James Alex of Beach Slang found himself in an unexpected situation when he performed at Black Cat last October. He came solo on the heels of the band’s second studio album, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, released in September via Polyvinyl.
Beach Slang survived an apparent rift earlier in the year, but now the band’s [former] guitarist faced sexual assault allegations. James announced that he could not in good conscience tour with him, and the dynamics of the group were such that the lead singer merely set out alone in support of the new album.
Flash forward five months, and Black Cat welcomed a whole, healthy band, albeit one with two new members, to a sold-out show on Friday as Beach Slang opened for Minus the Bear. Now, James (vocals, guitar), Ed McNulty (bass), Aurore Ounjian (guitar), and Cully Symington (drums) were ready to take on the world, and the frontman was positively giddy to appear with this very strong new line-up.
James began the show with a toast to the audience, declaring he was drinking vodka and juice to stay “drunk and healthy” at the same time. “I’ll share the recipe with you, and we can all be marvelous together,” James quipped as he hoisted his glass.
“You *are* marvelous!” proclaimed a member of the audience, summing up the attitude of the surging crowd, which was clearly pleased to welcome a full Beach Slang band to its stage.
Throughout the show, a carefree James returned to riffs from “Smooth” by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas, offering by way of explanation no two musicians were more worthy of his admiration. That said, Beach Slang are most certainly informed by their punk forebears, and more likely specifically proto-punk pioneers like MC5 and The Stooges.
“When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love — l-u-v,” James said to the room several times, practicing the cadence of The New York Dolls, another certain influence, in quoting the line for their “Looking for a Kiss.” Once James is happy that he has the line down, Beach Slang roll into “Spin the Dial,” a song ostensibly about numbing your senses.
Buy A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings by Beach Slang on Bandcamp:
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Soon, James returns to his guitar cover of “Smooth” for a few more riffs. Indeed, cover versions ruled the night, as James chatted with the audience and his bandmates went along for the ride, playing whatever might strike his fancy.
As usual on this tour, Beach Slang perform a cover of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies toward the end of the show. Not content to end his flashbacks there on Friday, James launched into “Wonderwall” by Oasis.
The realizing that he still had some alcohol to finish, James announced the band learned a drinking song, which they would play while he gulped down the last swallows from his glass. Beach Slang played part of “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit while the drink was consumed.
Beach Slang closed their set with “Atom Bomb” from the new album, referencing “an atom bomb tick-tick-ticking” in a race through a punk thumper that would have made The Stooges proud.
The crowd loved the spontaneity of the show, and James appeared to be having the time of his life. The guy is a true showman, and he also is clearly a happy-go-lucky chap who values a good time. As this was my first time seeing Beach Slang live, my sure impression is that James would rather everyone have fun than to deliver a technically perfect show or to work too hard at meeting someone else’s expectations. That may make the show a bit unpredictable, but unpredictable is likely an ingredient in a good show for Beach Slang.
Beach Slang remain on the road tomorrow, March 30, in Buffalo, New York, and continue across the country for quite a while to wrap up in Milwaukee with Jimmy Eat World on May 19. (Then Beach Slang go to the United Kingdom only to return for more US dates in the summer.) Catch up with these Philly punks to see a great band feeling out its potential. The future is wide open for them.
Here are a few more pictures of Beach Slang performing at Black Cat on Friday, March 24, 2017.