A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
If you’re young, alienated, love punk rock and have never heard of the Replacements, Beach Slang has an album for you. It’s announced not only by the so-true-it’s-almost-satiric title, but by 10 songs with names such as “Art Damage,” “Punks in a Disco Bar” and, perhaps most tellingly, “Wasted Days of Youth” that slam-bang into your head in less than a half hour.
The trio charges through these pop punk nuggets with a taut yet flexible attack that leaves plenty of room for lyrics such as “I’m a dead-end kid in the city … I was born with trouble in me,” and “When I die, bury me in the clothes of my youth,” just two examples of how frontman/songwriter James Alex holds the mirror up to himself, reflecting his own disaffected youth and extrapolating that to fans.
The Replacements comparisons, especially in song construction, are inescapable and even if Alex isn’t quite the songwriter Paul Westerberg turned into circa Let it Be and Tim, this is only Beach Slang’s second release so he has time to refine his chops. When he sings “The nothing kids, the restless and forgotten, we never fit,” on “Young Hearts,” a brooding mid-tempo rocker that’s about as close to a ballad as this bunch comes, he’s singing for a generation ill at ease with their uncertain future as Westerberg did so effectively in “Bastards of Young.”
The production is raw enough for the guitar chords to slash and burn, yet clean enough for the words that are so integral to this band’s attack, to be understood and felt. Like the music of the Replacements, the melodies creep up on you and by the second time through, each one has a chorus that’s tough and memorable. The album’s brevity works in its favor by knocking out the tracks with no fat, and getting on to the next one. Like his concepts, Alex’s voice is a skeptical snarl, part Billy Idol/part Joe Strummer and a perfect vehicle for lyrics that, unlike most punk bands’, are worth reading and digesting apart from the music.
If they can continue this for another handful of albums without imploding, Replacements-style, Beach Slang has a shot at the greatness they aspire to here.