I saw Beach Party at a warehouse show in the wet and gray heart of industrial Portland, where hustle and bustle slows to a crawl and the only skyline is one of mechanical desolation. Beach Party played second and I was immediately taken in by their tight and sleek approach to emotional punk rock. Through snippets of remembered lyrics, and half recalled, yet vibrant melodies, I realized that I was listening to something worth remembering. It was the kind of punk that guys in flannel close their eyes and bob their heads to, and it was executed perfectly.
Broken Machine is their latest album and on it the band resemble a streamlined and more aggressive Menzingers, or a punkier Sunny Day Real Estate. Jawbreaker-esque is overused, but apt. They’re a stone’s throw from emo, but louder and more confrontational, never allowing confessional lyrics to sand down the edges of their music into a reliable but anachronistic rocking chair.
The album opens with “Carelessly Defined.” It welcomes us to Broken Machine with a low and bassy riff coupled with subtle feedback. It includes a great chorus and some melodic guitar leads that cuts through the low end like some kind of ethereal dagger. Beach Party music works for me because of the fundamental battle between the sonic choices they make. Throughout Broken Machine, there are big poppy hooks, growly bass riffs, sinister creeping feedback, and tight harmonies. Its emotional punk rock that never succumbs to being boring, and the reason it works and is an affecting work, is because Beach Party never shies away from bringing in these more visceral musical elements to supplement and counterpoint their sugary-sweet pop instincts.
“Nightmares” shows the band employing dissonance and absolutely crushing chords. “Are We Still Alive” has a great hook and a wonderfully busy little riff that propels it through its verses, all coupled with an incredibly throat-shredding lead vocal performance that makes for a hooky tune that is as arresting as it is catchy. Broken Machine ends with “It’s All It’s Only,” a singalong strung together by big alt-rock riffs that goes quiet and then works itself into a mighty crescendo.
Broken Machine is a window into the great songwriting minds that you pass everyday on the street. It’s not new or revolutionary, in fact, one could say Beach Party is built on the backs of a canon of similar bands. But, the value comes in the execution. Broken Machine is a great album that fills a niche that a lot of bands miss in favor of arpeggios ad nauseum. Revolutionary? No. But, ultimately when we listen to music, we go back for the songs. Its honest expression, expressed well. The same way a friend who gives you a hug after a long absence says a lot more than, “I missed you.” Beach Party has a similar uncanny ability to get to the heart of the matter through words and sound.