Monday, May 08, 2017

"Kids like us are weird, and more, we’re brave": Why I Love Beach Slang

Recently I did something I'd never done before...I drove to Tulsa for a concert.  On Saturday April 8 I hoped in the car with a friend and made the nearly two hour drive to watch Beach Slang play at the Vanguard Music Hall. with Norman's Colorblind and Tulsa's Dead Shakes.  Over the years a lot of bands have come to Tulsa or Dallas and I'd never made the trek but I wasn't going to miss this show.  Last November, Beach Slang played the single most moving concert I've ever had the honor of experiencing and when it was announced that they were coming back to the Sooner State, I knew that there was no way I was going to miss it.

Three years ago to the day, I first heard Beach Slang.  I remember because I wrote my review of their debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? within minutes of getting the promo and press release from the fine folks at Beartrap PR.  Right from the start, I knew this band was something special.
Every once in a while a record comes along and blows you away with the opening chords of the first song and you can just tell that you are hearing something really special.  That was my exact reaction to Beach Slang’s debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?.  From the opening chords of “Filthy Luck” to the closing moments of “Punk Or Lust,” Beach Slang has put together the purest essence of the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that the outcasts of the 1980s and ‘90s found comfort in.  [...]  ...Beach Slang have tapped into something that has been missing in rock as of late…the voice of the outcast.  This voice rings so clear and hits you right from the get-go...  [...]  Here’s the thing, and I’m sorry for being so blunt but, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? is fucking brilliant.  Seriously, this record is so good that it hurts and if I was able to make it down to The Fest this year, Beach Slang is THE band that I’d want to see above all others.  To quote Dillinger Four, this shit is genius.
Four months later the band released their follow-up EP Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street.  This record saw their Goo Goo Dolls-meets-Jawbreaker-meets-The Replacements sound expand to include touches of The Jesus & Mary Chain, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Joy Division, foreshadowing things to come.

A year later Beach Slang released the all-covers EP Here, I Made This For You (Beach Slang Mixtape Vol. 1) shortly before dropping their stunningly brilliant full-length debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.
Words like fantastic, excellent, brilliant, and moving fail to describe the utter joy and acceptance I feel when listening to this band. This band connects with me sonically with their pure unadulterated sound that is equal parts Replacements, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Jawbreaker driven by an energy and urgency that is beyond infectious. Lyrically singer/guitarist James Alex Snyder has found a way to express everything I've been feeling going all the way back to my days as a dejected and rejected teenager up to now as a middle-aged man with a wife and kids that still doesn't feel like he fits in or belongs. Being that misfit youth never goes away and Beach Slang embraces that fact, turning it into a battle cry full of power and promise. Snyder embraces being a misfit with such gusto, enthusiasm, and self-deprecation making The Things We Do... such an earnest record that it doesn't need to rely on irony or kitsch to drive its point home because it is so completely pure and honest. What's great about this record, and this band in general, is that it has created a sound, vibe, and aura that is completely timeless tapping into feelings and transcending genres to the point that everyone from a 14 year old high school kid to a 40 year old punk can hear this music and say “yup, this is mine.” But underneath all of that is a definite chord, ethos, and yearning born out of growing up in time that saw idealism traded in for consumerism all for the sake of the greater me. Without a doubt, Beach Slang is the last great musical gasp of Generation X and if it took growing up through all of that mess and an adulthood of getting squeezed out by those who came before and those coming after to get this music, then by God it was all worth it.  
2016 saw the release of the band's equally brilliant sophomore full-length album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings.
From the moment I first heard Beach Slang's debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?, I knew that I'd found something special.  This was the kind of band that spoke so straight to my heart that I felt an immediate and intense personal connection with not only their music but with them.  They mixed the best elements of '80s college rock, '90s indie rock, and punk throughout the ages, creating a sound that was magical, powerful, and timeless.  Oh and did I mention the lyrics?  Those cathartic poetic moments that perfectly gave voice to the rage and heartache of the kids that never fit in and the adults that they became.  This was my band. 
From start to finish A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is a spectacular record from a band that can truly do no wrong.  In three short years, Beach Slang has become one of the most important bands in rock 'n' roll.  The band's music (and its members) is earnest, brutally honest, self aware, and humble, creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and nurturing to all those who have ever felt unwanted, slighted, left out, or unloved.  This sound, these records, this band is something truly special and timeless.  You know an artist's music and story has connected with you when you find yourself brought to tears from reading an interview with the band.  So Beach Slang, I'm in.  Whatever you guys do, wherever you go, I'm all in.
Beach Slang has seamlessly mixed together everything that I love about music.  They have taken all of the elements and the styles of music that have touched my heart and saved my soul and wrapped it into one beautifully messy, devastatingly honest, and brutally emotional package.  I'm sure that this has something to do with the fact that James Alex and I are the same age.  We grew up in the same era, came of age listening to many of the same records, and face adulthood as people that more often than not feel completely and totally out of place.  

When I think about my favorite bands of all-time, there's been a pretty consistent top 5 for nearly 20 years.  That changed around the beginning of the decade.  A band that I had followed religiously since the late '90s put out a record in 2011 that struck me as awful.  A few years prior to that, my tastes had started to change.  I rediscovered a lot of indie rock, reconnected with a lot of '80s college rock, and dove head-first into the troubadour, singer-songwriter, alt country, folk punk kind of stuff.  Granted none of this was all that far from the music I'd been listening to since high school but it was enough of a shift that I realized a band that I'd considered one of my all-time favorites was no longer one that I liked all that much.  So for a number of years I couldn't really nail down who that fifth band would be in my top 5.  Silly I know, but I love lists.  For a while that # 5 slot was filled by either The Replacements or Frank Turner (both of whom are still solidly in my top 10).  So as it stood, my top 5 favorite bands of all time included ALL, U2, R.E.M., 7 Seconds, and either The Replacements or Frank Turner depending on my mood.  

Lists of your favorite anything are completely subjective things but even so we all have certain criteria for what can and can't make the list.  With my top 5 favorite bands, I always thought they needed to be artists that I had loved and followed for a descent number of years.  For example I've been a fan of U2 since 1988 with R.E.M. and 7 Seconds following a few years later and ALL a year or two after that.  In other words I've been listening to all of those groups for well over 20 years.  The Replacements were a band that I've known since high school but admitted didn't completely get until their 2006 best-of Don't You Know Who I Think I Was and I discovered Frank Turner in 2010.  So in both cases I felt like I'd had enough time with their music to really consider them an all-time favorite.  But what about a band that's only been around for three years?  Even if you've been there since day one, is that long enough?  (Yes I contemplate these things.)  Well I gave it a lot of thought and finally came to the only logical and reasonable realization.

In some music you find your heart, in some your spirit, and in others you find your voice.  But sometimes you find music that is so special, so perfect that in it you find your soul.  Through those songs you not only find your heart and spirit and voice but you find yourself and you finally feel complete.  For me that is Beach Slang.  U2 changed my life, 7 Seconds and R.E.M. shared my rage and my hope, and ALL taught me about love but Beach Slang...Beach Slang brought it all together, my teenage dreams, my adulthood struggles, my need to feel like I'm a part of something, like I matter, am accepted, and loved, this band and their music does all of that and more.  

Beyond a shadow of a doubt Beach Slang is my favorite band of all time and more than that, I am a better, more complete person because of their music.


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