For those hoping for a sweetly-sung collection of run-of-the-mill acoustic romance ballads, Fake It Flowers is not it. The album sees beabadoobee leaning into the grunge-tinged full-band antics of her live shows, while losing none of the softness that made “Coffee” so adored.
Album openers and lead singles 'Care' and 'Worth It' are immediate highlights, instantly catchy with bouncing grooves, sing-along choruses and driving drums. “Charlie Brown” is an emotionally-charged banger and one of the best beabadoobee tracks yet, showcasing Bea’s honey-smooth voice on the verses before bursting into a loud scream of a chorus, and exemplifying her well-used talent for honest, diary-like lyric writing. The mixture of full-on rock anthems and softer acoustic interludes throughout provides variation, brought into a cohesive whole by the common threads of this frank relatability, and instantly recognisable vocals.
Unfortunately, to my ears at least, a few tracks in, this energy and innovation seems to fizzle away. The loud/quiet dynamics that permeate the lead singles so successfully become slightly repetitive and predictable when spread across twelve tracks. After several listens, the chord progressions reluctantly all merge into one, the distortion veering from lovably lo-fi to just dull and murky. This seems a fault with the production rather than the songwriting; instead of the beloved warmth and fuzziness of Bea’s more DIY early EPs, the tonality just ends up cold and flat. For example, penultimate track 'Together' seems to aim for the snarl and bite of fellow Dirty-Hit signees Wolf Alice at their heaviest but never quite gets there, despite its definite mosh-starter capabilities live.
The lyrics sometimes read as a cringey attempt to be "e-girl edgy", a chorus about rebelling via hair dye and the inclusion of an awkwardly cut ad-lib about something "sounding like a fart" just end up wince-inducing (and this is coming from someone with dyed red hair herself about a fortnight older than Bea.) At other times they are blunt and direct to the point of basically tumbling into cliché and obvious rhymes - “I’ve been away for a while/can’t remember your smile” on 'How Was Your Day?'. This album is the most fully-formed of beabadoobee‘s releases, but it still needs to be pushed more, the contrasts deeper, the lows lower and the highs higher.
This being said, Fake It Flowers certainly does not lack promise. Sonically gorgeous highlights are scattered about the whole collection of songs; the synth breaks on 'Emo Song' are glittering and entrancing, veering into rocked-up blissful Beach House territory. Similarly, on 'Further Away', a soaring riff interplays beautifully with Bea’s whispery voice, turning it into the soothing lull of a daydream.
These varied glimmers of perfect songwriting leave the album full of hope. Fake It Flowers feels like a blurry start to a potentially stellar musician’s catalogue.