In the school of making noise and breaking shit, Beach Slang pass with flying colors. The young Philly band like their amps loud and their drinks cheap, and they’ve got no qualms about turning those preferences into a manifesto, song after song. Their debut LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, never once lets up on its performance of youthful exuberance. Beach Slang are young and alive, and they will never stop screaming about it.
Never mind that he sings like The Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler after a few smokes — Beach Slang’s frontman James Alex hollers with hardly a scrape of irony or flamboyance in his words. He means them all to death, whether he’s bemoaning the claustrophobic streets of “a dead end town for trash like us” or contemplating how he’s “too young to die, too late to die young.” Half his lines come with exclamation points stapled to the ends; even when his band winds down from electric guitars and drum kits to acoustic strums and strings on “Too Late to Die Young”, he spits each word out like broken teeth — like it could be the last thing he ever does.
That unwavering urgency has its charms, especially on scrappy stompers like “Young and Alive”, whose snare hits rise high like skyscrapers and then fall away to nothing — a loud/quiet switch-off that works in exactly the opposite way you’d expect it to, and then resolves itself in a big, crashing finish. But Alex’s conviction can also get also get exhausting. “Let’s make the loudest sounds until we feel something,” he screams on “Ride the Wild Haze”, and he doesn’t pull away from that battle cry. “I feel most alive when I’m listening/ To every record that hits harder than the pain.”
Music saves the misfit kids, but not every pain can be walloped into submission. Beach Slang sound less interested in ripping that pain open and exposing its insides than they are in shouting over it, and The Things We Do can start to sound like an exercise in emotional extremes. “Too fucked up to love/ Too soft to hate,” Alex sings on “Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas”. He’s always running into excesses, too much to fit in and too much to stand out, too much noise and sex and beer all at once, and yet none of it is ever enough.
That craving for more, more, more is what made rock music loud in the first place, but Beach Slang articulate that old school want with brush strokes broad enough to lose most of its detail. They’re not ironists like Joyce Manor, and their storytelling chops haven’t had time to age up to the level of Japandroids. All they have is their yearning and a set of dials cranked all the way up. Even if they can never be loud enough, even if The Things We Do bleeds into itself in a mess of punk rock existentialism, at least Beach Slang’s wide-eyed screams are a treat to sing along to.
Essential Tracks: “Ride the Wild Haze”, “Young and Alive”