Twin Cities Reader
Dec. 11, '96


Having just closed the book on a lengthy relationship, I'm finding more gospel in pop music than ever before. My car radio is fast becoming a vital support group through which I can, quite literally, turn to others who understand and make sense of my post-traumatic state.
And, of course, I can promptly shut them up when they're not telling me what I want to hear.
The Beatifics' unshakable "Almost Something There," one of three (count 'em) songs from their debut (How I Learned to Stop Worrying, No Alternative) to catch on at local radio in recent weeks, contains this sad new adage: "You're such a fool if you believe that love can set you free." A dim prospect, to be sure, but affirming just the same, and typical of the sagest pop wisdom in that you've probably heard it said a million times before, yet it still hits you like a drug.
Such studied observations of the lovesick heart are rampant of the Beatifics' LP, generating pop so pure that its listenability is almost criminal.
"Post-modern pop is all about resonance. It's about trying to be familiar and fresh at the same time." So says Chris Dorn, founder, frontman and chief songwriter for the Beatifics, who's spending part of what he calls "an off-day" swigging a Diet Coke and pontificating on the polemics of pop music at Acadia, a Nicollet Avenue coffee shop. "Pop music is all about the hook, the immediacy of the hook," he goes on.
Meanwhile, No Alternative label head Kim Randall is in her office just up the street, trying to secure a video budget for the band. It seems that somebody over at Music Television digs the record and wants a clip.
What's more, they've inquired about using Beatifics material as background audio for MTV sports segments.
How does a 27-year-old English major from Mankato feel about the possibility of his songs being featured next to hunky windsurfers, parachuting snowboarders and the like?
"It's all a little absurd," he admits, "since I certainly wouldn't be doing those kinds of things. But, in this business, you take what you can get."
That the Beatifics are hotting up is a phenomenom surprising in light of the band's less-than-gung-ho inception. Dorn and guitarist-vocalist Andy Schultz forged a partnership a few years back in the Rockefellers, another local pop outfit that never quite broke the surface. So when songwriter Dorn signed on with Randall less than a year ago, Schultz was a natural choice for collaborator. Bassist Paul Novak and drummer Randy Seals were enlisted just before recording (Dorn rethought his original decision to play the rhythm tracks himself), each sharing a similar passion for and background in pop.
Then, after recording was complete, months passed with no rehearsals or major plans. Dorn seems as pleasantly surprised as anyone to hear tracks suddenly and enthusiastically added on local radio and to see kind reviews of the album coming in from other markets.
Still, his thrills and his expectations are measured.
"I don't think anyone should ever believe their own press kit," says Dorn, himself a former music journalist. "It's nice that people take you seriously, but I'm used to being ignored."
"In general, pop music hasn't really, really gotten big," he later contends. Standouts like the Posies and Matthew Sweet, to whom the Beatifics' sound can be loosely likened, are less inspiring to Dorn than such lasting greats as the Beatles and Big Star. Chart-roving buzz bands like Weezer and Green Day don't even fit his definition of power pop, even though their wares are bought and sold as such.
The Beatifics aren't afraid of a big, meaty guitar sound and more aggressive drum beats, but their noise is grounded in warm harmonies, universal themes and an almost academic retroism.
"The Beatles did more than any band in history, as far as I'm concerned," Dorn says matter-of-factly. "But in covering so much ground, they never really got to dig deeply into any one place."
Delving further into pop's historic niches, he believes, is the inherited task of the American pomo-pop underground.

-- James Diers