The Things We Do To Find People
Polyvinyl Records, 2015
Review by Kent Manthie
So, there’s this new band in town: Beach Slang. Their new album: The Things We Do To Find People has just hit the streets and news/reviews of it are popping up already, around the internet.
Anyway, the story goes that veteran Philadelphia punk-scenester, James Snyder, now in his mid-forties, has just reinvented himself with his new outfit, Beach Slang, which is a kind of new take on his proto- pop-punk band, Weston.
Snyder, being a sort of “elder statesman” of indie proto-pop-punk music, has come down from his perch, so to speak, to lead a pack of hungry new wolves, Beach Slang, who have a rocking, guitar-driven, fuzzy pop with a tinge of punk, catchy, rock grooves that, at first, well, caught me off guard. I guess, having been getting more, uh…let’s say “futuristic” or “neo-groove” indie music that was rock, for all practical purposes- hell, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll, just that there are so many subgenres- back in the early days you had this new sound of pop music which was a hybrid of old-time black-blues legends, like, say, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, then later, greats like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Elmore James and, of course, the man, Bo Diddley – and everyone digs Bo Diddley.
With a sound that recalls the prankster-funny-young smartasses, Descendents as well as sounding like Beach Slang’s new labelmates, Japandroids and perhaps, as I read in one write-up, a bit of Springsteen (?)- I don’t know about that latter comparison, though, i.e., Springsteen, unless you’re talking about the “Boss’s” gift for erudite, Dylan-esque lyrics, as evidenced a lot on his debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, like, on the two tunes Manfred Mann covered, which were actually bigger hits for Mann, than for Bruce (i.e., “Blinded By the Light” and “Spirits in the Night”). Then again, his debut was not altogether very well received, critically. Eventually, The Boss did get into the hearts and minds of many fans and critics over the next few years. But, I digress.
Songs like the blistering opener, “Throwaways” has a great context: the audience: are they the “Throwaways” from the song? The ones being sung to? Inspired by it to not give up and learn to love the underground? Then there’s “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”, a a funky little trip that moves you, out from the box and into the sandbox. Keep listening and you’ll find out why it’s “Too Late to Die Young” or find about about how to “Ride the Wild Haze”, realize what it’s really like to be “Young & Alive” and how you’d better make the most of this stage in life, because, in 10-20 years, you’re going to have memories from this time of your life and, man, wouldn’t it be so much better to have the knowledge that you rode the dragon, so to speak, that you made the most of it? You’ll also be exposed to a “Hard Luck Kid” and someone who breaks guitars (“I Break Guitars”). And when you die, you’ll expect, if not nothingness, then at least a “Noisy Heaven”. So, go with the guy who knows, James Snyder his new band, Beach Slang. This will prove to you that, despite what you may have heard or felt over the last year or two, “indie” music is not a static, isolated style of music.
Well, so, just to make it clear: ever since psychedelia in the 60s, through punk, reggae, ska, dub, hardcore, post-punk, goth, metal, speed metal, etc and in the past 20 years or so, what’s come to be known as “indie” -meaning music made by innovative, inventive sorts who had no use for big corporate labels and their A&R jerks trying to control the music and steer it so it will sell a lot of records and make the shareholders happy – fuck the shareholders!! – “indie music”, which, is not necessarily any homogeneous style of sound; more of an attitude which says “we’re going to do our music our way and we’re not giving an ounce of control to anyone! And if you corporate pigs don’t like it – GOOD! There are lots of small, niche-driven labels that can accommodate us (and they have, they do!)”. And, so, while the whole label “pop-punk” may have negative connotations to some for its associations with awful, commercial-driven, almost hypnotized cats who wanted to get rich and famous and get lots of girls and buy fast cars -the music came second. I’m thinking of those cats who just wanted to get as much attention as they could before the inevitable blowout and the “who are they?” moments which would come sooner or later. Thinking of bands like Green Day (yuck) or Blink-182 (blecch!) (juvenile class clowns who managed to squeeze out a few catchy hooks but were never taken seriously by anyone other than the 14 year old kids whose parents bought them the CDs) or the dreck of the Good Charlottes, The Used, Rancid (yeah, they have about as much to do with punk as my grandma) and countless, forgettable others. In the indie game, of course, there are going to be those who come and go and may never get a big name or go far at all, but these things were not those kind of artists’ interest in the first place. They wanted to play music because they loved to play music. It was the catharsis, the rush of the stagelights, the screaming fans, the fact that there were scattered around the US, many “outsider” types, “misfits” or those who don’t conform to silly teenage bullshit rites.
That’s where Beach Slang comes in. An indie band, ready to continue in that fine tradition. Their full-on speed-rush music is a great tonic for the times when you, as a teen, for instance, come home from a stressful day at school, for example – other kids on your ass about “why you wanna dress that way” or teachers who keep pestering you to study more and memorize, by rote, all these figures, formulae and dates, which, without a context in which to utilize them, will quickly become meaningless. This is the reason for good history classes sometimes in better high schools – or “prep schools” or at least college, when you can put what you’re learning now together with what you can remember about the scraps of knowledge you gained in high school. I gotta say, though, that, looking back, from a wide vantage point, I realize now that I have taught myself a hell of a lot more from reading books of my own choosing or from TV shows on educational channels, etc. than what they attempted to inculcate into me in school.
Anyway, the beat goes on, as they say, and this record will, like its contemporaries, like Japandroids, for instance, move you in a way that you don’t notice, maybe the first time listening, but eventually gives you an epiphany after a few listens that grabs you by the shirt and screams – get it?? – and, what happens? You do! It’s a very pleasing situation to be in when that occurs. So – get out there and rejoice!! Stand up and take notice!!! -KM. [To get to Polyvinyl Records from here, simply click: https://www.polyvinylrecords.com – K]