It seems like forever when the pre-orders for the new Beach Slang album went up and even with the postage costing more than the record shipped from the States to the UK didn’t put me off ordering my copy but release day saw the download forwarded on whilst the record hit the post office. A few things first. Beach Slang seems to now be just James Alex and with the elephant in the room being Replacement shaped it seemed like the perfect thing to do in getting Tommy Stinson on board to play bass on the album. Perfect! I ain’t complaining one bit more power to you James – fill yer boots son and just hurry up. I’m not snobby when it comes to my Rock and Roll life’s too short for that shit and loving The Mats as I do having some upstart come along wanting to emulate his heroes is always a goer for me – good luck to him and the more success and publicity the better maybe that time in the ’80s can be regained in the roaring ’20s.
I’ve loved their ramshackle live performances I’ve been lucky enough to see them twice and both whilst not being anywhere near a religious experience they were excellent shows. The lineup changes could derail any band but with it more or less resembling the work of one man it doesn’t really matter Alex is the CEO, Head Honcho, and the chief bottle washer so that’s fine. Over the last five years, the world has turned and people have come and gone but Beach Slang has kinda just got on with it. There has been no great leap forward nor has there been a big sea change in the style it is what it is and that sometimes is exactly what you want. Right now I want Rock and Roll and I want it loud, chaotic, a little sloppy and in your face. open the faders and let ‘All The Kids In LA’ introduce itself before ‘Let It Ride’ takes over “Rock ‘n’ roll’s my favorite sin/Man, I don’t know if I’m good at it/But I’m too in love or dumb to quit” alleluia praise the Lord Lets get it on.
‘Bam Rang Rang’ rocks out. Unashamed and full of bluster I’ve got the horns in the air and one foot on my imaginary monitor Tonight my friends I’m playing second tennis racket to James Alex and riffing off the one and only Tommy Stinson and I’m loving it. Critics come one come all fill yer boots on calling out whats inspired Beach Slang I care not a jot I just want to get my fix and this is doing nicely. ‘Tommy In The ’80s’ is the first time full throttle has been relaxed. However its not about Stinson but Alex did explain himself here, “I figured if Westerberg could write about Alex Chilton, for all those right reasons, I could write something about Tommy Keene for all the same ones,” sooo there you go it is what it is and I’m cool with it even if Alex goes full hog on his minimalist lyrics (something of a theme on the album) I’m really enjoying what I’m hearing. When the acoustic guitars are out with those lush strings for ‘Nobody Say Nothing’ its time to take stock and a few deep breaths.
I would say that some of the finesse of previous albums has been sacrificed for volume and dare I say it a more meaty assault on the senses like on ‘Stiff’ which lacks any finer points and is going for bludgeoning the listener over the head with guitars rather than stroking your ear.
Maybe James Alex has reached the crossroads and it’s here where he draws a line in the sand and its time for people to decide which side they want to be on. Always attracting the haters it’s something of an occupational Hazzard. Fuck ’em, do what makes you happy James and if it’s good enough (and this certainly is) people will jump on board. I’m saying bring on the haters I’ll just twist the dial a little more and drown them out with the riff-a-rama of ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and if that doesn’t work ‘Sticky Thumbs’ will.
C’mon, if you love Rock ‘n’ Roll, how can you not smile during ‘Kicking Over Bottles’ and tell yourself “Hell Yeah!”. We all rise for ‘Bar No One’ as Alex signs off with a bleak and dark ode to death. It might not be their best work but it is a head and shoulders above most of what will come out in 2020 and we’ve barely opened the doors on this decade and already a marker has been laid down.
I’m hoping this one will grow and grow as the year unfolds and I keep coming back to it, (I’m loving it already). James, you just keep being you and keep making records whether it be Quiet or Beach Slang I’ll take it over and over again.
My advice – Listen to it at volume and on a good pair of headphones it’ll be the gift that keeps giving and a maverick like James Alex should be cherished and encouraged to keep on keeping on because Rock and Roll need bands like Beach Slang and songwriters like James Alex.
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Author: Dom Daley