Beach Slang, “A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings”

beach_slang-2016-a-loud-bash-of-teenage-feelingsBeach Slang
A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
POLYVINYL
7/10

For those that don’t yet know Beach Slang, the title of this second full-length—the follow-up to last year’s much-hyped The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us—may put them off. After all, its very words convey an inherently over-earnest and adolescent sentiment, when, actually, frontman James Alex is in his forties. Yet to hold that against Beach Slang is to underestimate what the Philadelphia rock-punk (not punk-rock) band are all about. And that really boils down to one thing—Alex’s quest for purity. These songs, like those on the previous record and the EPs that preceded it, are full to the brim with the exuberance of being alive, even if all that entails is being knocked down and getting back up over and over. They’re the sound of eternal defiance, of unfaltering optimism, of faith in the power of rock and roll. “I hope you never die,” sings Alex on opener “Future Mixtape for the Art Kids,” and it’s hard not to take it at face value, because there’s truth in Alex’s gravelly, bruised vocals. He really sounds like he means it.

Such naive, youthful romanticism could be trite in the wrong hands, and there are moments here—as there always have been with this band—when the clichés are too clichéd, when the broken-but-still-full hearts that permeate these songs become caricatures of themselves, when the sincerity of Alex’s lyrics is a bit too saccharine, but on the whole, Beach Slang’s sheer joy at just being alive should bring a smile to the most cynical minds and the most jaded of hearts.

Musically, the band continues to draw from the gritty, raw, and emotive punk of Jawbreaker—though Alex’s words are less nuanced and sophisticated than those of Blake Schwarzenbach—and the fuzzy new wave of The Psychedelic Furs. Yet on these ten songs, especially in the insistent surge of “Art Damage,” the wistful, jet-black ebullience of “Wasted Daze of Youth,” and the buzzsaw guitars and love-fueled abandon of “The Perfect High,” Beach Slang have honed their own sound more. Yes, it’s the same schtick as on the first record, but you can’t help but feel it in your bones, your heart, your skin. By the end, you’re on those same dark streets as the band, drunk on a warm summer night without the best friends you never had, and that terrible title will make perfect sense.

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