Beach Slang aren't your average 'Beach-' band. Given the breezy, summer connotations of the prefix and the clutch of acts it's become synonymous with in recent years, you'd be forgiven for going into their debut record expecting something lo-fi with all shimmering harmonies and gauzy chord progressions. Nothing could be further from the reality. Frontman Alex James Snyder isn't interested in subtlety and mood, but rather explosive, Dionysian candour. If the band name doesn't tell the full story, then the album title does: 'The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us'.
Snyder is now in his 40s and has been a staple in the Philadelphia punk scene for the past 20 years. As far as buzz band background stories goes, his is a case of oil and water. As a member of pop punkers Weston, Snyder was one of the creative forces behind the band's 1996 cult classic, 'Got Beat Up', which, up until this point, looked like it might be his career opus. In 2015, Snyder finds himself cast as the unlikeliest of unlikely heroes.
On cursory listens, Snyder might appear overwrought, but it's difficult not to be won over by his brutal honesty by the album's end. "No, the streets don't feel like us, they're not hungry or wild enough, it's a dead end town for trash like us" bawls the singer on album opener and outsider clarion call 'Throwaways', before taking his foot off the gas to indulge in some nostalgia ("I'm always that kid always out of place, I try to get found, but I've never known how") on the achingly measured 'Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas'.
By the time the record reaches its first quarter with 'Ride the Wild Haze', you begin wondering how many guitar strings Snyder must have snapped during recording, such is the infernality of his strumming. You can almost imagine him as some sort of self-sustaining one man power generator which winds itself up with pummelling power chords before spitting the accumulated energy back out at the listener by way of his gravelly, pissed off vocal.
With its elegiac strings and twinkling keys, the acoustic 'Too Late to Die Young' is a curveball which could easily fall on the wrong side of sappy, but Snyder's earnestness rises above any mush. From therein, the record is effectively a procession of bloody nosed punk rock, with only the trance-like 'Porno Love' providing anything in the way of respite.
Weston missed the boat as the likes of Green Day and Blink 182 blew up and, while that sort of hyper-success might be a bridge too far, Beach Slang play with the kind of heartfelt abandon that you could imagine translating to wider audiences in a similar vein to The Gaslight Anthem or, going back even further, The Goo Goo Dolls. For now, the no-hopers have a voice, but you get the feeling that it won't be theirs alone for much longer.
Words: Graeme Campbell
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