EP Review: Beach Slang – “Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street”

Everyone is talking about Beach Slang now. I thought they were a Pitchfork approved Wavves type of band, the kind of tangentially punk rock that gets in hard with the indie crowd and stays there. I was wrong. They may have some crossover, but that’s not the hole they fill. Beach Slang is a punk band of the Menzingers, Jawbreaker, and Replacements variety, playing personal, lyrically driven punk rock filled with big choruses and thick chords. Everyone is talking about them for good reason too, they’re immediately arresting artists, and while Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street isn’t perfect, it doesn’t stray too far from the goal.

“All Fuzzed Out” has both heavy power chords that form walls of sound and twinkling leads, but its the poetry that plaintively cries through it that carries the song. For all the heart-on-the-sleeve cliches punk writers like to throw out to bands like this, Beach Slang doesn’t bury the lead and claims, with a sense of melancholy that “…all of these sounds are really just my heart plugged in and played loud.” Its a line that gives me shivers, and a battle cry for emotional punk rock everywhere.

“Dirty Cigarettes” has a big, Gaslight Anthem-esque chorus to drive it, but its fuzzier sheen gives it a sense of basement sing-a-long rather than arena-seating. In fact, if there was any doubt where Beach Slang’s heart lies, the song “American Girls and French Kisses” includes a chorus of “it’s Friday night and I’m in the basement screaming out my lungs with my best friends!” While it may be a little too on the nose for some, I like that Beach Slang takes these ideas that surround the music they play– heartfelt punk, the basement as sanctuary– and own them in their lyrics. It becomes a part of the art, rather than just a descriptive cliche, and in a strange way it makes Beach Slang seem a lot more aware than some of their contemporaries.

The EP ends with the acoustic ballad “We Are Nothing,” a song about those who fall to youthful follies, and those that lived and didn’t fall. The “we are nothing like them” refrain isn’t loaded with hope, its a reflection of delusion and the routine of fucking up. For me, the song seems to point to the truth that some of us are just waiting to get caught.

Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street is the kind of EP that sneaks up on you. The lyricism is tight and vivid, and I love the way it takes the only things we ever say about releases like this and puts them into far more poetic words. They do falter at points (the “American girls and French kisses” refrain gets a single nod of approval, then upon each repetition a chorus of louder groans), but when they work, they’re incredibly affecting. The hooks are strong, and the musicianship has that kind of chunky emo coloring that I wish more bands would embrace. Its as heavy and alive as the words it supports, and in a scene where music is just amplified heartbeats, there’s nothing more to wish for.

4/5 Stars

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