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If Best Coast were a political party their snappy campaign slogan would probably read something like: "Cats! Cannabis! California!" That is to say, they have well-established themes and they've been sticking to them like flies imbibed in David Cameron's face-shining ointment.

It was easy to fall in love with Best Coast's first album Crazy for You. Singer/songwriter Bethany Consentino has a gift for irrepressible melodies and sunshine-infused chord progressions. It was the perfect album for warm nights, beers on the beach and spliffs until the sun comes up. The most divisive elements were her lyrics. For some they were a knowingly droll reflection on the mundanity of life and relationships ("I lost my job, I miss my mum, I wish my cat could talk"). For others they were just a bit naff; clunky and shallow. But the songs held up and the album proved to be one of the most popular amongst critics in 2010. The same couldn't be said for its disappointing follow up The Only Place which was roundly criticised for the predictable lyrical themes and bland production. Things were starting to look a little schwag.

It's in this context - dread of a final nail in the coffin of a once exciting and promising band - that I found myself surprised at the return to form Best Coast have accomplished on California Nights.

To be fair to Consentino and her musical partner Bobb Bruno, they've been harshly judged when other bands get a free pass to riff on the same musical or lyrical ideas ad infinitum. Just look at the Foo Fighters. Never has a band made it so far without getting bored of themselves (and influenced so few artists in the process). California Nights doesn't take a radical new direction but the inclusion of pop-punk and '90s college rock influences help this record take a tentative step towards offering fans something new.

Openers 'Feeling OK' and 'Fine Without You' are strident powerpop beasts. The crisp, clean melody lines, like most of the songs here, are delivered with lightening force from Consentino. Addictive? Absolutely. But listeners wearing plaid shirts, ripped jeans and converse might need to check their calendars, such is the jacuzzi of '90s nostalgia that the album bathes in. 'Heaven Sent' has punchy pop-punk aggression with tight, honey-dunked harmonies that you'll endlessly replicate when no one is looking. 'In Your Eyes' has the same effect with added '60s girl group shake downs that made Crazy For You so popular.

California Nights is lyrically more inward-looking than its predecessors. Often Consentino is assuring herself, a conspicuous change from songs off the first record ('Boyfriend', 'Bratty B', 'Crazy For You', 'Our Deal') which directly addressed her romantic partner. But as the album title suggests, California is never far from her mind. 'California Nights' is (surprise surprise) a love letter to California, a theme that feels beyond parody at album number three, in which she wants, "To never get so high/That I can't come back down to real life/And look you in the eyes and say 'Baby, you're mine.'" Oh dear, looks like Bethany has been bogarting the blunt again (sigh). The saving grace is the sprawling, slow-burning swirl of fuzzy guitars and reverb-drenched vocals that offer a rare change in pace on an otherwise energetic set of songs.

Aside from two or three fillers, this record should be applauded for doing what Consentino does best: writing melodies that stick in your head for days. She should also be commended for at least trying to break out of her surf-pop beginnings. Yes, the songs are formulaic, but you've totally missed the point if you came here looking for the structural complexities of Kind of Blue' or the dense sonic textures of Ravedeath, 1972. If you like Jimmy Eat World and pretending the last 15 years never happened (which I do) then jump right in folks cause Best Coast have some bloody tunes for ya!

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