Beach Slang’s ‘The Things We Do To Find People Like Us’ leaves listeners wanting more

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.

Tim Darcy – “Saturday Night”

Tim Darcy, frontman of the less than ordinary post-punk band “Ought,” released his solo debut album spoofing the typical crooning singer/songwriter album with a subtle but chaotic clash of off-kilter guitars and spacey, lo-fi production to a nightmarish effect. “Ought” has experienced a weird branding, being a bit overrated and slightly misunderstood by critics who’ve interpreted them as an avant garde band reminiscent of the ‘60s.

I spoke with the drummer of the band at the 2016 Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta and he expressed opposition to the idea that “Ought” is anything more than an average rock band. It may of just been humility but he even went as far as to say the only thing that separates “Ought” from the bands in their hometown of Montreal is the critics ‘choosing’ them as if it were a lottery.

Something very similar is happening here within the reviews for Darcy’s LP. Critics have overblown this record and have been staging him as though he were a modern-day Jim Morrison. Many of these reviews have idolized the positive qualities of the LP without explaining what they didn’t enjoy.

Darcy is just what he puts out there, a regular guy expressing some of the internal turmoil he’s experienced as an introverted rock star. He’s finding his way through the mundane things of life while just trying to keep his shit together on the inside. That inward focus is what makes this solo project so engaging.

The album starts off much like any “Ought” record would, flashy and energetic with Darcy’s familiar, yelpy vocals leading. The direction of the album changes on the second track, “Joan Pt 1, 2.” The production becomes very uneasy and distorted, almost psychedelic, as the LP progresses. Most of the songs become mid-tempo ballads not standing out from one another.

One track I did enjoy was “Still Waking Up.” Darcy plays around with crooner trope  here, utilizing a slicked-back attitude to entice a lover with clever and intentionally pretentious wordplay. It’s all done ironically,  to add to the chauvinistic delusion.

The title track, “Saturday Night,” is when we’re introduced to a more frenetic and tormented guitar emerging throughout the record, becoming much more obvious during Darcy’s “quiet” moments. The album becomes really dull from this point on, with only the odd texture of the soundscapes to keep the listener alert. Perhaps it symbolizes Darcy’s own Saturday nights as being a time to retreat into his own mind, a very dreary and visceral place.

Darcy’s “Saturday Night” ends with a haunting instrumental piece embracing the chaos with random piano plinks and tortured chords trembling throughout. “Beyond Me” is the soundtrack of a night-terror and surrender to an inescapable madness.

“Saturday Night” is no pop record but if the listener can get past the weirdness of it all and some of dreary parts of this record, the experience can be appreciated. The record is just too slow and Darcy’s vocals are more tame than on “Ought,” which is part of what made them so successful.

I won’t be replaying the album anytime soon but the overall concept is alluring and unusual enough to recommend at least one listen. It’s not a direction Darcy should maintain nor would I like to see this flow off into “Ought,” but I can appreciate an artist’s need to produce something outside the typical venue. I would rate this album as C- to C.

Published in The Stallion on March 21, 2017.

Check out this track: 

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Photos by Shelby Evans. Can find more awesomeness at her blog. http://acquiringthetaste.blogspot.com/