The most concise and bittersweet rallying cry for eternal youth you’ll hear in 2015.
Richard Linklater was certainly on to something with his iconic 90’s film, ‘Dazed & Confused’. Featuring a who’s-who of future mega stars, it focused on the simple story of American high school kids at the dawn of their summer break, looking to fight, drink, smoke, drive, and flirt their way into the unknown abyss of adulthood. Against the backdrop of existential fears, rampant teenage alcoholism and drug abuse, one of the film’s characters whimsically asks, “If we’re all gunna die anyway, shouldn't we be enjoying ourselves now?” Of course getting wasted, having fun with your friends and embracing a ‘no fucks given’ attitude seems preferential to anything remotely adult – a sentiment which undoubtedly appeals to the free-spirited, ‘live in the now’ party animal in all of us. And it’s this sense of turbulent, youthful escapism, along with all of its emotional underpinnings that Philadelphia’s Beach Slang successfully channel on ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’, their début full-length album.
In a parallel to the aforementioned 90’s nostalgia, Beach Slang vocalist James Alex Snyder made a name for himself as part of Weston, a relatively minor but most excellent 90’s Pennsylvanian pop-punk band (seriously, grab a copy of ‘Got Beat Up’, and be completely stoked on hearing the older East Coast cousin of ‘Dude Ranch’). The interplay of punk-rock songs with harmonies and pop melodies on show in Weston’s small discography, can be seen as the initial genesis of Beach Slang’s sound, and although his previous band formally broke up over ten years ago (eventually reuniting and technically still being ‘active’ today), Beach Slang is now well and truly Snyder’s main focus. But where the former represented the playful angst of teenagers, the latter evokes a more melancholic, reflective and personal exploration, as Snyder & Co attempt to capture the lightning flash of their youth in an ageing but defiant punk rock bottle.
The longing for youthful exuberance on display with ‘The Things We Do…’ is as tantalising as it is touching, and builds off the back of Beach Slang’s previous releases, last year’s ‘Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?’ and ‘Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street’ 7-inches. Sporting four tracks apiece, they represented teasers for the rich potential Beach Slang could cultivate with their brash mix of raspy vocals, heart on sleeve lyrics, and indie punk anthems bristling with infectious energy. Veritable bangers like ‘Punk or Lust’ and ‘American Girls and French Kisses’ were practically begging for drunken sing-alongs, and showed what this group, now comprised of Snyder and former members of Ex-Friends, Nona and Glocca Morra, were truly capable of producing.
On ‘The Things We Do…’, themes of reckless abandon, dirty basement shows, fleeting youth, and cocktails of drugs and booze feature front and centre, across a 10 track record that only takes 25 minutes to burn out rather than fade away like a former child star. ‘Throwaways’ provides a subdued introduction, with a slow-burn, mid-tempo track that eases you into the mood of the record. Leading single ‘Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas’ drops into a feel good, summer vibe with shimmering guitars reminiscent of the recent Turnover record, and layers of poppy “wah-ah-ah” and “do-do-do-do” backing vocals. Things quickly shift into back-to-back, punk-rock overdrive, with ‘Noisy Heaven’, a driving ode to intoxication and indecision, with Snyder declaring that “we are not alone, we are not mistakes,” followed directly by stand-out track ‘Ride The Wild Haze’, an anthem for addiction in all its forms, with an epic closing refrain of “get high enough to feel alive.” Beach Slang slow the pace briefly in places with the delicate piano and string sections of ‘Too Late To Die Young’ and the California inspired, make-out indie pop of ‘Porno Love’. The second half of the record quickly matches these slower tracks, with the angsty punk of ‘I Break Guitars’, which is sure to become a set list staple, the aggressive rhythms of ‘Young & Alive’ and the stratospheric riffs of monster closer ‘Dirty Lights’.
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This reviewer will always be hesitant to give any record a perfect score, as there’s something about a ‘perfect’ record that, due to the subjective nature of musical taste, seems wholly unattainable. However, in the sense of ‘perfect’ as a way to say ‘absolute; complete; as good as it is possible to be’, this album certainly fits the bill. As a cohesive whole, it’s next to impossible to find and pin down a single fault on Beach Slang’s first full length effort: the musicianship and production is tight and punctual, the lyrics are unabashedly fragile, direct and infinitely relatable, while each song represents the true potential for catchy, genuine and above all, fun melodic punk fully realised. ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’ is the soundtrack to your very own punk-rock Neverland, where you never have to grow old and can stay dirty, wild and young forever. This record is the feeling you had when you first got laid, drank your first beer or blazed your first joint. So fuck it, find someone to share Beach Slang with, and do all three over and over again. Party on kids.
2. Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
3. Noisy Heaven
4. Ride The Wild Haze
5. Too Late To Die Young
6. I Break Guitars
7. Young & Alive
8. Porno Love
9. Hard Luck Kid
10. Dirty Lights