In a series of inarticulate hyperbole since time immemorial (or, maybe, the 1950s or thereabouts), pop artists have constantly tried to capture the infinite either/or of the young person, the great divide between id and superego (take that, boring old ego) that Freud sketched out for us amateur psychologists and behavioralists to follow. Many results are ham-fisted attempts to connect in a universal way. Those that do to a large scale often are swimming in marketing cash, and how true to the spirit of rock and roll is that, anyway? I dunno, I’m just a blogger with a big mouth, and I’m not perfect. You read this junk because you think, at least minimally, that we’ve got something in common. We do, you know – we both want that connection with the musical artists we listen to. The question is, do we want that connection packaged in stadium sheen from the likes of, I don’t know, Dashboard Confessional or even Taylor Swift, or do you want it mainlined honestly into your adrenal glands by a guy who sounds like Paul Westerberg after a half a fifth of Jim Beam and half a pack of Pall Malls? The correct answer is the Westerberg guy. Every time.
Yeah, Beach Slang frontman James Alex, formerly of Philly punx Weston (Phillies, represent!) is almost a dead ringer for Paul Westerberg in the vocal department, and that is not, in any way, shape, or form, a bad thing. My motto is, the more things sound like, or at least are inspired by, The Replacements, the better. (I actually have other mottos, one of which is, “Never leave a pizza unfinished.”) In fact, Alex is, if anything, a warmer presence than Westerberg. The snottiness of youth is definitely leavened by a healthy dose of thirtysomething collegiality, in the sense that nobody knows what they’re doing, but we’re all in it together. Alex has to be hovering around forty if he’s not there already (he and I are roughly the same age – I remember when Weston would play around the Allentown area when I was in high school), so there’s less judgmental meanness about him than there would be if he were twenty years younger.
What, you feel cheated that the best and truest youthful exuberance you’re likely to find is coming from a guy twice your age? Well too bad – either get off my case or stop the earth from rotating so time won’t move forward anymore and we can all get on with our perpetual states of being without adding numbers to our birthdays. You know what, be my guest – actually stopping the earth from spinning would be the perfect illustration of Beach Slang’s newest album, and first for indie heavyweight Polyvinyl, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. Right? I’m suggesting a physical transformation at the planetary level so that we can all get on the same page about tossing caution to the wind because our lives are careening toward disaster anyhow. Beach Slang is simply providing the soundtrack to pump us all up as we crowd into the doomed handcart.
And how about this for raising your fist to the establishment, and not caring ever about what anyone thinks of you? On the splash page for Beach Slang’s website, lyric “I hope when I die, I feel this alive” greets visitors, a big cold gulp of fresh air before jumping off the emotional cliff one’s tenuously clinging to. That’s the Beach Slang way, and it’s as good a manifesto as you’re going to get from them. (Although a nice mission statement is on their bandcamp page: “Guitar, bass and drums. Played loudly.”)
It’s hard to get much further than that, writing about it in any real meaningful way. I did it one time, for the band’s awesome 7-inch EP Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street, but here, now, it’s all about the feeling that you get careening through that first full-length, knowing each song is a holy paean to fleeting youth and the cultures that we create on our own with each other, perhaps separated by geography but united in spirit. Want a single to chew on? Click play on the link up there for “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas,” and imagine a whole album that good. I hope when I die, I feel that alive. Right? See what I did there?
RIYL: The Replacements, Jawbreaker, The Psychedelic Furs