Since their inception in 2013, American collective Beach Slang has always retained a synonymous connection with omnipresent feelings of discomfort. A band that spiritually relates to those who are still haunted by teenage awkwardness in adulthood, Beach Slang have worn such associations as a badge of honour, incorporating such elements into their persona.
Whilst it worked in their favour for a number of years, the band found such elements turn metaphysical a number of years ago. Just after the release of their 2016 effort A Loud Brash Of Teenage Feelings, the band fragmented and disbanded under the scrutiny of the public eye. Whilst frontman and figurehead James Alex ensured the band’s namesake stayed afloat with the Quiet Slang project, the atmosphere that enveloped Beach Slang was uncertain.
After approximately four years, to see Beach Slang return with a fresh lineup and a new record is surprising. What is even more surprising, or dare we say shocking, is the contents of said record. The Deadbeat Bang Of A Heartbreak City see’s Beach Slang attempting to reinvent and rejuvenate themselves in an unprecedented way. However, the emphasis of this statement is certainly on the word attempt.
After opening with the introductory garage blast of ‘All The Kids In LA’ the record launches into the mildly distorted sleaze of ‘Let It Ride’. Alex’s distinguishable smoke stained gruffness mares against a new level of confidence that at first, with hints of ‘rock n’ roll’ attitude bubbling from the melodica and inclusive punk that’s easily comparable Beach Slang’s earlier work. At this point, the record is still undisputedly an offering and release from Beach Slang, but new powers and attitudes are certainly present, albeit subtly.
It’s not until ‘Bam Rang Rang’ that such archetypical cocksure attitude fully presents itself in a fashion that’s simply obnoxious and completely uncharacteristic. It’s a swaggering, leather clad statement that tries to animate a sense of enduring and monumental danger that ultimately feels criminally innocent and substance-less. This aura of shoehorned and stringent mettle only becomes more forced and exaggerated to the point where the record is aesthetically incomparable to what came before it.
In relation, it seems this newfound attitude has fuelled new endeavours into genre experimentation. Whilst Beach Slang have experimented and toyed with different genres in the past, such as chamber pop and shoegaze, the end result has always been of mixed success. However, this record see’s Beach Slang attempt to experiment with glam rock. The notion of any established band incorporating full bodied glam rock into their craft is certainly a haunting proposition anyway, but yet there’s just something inherently perverse about Beach Slang attempting to flaunt non-existent sex appeal. ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and ‘Sticky Thumbs’ have all the subtle finesse of a modern day Kiss show and the conspicuously titled ‘Stiff’, a track that’s actually a homage to the aforementioned make-up adorning band, is best left deeply unanalysed.
There are moments where the Beach Slang of old does ultimately shine through. ‘Tommy In The 80’s’ does see a change in tone, with it’s buoyant horns and jubilant bounce harking thoughts of Beach Slang’s earnest prime. It’s a promising moment, with the track easily among one of Alex’s best work thus far, but it’s brilliance is diluted with the fraudulent content that sits alongside it.
Maybe it’s the fact that the dynamics have completely shifted, maybe it’s the fact that the band wish to distance themselves from the turbulence of the past several years or maybe, just maybe, the band are desperate to ensure a future for themselves. Either way, The Deadbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City is jarring contrast to Beach Slang’s once firmly established sound and persona. Whereas the group’s sound once came naturally, for the vast majority the record feels like a shoehorned and forced offering. Indeed, there are distant hues of the Beach Scene of old present, but overall, it's difficult to ascertain who is record is tailored for.
The Deatbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City Is Out January 10th Via Bridge Nine Records