Album #4: Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Label: Bridge Nine
  • Best Track: Kicking Over Bottles

If nothing else, Beach Slang have wonderful album titles. Following on from 2016’s A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and the 2018 acoustic album Everything Matters But No One is Listening (released under the side project name Quiet Slang), the Philadelphia indie/punk four-piece’s third full-length album once again has the sort of thought-provoking name that makes it profound and intriguing before so much as a second of it is played.

But that’s about where the intrigue ends for me with The Deadbeat Band of Heartbreak City, apart from the question of “is this really the same band from three years ago?” I mean, it definitely is – I still love James Alex’s scarred and hoarse vocals, reminiscent of Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil. A lot of the song structures are similar as well. But the production and delivery are such that a lot of the scuzz and punkiness of their early work has been lost, and what’s left veers dangerously close to dad rock and even hair metal.

Lyrically, too, it’s hard to escape the notion that the band has regressed. A Loud Bash.. was full of powerful imagery like “Your lips smash in mine just like lust and violence / Your heart’s marvelous trash the world’s forgotten” (from ‘Hot Tramps’) and memorable adages like “You’re not as broken as you are brave” (‘Warpaint’). From that, we’ve gone to trite clichés like “It’s Saturday night. The city is loud. The streets are alive.” (‘Tommy In the 80s) and “Rock and roll’s my favourite sin” (‘Let It Ride’) . The hard-rocking, party-till-you-drop lifestyle isn’t a new theme for the band, but it previously seemed to carry a sense of wistfulness and self-reflection. Here, it’s presented in an almost Motley Crue-esque face value.

Great songs don’t necessarily need great lyrics, of course, but these aren’t really great songs. They’re kind of fun songs, and with a few beers down my neck I can imagine myself nodding and shouting along enthusiastically to ‘Tommy in the 80s’.

There are other highs too, such as ‘Nobody Say Nothing’ and ‘Nowhere Bus’, both of which seem like a offshoot of Quiet Slang, and ‘Kicking Over Bottles’ is a strong effort as the album nears its end.

If straight-up rock and roll is your thing, this might be right up your street. But to me, the album lacks the depth and nuance of their earlier work and feels a little dumbed down.

I’m not angry with Beach Slang, I’m just disappointed. Could do better.

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