Beach Slang’s debut album suckered me in with all the altrock things I gravitate toward. From Nirvana references, to a story about a misfit finding his way through life to even their record label, Polyvinyl Records (known for producing indie acts like Japandroids and American Football), drew me.
That said, this album didn’t “wow” me the way I expected from my natural bias.
It left a bittersweet taste. It was so close to being an excellent album, hadn’t it been for the lack of deviation in sound and some weird production choices.
The album starts off fast and heavy with James Alex’s gritty, rough-around-the-edges vocals. At first, his voice pulled me out of the song because of how buried it was behind the instrumentation and effects.
After listening a second time, the vocals became more coherent, and I could fit them back into the song. Doing that bothers me, though, because it requires a little mental gymnastics that could’ve been avoided had this production oversight been dealt with. And it doesn’t just happen in one track either, as most of the mid-to-fast paced songs are like this.
Bringing out James’s voice would have made the album more compelling and straightforward, pushing that in-your-face punk sound. After discerning the lyrics, the track introduces the plot of the album, by putting us in the shoes of a young, restless misfit who is tired of these “gutless streets.”
The second track, “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas,” starts out with a couple twangy, beach guitar chords before unloading the explosive instrumentation. This is my favorite song on the album, because it makes adept usage of groovy guitars riffs and pop-rock melodies. “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas” delves into the mental state of the misfit, showing us his confusion and anxiety. As the album progresses, we see the misfit grow and heal using unconventional remedies like drugs, alcohol, and rock & roll.
As corny and sometimes preposterous the story is, the way it is written into the songs shows the care and hard work that went into writing the album. For example, the line “The gutter’s too tough, the stars are too safe” from the second track on the album, turns into the line “Got a foot in the gutter, the other in the light” in the second to last song on the album. This change winds down the plot showing our misfit was right where he needed to be all along. He just needed to embrace himself and discover hope in his broken road ahead.
Another example of the diligence in their lyrics can be found in the snippets of Nirvana dotted throughout the track “Hard Luck Kid.” Some of these allusions are obvious in places while others are well hidden as they seamlessly meld into the chorus and verses. These references aren’t attempting to evoke petty nostalgia, but rather they pay homage to the band that molded Beach Slang musically and personally.
Though this was a good album, it didn’t have anything new to bring to the table. It just explored some already established sound without changing pace or instrumentation enough. As disappointing as that may be, the LP held my attention with its well-written plot and uppity punk sound.
Overall, this was an above average rock album that gets me really excited for what this band has planned for the future. I rated “The Things We Do To Find People Like Us” as a B album.
Published in The Stallion on January 26, 2016.