In 2019, a new singer-guitarist from London with the intriguing name Beabadoobee released “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus,” an immediately addictive swirl of buzzing guitars and lyrics about her blue hair and mutable moods and sitting at home crying to Pavement while loving every minute of her journey from whatever’s now to whatever’s next. Bea Kristi, the singer-guitarist who records as Beabadoobee, was born in 2000, a year after Malkmus’ iconic band broke up, but she clearly had an impeccable gift for putting her own spin on Nineties indie-rock. One of her nicest early songs was a doting bedroom-pop tune called “1999”; another extremely charming moment was “She Plays Bass,” a tender, frustrated meditation on love, friendship, and music set to shimmering shoegaze guitars right off an old Ride or Slowdive record. As with artists like Jay Som, Snail Mail, and Soccer Mommy, it was heartening to listen to a brilliant young artist create her own emotional language within a well-worn sound.
Beabadoobee’s full-length debut is less like a Nineties indie release than the kind of major-label debut that bands released after their underground buzz turned into real career possibilities. If this came out in 1994, some indie-rock fans might bristle at this youngster turning lo-fi guitar dazzle into something that could slide into MTV rotation. At its best, Fake It Flowers is right up there with the first Veruca Salt record or That Dog’s Totally Crushed Out in its ability to fuse pensive elation, sugary guitar charge, and sweet pop melodies. Kristi delivers a bruising Hole-style yowler on ‘Charlie Brown,” sweeping orchestral dream-pop on “Horen Sarrison,” and clever genre mutations (“Emo Song” is emo, but also folky and proggy). Throughout all these songs, Kristi leverages her rockcraft gifts to create an album about finding a distinct voice and discovering her own happiness: “Fuck me when I’m keen, not according to your beer,” she sings on “Dye it Red,” then adds “So let me be what I’ve always wanted to be.”
Along with vintage alt-rock radio bangers like “Care” and “Worth It,” Kristi shows her Nineties erudition with the Elliott Smith-esque whisper-folk of “How Was Your Day,” the My Bloody Valentine-y distortion swells of “Sorry,” and the lovely, Cranberries-style ballad “Horen Sarrison,” where she sinks her teeth into a new romance by telling her summer babe, “I want you to know that I’m in love, but i don’t want you to feel comfortable,” offering weirdness and insecurity as a selling point. There isn’t anything more Nineties than that.