“Anthemic” is one of those buzz words that people who write about music use to say, “I remembered the words." It’s not a slight on music journalism; there’s only so many ways you can say “catchy” and “poppy” to describe something that stands out as memorable. That’s made it hard, however, to distinguish something that actually defines a certain group’s experience from a blanket statement that caters to the average American teenager.
Beach Slang, however, is a band that wears that adjective on its sleeve in every way. Their debut EP, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? (Dead Broke Rekerds, spring 2014), is not only the perfect record to kick off sixty-degree weather, it’s the perfect record to kick off sixty-degree weather now, after six months of freezing temperatures on the East Coast. It’s also got the kind of genuine nostalgia that can only be achieved by having a combined fifty or so years spent in punk rock among three members, and when guitarist James Snyder growls, “This guitar wants to die” in raggedy, torn, pissed off vocals that are equal parts Robby Takac and Paul Westerberg, it’s all I can do to stop myself from getting these lyrics plastered all over my body. And whereas Snyder’s band Weston defined being an awkward teenager in the 90s, Beach Slang catches up with that same goofy kid at forty, stoked as ever on punk rock and loud, brash guitars.
Beach Slang’s punk rock pedigree doesn’t exactly suggest any of the members would be interested in out-gooing the Goo Goo Dolls at any point in their lives. Drummer JP Flexner is an artist whose main project is the Paper and Plastick outfit Ex-Friends, while bassist Ed McNulty spent time in NONA and is currently in Philadelphia punk band Crybaby – and of course, Snyder helped write some of the best pop punk records the East Coast has ever seen. There’s a certain similarity between that band and Beach Slang, though, especially within the period of the Goo Goo Dolls before they started writing albums full of wedding songs, and in the best split seven-inch my brain’s ever created, Beach Slang would be side B to “Long Way Down” and “Naked."
The cohesiveness and explicit direction of this record, however might be what’s most striking; with just four songs, this band built a theme and worked with it to craft four well-done rock songs. All of the songs use the music itself—guitars, amplifiers, basements, words—as the vehicle to deliver a look at punk rock youth that’s equal parts nostalgic and current. When a band can do that, seemingly without trying, it’s reminiscent of the kind of natural polish that launched bands to stardom in the 90s.
This record is something that will stand on its own in the punk scene as a great seven-inch, and it could also feasibly reach Pitchfork stardom considering it bears some similarities to indie rock royalty like Superchunk as well as current buzz bands like Japandroids. And in an alternate universe where 90% of the music played on your local rock radio station isn’t utter dogshit, “Get Lost” would be in regular rotation, with pounding drums and a melody so soothing that you swallow lines like “We drive on drugs, feeling everything until we get lost” like they were smothered in applesauce. And what might be most shocking about these four songs are how warm and multi-layered they are; every track is “the hit," the organic, DIY answer to pop rock.
The band recorded these songs last year but have been sitting on them ever since; they have plans for more recordings and were just announced to play the Fest in Gainesville in October along with such punk rock luminaries as Descendents and Lifetime. One can only hope they keep pushing out songs like these though, because once the winter rears its ugly head again, I’m going to need Beach Slang to get me through it.
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