throwback to the lo-fi sounds of Moldy Peaches and Pavement. The potential tweeness of the former track is neutered by the demo tape production and the lack of sentimentality: “I miss all the fuck-ups we’ve had”. Whilst the latter comically riffs on the head-over-heels archetype with shouty, coarse vocals, sending the album off with a smile.
The grunge and gloss come together on the shoegaze shimmer of “Emo Song”, the album’s stand-out track, as pedals and synth clatter like chiming gamelan music until they reach a stunning arpeggio. It’s a musical reverie made all the more poignant by Beatrice recalling the darkest moments of her adolescence: “Nobody knows when I was young, I lost myself in cosmic dust”.
The only time some grit in the mix could have helped is “Together”: the lyrics are little more than a list of grunge clichés—car crashes, self-harm, blood running thin—and the underdone chorus lacks any emotional heft. The cheeky lounge music drop towards the end hints at some personality, but it’s too little, too late. That said, if an album has to have some filler, at least it’s a bloody racket.
Fake It Flowers has plenty of charisma and air guitar moments to distinctively mark Beatrice out from the increasingly busy crowd of female songwriters harking back to 90’s indie–Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail. The most tantalising thing about tracks like “Sorry” and “Emo Song” is that Beatrice doesn’t sound too far off from having a style to fully call her own. Rather than a race against the clock, Beatrice sounds like she still has time to spare.
Fake It Flowers is out now on Dirty Hit label.