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Album Review: The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang
Great, Based on 18 Critics
Sputnikmusic - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
Review Summary: We are young and alive.There’s music that accomplishes a goal, and then there’s the kind of stuff that captures a spirit. I can’t say there’s anything particularly goal-oriented about The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, but ideologically, that’s precisely the point. Beach Slang’s full-length debut is a rallying cry, a generational statement of youth that is encountered about as frequently as one’s youth itself.
The opening seconds of Beach Slang’s debut record sound like the release of years of bottled-up energy, an inextricable surge of frustration and determination. The cranked rhythm, loud, distorted guitars and gruff vocals of James Alex are the touchstones of Beach Slang’s melodic, meat-and-potatoes punk rock, but the beating heart of the band’s music is Alex’s earnest, forthcoming songwriting. A perpetual unease frames these songs, and the antidote, the lifeline that Alex hangs onto, comes from the music itself.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Beach Slang is nothing if not sincere. From the release of their initial EP in 2014, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?, it has been impossible to deny that fact. The band's ceaseless earnestness and desire to bring comfort to the disaffected is not some shtick, it is a mission.
In a year when several young bands – Dilly Dally, Bully and others – attempt to revive the corpse of loud, punky, alt-rock, the Philadelphia quartet Beach Slang were streets ahead of the competition. They’re an unlikely proposition: the usual twentysomethings fronted by a fortysomething, James Alex, who – rather like Guided By Voices’ similarly late-starting frontman Robert Pollard – sounds as if he’s willing himself into the role. That he succeeds is down to the quality of the songs: Beach Slang’s debut album sounds like a forgotten underground classic from 1989 or 1990, every song hanging its hooks out on massive guitar lines.
This review is a little tardy after an October 30th release date, but I feel like thatâ€™s the way anything to do with Beach Slang should be: stumbling in late, drunk, heart full of love. Like the rest of the world, I fell completely for James Alex and company with their first two EPs and spent the last year spreading their gospel, despite a mere eight-track discography. The Cheap Thrills and Broken EPs were instant classics and felt so much bigger than they really were, but I was nervous their strength hinged on brevity.
A few stats on Beach Slang’s glorious and galvanizing debut album: in less than a half hour, it provides 10 righteous bursts of punk rock boosterism. All of them speak of being fucked up, being a fuck-up, or some combination of both. In seven of those songs, James Alex sings the word "alive," in three others, he sings "young," and there's one song called "Young and Alive".
Punk’s obsession with integrity is an oft-wheeled out punchline, but it’s one that latches itself onto Beach Slang’s debut album like a leech. Shooting to scene success off the back of a pair of EPs, the Philadelphia quartet’s appeal is built on an earnestness and an honesty that leaks from every sweat-channelling pore of ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’. It’s a different type of earnest to that which plagues the younger members of the scene and their sulking odes to ex-girlfriends.
Few bands have experienced the kind of unexpected rise that has propelled Philadelphia quartet Beach Slang to indie darling status in the course of just a year and change. At first glance, there are even fewer who would seem to be more unlikely candidates. With a forty-year-old frontman (James Alex) and a collection of other members ranging in age from twenty-five to their thirties all pounding out a strain of heartfelt rock that hasn’t been en vogue in years, the band hardly seemed to fit the traditional mold for overnight success when they released their first EP, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?, in the spring of 2014.
Let’s address the flannel-wearing elephant in the room: yes, Beach Slang are strongly influenced by the Replacements. But if loving catchy songs with heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics is a crime, then Beach Slang and I hang side by side at the ‘Mats fan club down the line. Pop culture has a lot to say about how one’s twenties are supposed to unfold, much of it unrealistic and unattainable.
Beach Slang are the kind of punk lifers who like to live in the moment, where every unprecedented life event points to a logical, if not natural transition. The Philadelphia foursome write spry, anthemic scorchers that could easily pass as yearning rock ballads if they were treated with a more conformist ethos, and though it comes close to that, they maintain a likable sincerity that makes it easy to root for them. Even the titling of their full-length debut effort, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, reads like a wishful motto to oneself, that of keeping true to yourself in a turbulent and often painful world.
The full-length debut of Philadelphia's Beach Slang, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, while replete with driving drums and guitars, has a comfortable, somewhat nostalgic demeanor heavily influenced by the sound and songwriting of Paul Westerberg, along with ghosts of U.K. post-punk. As indicated by its title, it's a contemplative work, with angst-ridden lyrics addressing seemingly youthful themes despite the band's songwriter, leader James Alex, being a veteran of bands since the '90s.
Now in his 40s, singer-guitarist James Alex Snyder is twice as old as his peers in the Philadelphia punk scene. But with Beach Slang, the group the former Weston member founded with ex-Nona bassist Ed McNulty and former Ex-Friends drummer JP Flexner, Snyder found the perfect vehicle for his weary yet urgent anthems.The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, the band's debut, builds off last year's two EPs, marrying Sugar's driving alt-rock to Paul Westerberg's wise-beyond-years lyrical conceits; everything in Beach Slang's world needs to happen right now, before time runs out. Snyder's age suggests he knows the clock is ticking, that this is his last kick at the can.
“I try a lot to write / I try to use my brain / But every time I try, my heart gets in the way.” There are only two appropriate responses to Beach Slang’s debut album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us: rolling your eyes, or bawling them dry. No rock album in 2015 is less afraid to be exactly what it is — ten anthems of last-chance power-punk, broad and sincere enough to make Japandroids seem subtle and uncommitted by comparison. The LP runs a near half-hour, but about ten seconds into opener “Throwaways,” you’ll know whether you’re in or out — or, at least, you’ll know whether you’ll be in eventually.
"I'm a hard-luck kid, so why even try?" Beach Slang singer-guitarist James Alex hollers on his band's excellent debut. In fact, this hard-luck kid is in his early forties. But that only makes his commitment to blustery, big-hearted punk-rock catharsis that much more heartening.
In the school of making noise and breaking shit, Beach Slang pass with flying colors. The young Philly band like their amps loud and their drinks cheap, and they’ve got no qualms about turning those preferences into a manifesto, song after song. Their debut LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, never once lets up on its performance of youthful exuberance.
About a year and a half ago, Beach Slang came out of (seemingly) nowhere and dropped the first of two EPs that would prove to be some of the best punk rock of 2014. But the Philadelphia foursome's chief songwriter, James Snyder, is hardly a rookie, with roots that go back to the early 90s with Pennsylvania pop-punk band Weston. Still, Beach Slang's debut full-length is full of so much youthful energy that they make younger bands sound world-weary by comparison.
Beach Slang became an instant hit in 2014 with a pair of EPs that provided fairly instant gratification. It was easy to fall in love with melodic, rugged sing-alongs about young romance, alienation, and pure infatuation when they came packaged inside tunes that split the difference between Jawbreaker’s emotive rumble and the accessible jangle the Goo Goo Dolls plied during their breakout. Aesthetically amplified with release covers paying tribute to subcultures past, from Beat poets and pop art to 1980s skateboarders, Beach Slang was and perhaps still is punk’s “it” guys, full package and all.
Beach Slang are the last rock ‘n’ roll band. Or rather, they sound like they’ve taken up the mantle of being the Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and are embalming the genre’s corpse for its wake. If you took punk rock, Replacements records, and montages about the music industry in the ’70s in movies released in the ’90s, and attempted to distill them to their sentimental essence, you’d get a Beach Slang song.