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CD of The Week

Week of 11/16/15

    Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl)

    There’s arguably no underground rock band right now with more forward momentum than Beach Slang. The Philadelphia-based quartet rode a pair of well-received EPs–Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? and Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street–into a deal with respected indie label Polyvinyl for their similarly verbosely-titled debut full-length The Things We Do To Find People Like Us, and like those EPs, it’s a solid collection of aesthetically pleasing, mostly anthemic, slightly repetitive rock that harkens back to a hyper-specific era of the genre when bands like The Replacements and (early on) Goo Goo Dolls displayed, or perhaps shrouded, their insecurities and vulnerabilities underneath walls of loud guitars.

    The most immediately noticeable difference between the LP and those EPs is the production. The whole thing sounds pleasingly dense and huge in a way few rock albums do nowadays, especially through an above-average pair of headphones. It augments every buzzsaw guitar, every howled vocal, and makes the whole affair seem immediate and important. JP Flexner’s drumming hits particularly hard in opener “Throwaways” and throughout TTWDTFPLS, really; his work adds a crucially dynamic piece to Beach Slang’s sound that frankly, might be slightly lost on a thinner-sounding record. Vocalist James Alex, whose raspy faux-accented style is weathered more than ever here, cavalierly trudges through each of these songs with, to his credit, a passion and earnestness that makes even the goofiest, most repetitive of lyrics (We’re allowed to be loud! from “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”; The punks are wired and these records feel tough / It's loud and wild, but I swear it feels soft from “Too Late To Die Young”; Go punch the air with things you write / It’s wild. It’s wild. It’s wild. from “Young & Alive”). Nearly everyone is drunk and everything is loud and wild in these songs.

    Make no mistake about it, the guys are clearly enthusiastic and having fun–hell, Beach Slang’s entire live show is basically one big, fun, expertly-timed guitar jump–but TTWDTFPLS’ singular, laser-sharp focus on a sort of Replacements/Goo Goo Dolls hybrid reimagined for a new generation raises a couple of questions: Is the band’s sound and aesthetic already so fully realized so early on that they’ve perhaps prematurely reached their creative ceiling? Bands repeat themselves all the time, but I can’t tell if the rampant recycling of vocal melodies and chord progressions on this album (it’s impossible to unhear once you notice it) is the product of a band who knows exactly what they’re doing or that of a band with just one really good-sounding idea and impeccable timing. Decide for yourself when Beach Slang return to Philadelphia for a show at The First Unitarian Church on December 19th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a copy of The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us as our thank you gift. Click here for details.**
    Review by Bryne Yancey

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