(Tiny Engines, 2014)
On Beach Slang’s bandcamp page, there’s a manifesto of sorts emblazoned across the top, and within it this text is contained: “There are days when you feel so alive your teeth get electric…. Go to a basement show and sweat out songs with kids fighting the same good fight. Stay up. Stay young. And makeout [sic].” There are two ways to read this – one is as a lost and confused teen, balled up with frustration and anger and riding every moment as if it’s the most important one ever. And that’s cool – I was there once, we all were. The second is as an older, more cynical individual, still lost and angry and confused. Still hoping for those moments to mean something. Still hoping for adventure. Crushed by the weight of expectation and responsibility. It’s a pretty sad realization.
Beach Slang are the latter, playing to the former. And maybe also the latter. Heck, I’m the latter, age-bracket-wise (hell if I’m gonna cop to being crushed, son!), and I really, really like Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street, the band’s 7-inch follow-up to debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? (2014). The band is based in Philadelphia and comprised of lifelong scenesters: James Snyder (Weston), JP Flexner (Ex-Friends), and Ed McNulty (Nona, currently of Crybaby). So that means they’re what, in their forties, fifties? (Nah, just kidding. They can’t be much older than me.) I’m most familiar with Weston from my high-school and college skate punk days, but a quick perusal through my iTunes library reveals only one Weston song: their cheeky cover of “La La Love You” from Where Is My Mind?: A Tribute to the Pixies. Ah well. I also thought their “Best Weston” t-shirt design was pretty clever as a clever-t-shirt-wearing teen.
Beach Slang isn’t really all that punky, and there’s a minor emo influence (they’re a pretty emotional bunch, so whatever), but they most recall the aggro power pop of The Replacements – sure enough, Paul Westerburg may as well be singing these songs, such is the resemblance. That’s a good thing – even with the ’Mats’s reunion shenanigans, it’s hard to fault anyone for wanting more of that style, more of that drunken fist-fighting brashness cultified by the Minneapolis four-piece. Beach Slang hit that sweet spot and make it their own – sure, their fuzzy, pummeling jangle is a direct descendent, but the energy they exude is theirs and theirs alone. It’s like they’ve distilled that idea of the summer pop soundtrack and transposed it over the cold environs of early winter in eastern Pennsylvania. They’ve perfected the “feel-weird hit of the autumn” formula.
And that’s perfect for every kid that’s heading back to high school, not having a clue as to what they’re doing. And Beach Slang taps into this perfectly – take a look at their tumblr for visual proof: old photographs of “your parents” (well, their generation) when they were young, designed as Polaroid snapshots with the band’s heroically hyperbolic yet personal lyrics digitally scrawled at the bottom. “I hope when I die I feel this alive” (“American Girls and French Kisses”), “My knuckles are fake, I kiss when I punch. You are how The Smiths sound when they’re falling in love” (“All Fuzzed Out”), “Rock and roll is a lawless place for forgotten kids” (… another song, presumably). Again, it’s very sad and nostalgic, but it’s also a rallying cry. An effective rallying cry wrapped up in tight hooks and rasped vocals, delivered as messily and relatably as real life. Somehow, these dudes have nailed it.
RIYL: Replacements, Jawbreaker, Goo Goo Dolls, Braid