Every night onstage, Beach Slang’s singer James Alex tells the audience his band are gonna punch them right in the heart. Fitting, you might say, for a band hailing from the City of Brotherly Love and Joe Frazier. The Philadelphia natives’ sophomore release demonstrates this credo with 10 rounds of three minute songs packed with emotional hooks and jabs, from the fury of ‘Atom Bomb’ to the anthemic ‘Hot Tramps’.
Lyrically, Alex covers familiar Beach Slang territory – adolescence, alienation and heartache – but his message of positivity to the broken kids he sings to on opener ‘Future Mixtape For The Art Kids’ shines throughout this record. Alex has stated in interviews that their follow up to The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us was inspired by stories relayed to him by fans he met touring that record. And although the subject matter is typical teen angst fare, it should strike a chord with anyone who can remember those days, even if they seem a lifetime ago. Songwriter Alex is a father now in his forties with a caring and wise perspective reflected in his lyrics; “I won’t let you break” (‘Future Mixtape For The Art Kids’), “I’m hardly ever right but I’ve never been wrong” (‘Spin The Dial’). And on ‘Young Hearts’, in reaching out to “nothing kids, restless and forgotten”, Alex could well be to those teenagers what Morrissey was to us in the Eighties.
Of course it helps that the music behind the words is unashamedly in thrall to classic guitar bands like Jawbreaker, The Replacements and Mega City Four. As with their previous record, Beach Slang enlisted Dave Downham to produce so don’t expect any seismic shifts in the band’s sound which sits neatly between Japandroids and The Gaslight Anthem. Alex still sounds like Richard Butler although his vocals are given unnecessary treatment in the mix on some songs, which only makes him sound cold and creepy when he is anything but. Indeed, the strongest songs on the record are those where his vocals are given room to emote, like on ‘Punks In A Disco Bar’ and ‘Art Damage’, the latter with its echoes of Psychedelic Furs possibly the best thing they’ve done since ‘Dirty Cigarettes’.
That this album arrives within 12 months of their debut is evidence of a band in a hurry and a songwriter who himself has recently admitted to enjoying a purple patch. A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings pays homage to the past whilst remaining vital in the present. It’s sincere, inspirational rock ‘n’ roll for old kids and young kids. Knockout stuff.