Beulah's a little bitter, which is difficult to notice at first thanks to the group's layered, euphoric pop. But with its fourth album, Yoko (Velocette), the large, multi-instrumental band has created something with less la-la-la and more heartbreak.

Reviewers have milked the fact that four of the six band members broke up with significant others when the album was being made, while others say Yoko sounds like a band about to call it quits. But on the first few listens, it's hard to detect a gloomy mood to the songs. They're still catchy as hell and full of bouncy sway.

"I think too much has been made of [the darker mood], to be honest," frontman Miles Kurosky told WW by phone. "At the end of the day, it's still us. We just explored a different side of ourselves. We find it disconcerting that a lot of people aren't open to the fact that a band is going to change. They let Radiohead do whatever they want, but God forbid Beulah changes it up a bit."

Unfortunately, bad luck has followed the band before. Its last album, The Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette), was insanely infectious. But it was released on Sept. 11, 2001, a time when getting publicity for pop songs, no matter how perfect, was a bitch. Kurosky dismisses the notion that the band's record sales were hurt by terrorism. "We're more cursed by the fact that we're an indie band," he says. "We make music that's not very popular."

Has Kurosky thought of somehow steering the band into a more popular or lucrative direction? "I think about doing things that will be less popular," he says. "Knowing that we're never going to be successful--and by successful I mean selling lots of records and having millions of fans--it frees us up to do whatever we want."

Like openly attacking downloading? "We're fine with downloading, as long as people who like the music buy the album," says Kurosky. "We're Americans, so we always want things for free, or super-sized. Sometimes they have the balls to come up to us and ask for free T-shirts. How are we supposed to make money? Are we supposed to put our lives on hold and not pay our rent?"


plays with

John Vanderslice

and the Silents Thursday, Oct. 30, at Dante's, 1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630. 9 pm. Cover. 21+.