Beach Slang The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City
Published Jan 08, 2020There will probably never be another band quite like the Replacements, but Beach Slang are here to try. The Philly band's new record, The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City, triples down on their Replacements obsession by bringing on one-quarter of the legendary band's original lineup in bassist Tommy Stinson. And with Stinson on board, and another round of swear-you've-heard-it-before songs in pocket, The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City brings Beach Slang closer than ever to actually becoming the 'Mats.
Beach Slang arrived in 2015 fully formed, purveyors of wide-eyed horniness and teenage hero worship — rock songs about rock songs. The lyrical motifs that James Alex mined on their debut — being drunk and heartbroken, discovering oneself through music, driving fast and turning up the radio — were fun on first contact, but they've remained largely unchanged in the records since.
His musical choices are nearly as immovable, though Deadbeat Bang has a couple tricks up its sleeve. Lush strings waltz through "Nobody Say Nothing" and sister song "Nowhere Bus," while "Tommy in the 80s" — essentially "Alex Chilton" for Tommy Keene — incorporates some '80s arena synths.
The album's best moments, like the incandescent horns on "Kicking Over Bottles," make a convincing argument for Beach Slang as conduits for their heroes. However, the band's increasingly-difficult-to-ignore problem remains — these songs are rock as high school musical theatre, every feeling blown to 11 and played to the back row. Narrative detail is obliterated in service of stories so broad and trope-laden, they become meaningless.
The Replacements were so luminescent because they played their bizarre, specific brand of rock for the kids at the front, all snot, spit and sweat. In trying so blatantly to recapture that magic, The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City can't help but feel like a lot of smoke and mirrors. (Bridge Nine)