Growing up a punk rock kid is filled with dichotomies. On the one hand it is all honesty and
expression while on the other it is draped in leather and scowls. On one hand there is finger-
pointing and sing-alongs while on the other is the merch guy (or girl) that intimidates you to buy an LP for fear of… I don’t know….
I can only speak from personal experience of course but I always found these two contrasts
pulling at me any time I put on a record or went to a show. If I dropped the needle on a new
L(P)ove I often times had trouble wanting to convey this to friends. The side of me that wanted to constrain my passion was pecking away at what was left of the carcass of enthusiasm. The same methodology could be applied to going to a show: why was it at the times that I wanted to show unbridled enthusiasm (see: Billy Mumphrey) I found myself hugging walls with arms nervously crossed?
There is no easy or clear answer as to why this is or why I engaged in such schizophrenic
behavior. Maybe it was from being burned one too many times. All too often, it would seem, a
band I had grown fond of up and left and turned its back on what brought it here. A front-man
whose words had struck a chord over the course of a demo, 7-inc, LP (etc) all of a sudden
felt the need to no longer say “hi” at a show and fell into the trap of buying his own brand. Or it was a scene that once felt welcoming and like a home, but then turned into a barren wasteland of nameless kids wearing eBay t-shirts and looking at their phones mid-set.
And don’t forget confessing how you feel to a welcoming and loving face only to have the reception of such words fall upon deaf ears – making you colder. Wiser – maybe…but colder for sure.
And so, when you are asked by a band to stop this paranoia and to put your guard down and just “trust” again… well it is not easy. Old habits die hard, if at all. No, Beach Slang did not send out a questionnaire and ask me directly if I would give them a shot and just trust a band again (of course I wouldn’t put it past front-man James Alex to go to such lengths to connect with fans), but they may as well have. Their earnestness and sincerity can almost be off-putting to a frayed kid like me.
This is where the difference lies between having a song pass in one ear and out the other and taking the time to read over the lyrics and follow the musings of the band via social media. Just listening on a cursory level to Beach Slang gets you to The Replacements + Jawbreaker vibe… and one can certainly appreciate that and move on. However, upon digging deeper you get the call-to-arms approach of the band. The lyrics are unabashed with the way they sling ideas such as “punk rawk, clumsy, heart-felt, make-outs, kid(s), us, them” around so freely. Does the cynic in me want to roll my eyes? Honestly, at times, the answer is yes – because I’ve been in those VFW halls when it felt like a ghost town and when the faces in that room felt colder than the Northeast winter that lay outside. I’ve had one too many bands talk about their DIY ethics and then just as quickly fail to mention their roots at the first sign of a dollar. And yet, the gosh-darned optimist in me calls out from the pit of my gut and says “just go with it. It’s okay. Let go.”
How many miles can Beach Slang run with catchy, short bursts of punk energy and anthem-esque calls about being down on your luck but with a good heart? It’s hard to say. And will I be in the front row smiling and singing along or will I be making like a flower in the back of the club next time they roll into town? That remains to be seen as well. However, deep down I know that there is no black or white, there is no all or nothing, there is no total punk or tender flower. The in-betweens are everything and are me. When I want, no… need, to feel the brighter side of things…I know I can go to the Beach.
Beach Slang Homework
Check out Beach Slang on Bandcamp
Get Into Sing-Alongs