For as often as their name is bandied around the various scenes in which they make headway, there are few bands that inhabit the same musical biome as Beach Slang. Sure, there’s no shortage of ragged punk bands or fuzzy, washed-out emo acts, but when it comes to the slight segment at the centre of the Venn diagram between the two, Beach Slang are pretty much on their own. But it’s certainly helped the Philadelphia trio to get their name out, as well as the much-publicised onstage “break-up” in April that brought the band to a much wider consciousness, if not entirely for all the right reasons. But with the status of the band apparently still intact comes their new album A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings, released less than a year after their debut full-length The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us and written from the perspective of the fans who were so infatuated by that album.
And while the rapid turnover time might set some alarm bells blaring, A Loud Bash… is definitely a strong follow-up to its predecessor. It certainly justifies its title – rough-hewn, snotty and borderline obnoxious as it emulates the tempestuous confusion of adolescent emotions. And for an album that, just like its predecessor, clocks in just south of half an hour, it’s one that has its fair share of potency. This is largely thanks to the juxtaposition between the hazy, scruffy instrumentals and frontman James Alex’s grizzled, unashamedly imperfect vocals – it’s not a mesh that’s anything new (in terms of Beach Slang’s back catalogue, the same can be said for this entire album), but the impact that it lends to the likes of the shimmering Hot Tramps or the combustible two minutes of energy that is Atom Bomb can’t be ignored.
Granted, the fact that A Loud Bash… is more of a continuation of Beach Slang’s debut rather than any drastic reinvention or exploration is a valid point, but for a band like this, strong songs are really all that’s needed to keep an album afloat, and Beach Slang are hardly struggling in that department. The most surprising thing is how laboured over these songs sound; particularly for a follow-up to an album that wasn’t even released twelve months ago, most of A Loud Bash… doesn’t feel rushed in the slightest. If anything, a couple of these songs are probably even better than what was on that last album – the very slight rockabilly influences present on Spin The Dial add some nice vintage sounds to meld with the lo-fi production, and the quite wonderful Art Damage packs in texture and dynamism to a driving alt-punk sound that’s utterly euphoric and easily the album’s standout.
For an album that’s mostly comprised of greatness though, things head south in a hurry during A Loud Bash…‘s final act. There’s a noticeable drop-off in quality in the album’s final three tracks – Young Hearts goes nowhere with its inert, shoegaze-y jangle, The Perfect High sees Alex opting for a Silversun Pickups-style whisper that’s about as forgettable as it gets, and as soon as closer Warpaint actually starts going, it comes to a disappointingly abrupt halt. Compared with the rest of the album, its final section feels like an afterthought, tracks tacked onto the end to beef up the tracklisting and get it finished as soon as possible. What’s more, the clustering of theses songs makes their mediocrity all the more apparent – had they been scattered amongst the rest of the album, it could have probably passed for some sort of peak-and-trough progression, and wouldn’t have been as immediately disappointing as it inevitably turned out to be.
It’s a shame that the ending is spoiled as well because A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings could well have been a great album. It has that infallible combination of a recognisable sound and some great songs, but a couple more of the latter would’ve been appreciated. As it is, it’s still a very good album, one that earmarks Beach Slang’s prolific tendencies and songwriting nouse and brings them both right to the fore. Whether it manages to surpass their debut in the long term remains to be seen, but that it’s a worthy successor is unquestionable, and right now, that’s a perfectly fine place for things to be.
For fans of: The Replacements, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings’ by Beach Slang is out now on Big Scary Monsters.