Beulah. It’s not just a small town on the North Dakota prairie anymore.
There was once a band called Beulah and almost no one has heard of them and I think that’s just tragic. You have no idea what you missed. Have been missing. Have missed. Whatever.
Without going into a long and exhaustive discussion of the band’s history and their influences and other nonsense that just about anyone can find all over the internets, I’d like to focus on their music, which was wonderful.
If another band expressed the era from 1998 to 2004 better than Beulah, I can’t think of one. Wilco, with their releases Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, perhaps, but that’s about it. With albums stocked with horns, hushed vocals and hooks galore, hope and loss marked Beulah’s career. That and complete lack of monetary success. Being critical darlings doesn’t pay the bills.
Beulah was another in an endless string of critically-acclaimed bands that never ever achieved as much as their supporters assumed they would, for whatever reason. From their first proper album on Elephant 6 Records, Handsome Western States, to their final album, Yoko, they never failed to serve up delicious pop with a side of heartbreak and humanity.
They weren’t necessarily groundbreaking and their music won’t make you re-think your whole life, but it will put you into a very good place and it will touch your heart. Miles Kurosky’s pained, soft delivery backed by lush soundscapes perfectly captured the feelings of millions of 20-somethings. The lyrics were filled with the same words you said to yourself day after day and the music was the soundtrack to your life. You could relate to this band.
More than anything else, they captured the atmosphere that enveloped college campuses nationwide around the turn of the century. A generation of kids heading away from home for the first time, tired to the bone of grunge and already starting to regret emo, were looking for something else. Enter Beulah, who, I would like to argue, was just one of many bands that got swallowed up in the first wave of peer-to-peer file sharing that was Napster and the influx of cheaper CD Burners. Thousands of kids that did buy their albums shared them with everyone they knew and many that they didn’t through both of those means. I’ll admit that this is how I was first exposed to the band. It wasn’t until much later that I actually purchased their last two albums on my own. I’m guessing it was the same for a lot of other people. I’m not saying this is the only reason for the downfall of the band, but it certainly couldn’t have helped. I mean, everyone I’ve ever played Beulah for has loved them, so there has to be some reason that no one bought these albums, right?
In any case, there is no longer a band named Beulah. They broke up in 2004, after one final tour. That tour was documented in a DVD called “A Good Band Is Easy To Kill,” which is worth picking up.
Lead singer and main instigator, Miles Kurosky, is still working on his solo debut, which is quickly becoming his “Chinese Democracy,” in that he’s been working on it for nearly five years now. In an interview I read recently with him, he says it’s basically done. But I’ve read that before. Time will tell.
So, I beg you to go out and expose yourself to Beulah. I believe that they’re my generation’s Big Star, a band who’s impact on music and general awesomeness won’t truly be realized for at least another decade. And when that happens, I’ll be standing right there, saying “I told you so.”
Here, have an mp3…