You ever feel obligated to like something, almost out of duty? Like there’s a movie or TV show or band that comes along, and seems to have all the attributes that you constantly find yourself searching for, to the point where it almost seems suspicious? Because this band Beach Slang certainly embodies the kind of all-out embrace of rock and roll and all of its healing powers as an escape from the crushing mundanity of everyday life that I tend to be looking for. And yet, maybe because I’m just a born skeptic (or maybe just an asshole), I couldn’t help but find myself being a bit skeptical about instantly embracing the relentlessly rocking The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, which even its title feels like it’s pandering specifically to me (though it’s clearly trying to pander to all of us). But after listening pretty consistently to this album since Friday, I will say Beach Slang has won me over. This is a band that you either have to be all in or not with, and I’d be a fool not to be, since again, they know what a rock disciple like myself wants, and by golly do they deliver the goods.
This doesn’t necessarily makes sense, but another reason there was a fair amount of obligation for me to enjoy Beach Slang’s debut comes from the fact that my favorite music writer going, Steven Hyden, wrote his final piece for Grantland about Beach Slang before the venerable sports/pop culture site closed down last week (it will be sorely missed). In the piece (which was overwhelmingly positive), Hyden compared Beach Slang to modern rock warriors like The Hold Steady and Japandroids, while the band itself has admitted to a bit of a Replacements obsession, which is not hard to discern after listening to Beach Slang for a good 20 seconds or so. Since I know I’ve already gone over my own Replacements obsessions (and Hold Steady obsessions for that matter) on this blog enough already, I’ll spare you any of that nonsense. However, I will point out that Beach Slang’s similarities to Japandroids is more than welcome for yours truly, since that band’s 2012 album is probably still my favorite straight-up rock record of the decade so far. Yet it’s starting to become more and more doubtful that Japandroids will ever release a follow-up, so an epically celebratory record like The Things We Do more than fills that niche.
And yes, I do realize that just talking about the extent to which a certain band sounds like other bands is always a little lazy/reductive, but with Beach Slang it seems appropriate. Lead singer/songwriter James Alex imbues these songs with a kind of loving admiration and homage to his influences, with lyrical passages like “I feel most alive when I’m listening to every record that hits harder than the pain,” or “If rock and roll is dangerous, how come I feel so safe in it?” It’s that sincerity and need to connect with something bigger that keeps Beach Slang’s songs from sinking under the weight of their somewhat obvious influences, while the 41-year-old Alex’s status as a consummate underdog gives the band even more of an irascible charm. So there you go, Beach Slang. You’ve got me just as hooked on your record as the ones you grew up getting hooked on.
Favorite Tracks: “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”, “Too Late To Die Young”, “Hard Luck Kid”