Punk rock band Beach Slang hasn’t introduced anything new with its album “The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City,” released Jan. 10. The Philadelphia natives try to capture classic rock but without a clear creative direction or emotional depth, it leaves the listener craving the original hits.
Classical violins open the album in the instrumental “All the Kids in LA,” but that symphony quickly shifts into electric guitars and commanding drums, leading the album into three fast-paced tracks.
The slightly faded tone of “Let It Ride” makes the track feel like an homage to classic rock, but as the album continues, it leaves the listener wondering why they’re not just listening to actual oldies. “Tommy In The 80s” has the structure and sound of iconic ‘80s jams “Jessie’s Girl” and “867-5309/Jenny” without the payoff of an infectious hook. Lacking the earworm chorus, the song becomes repetitive and annoying.
The intrigue of this rock revival quickly fades because Beach Slang doesn’t develop its own sound. A band doesn’t have to reinvent rock ‘n’ roll to succeed but it needs more than nostalgia — it needs a unique voice.
A pair of acoustic ballads, “Nobody Say Nothing” and “Nowhere Bus,” break up the oldies nostalgia. These stripped-back tracks reveal frontman James Alex’s rasp sorely lacks emotion and subtly.
The tone feels forced — like he’s trying to achieve a Dashboard Confessional-level of emotion but he just can’t get there. Dashboard Confessional’s early 2000s emo tracks might not be the most groundbreaking works, but they won people over with genuine passion and vulnerability that Alex doesn’t achieve.
The violin and piano try to compensate for Alex’s blandness, but the unimpressive lyrics don’t help. Alex repeats the sentence “I’m a one-way ticket on a nowhere bus” for the entirety of “Nowhere Bus.”
There’s plenty of self-loathing songs that tug on heart strings and let those struggling know they’re not alone, but this just comes across as lazy writing. The antithesis to Journey’s “she took the midnight train going anywhere” isn’t the answer.
Bass-driven “Stiff” and gritty “Born to Raise Hell” jolt the listener back to rocking out. The guitar riffs and drum fills are fun and would likely be entertaining in concert, but also serve as a distraction from the lack of emotion. The facade doesn’t last for long when the tracks again become repetitive — the beginning of “Sticky Thumbs” sounds nearly identical to the previous track “Born to Raise Hell.”
The album dedicated to rock closes out with a nearly seven-minute piano ballad about death. In “Bar No One” Alex pleads to “make sure I look pretty laying in my grave.”
The last two and a half minutes of the song are the most experimental and sonically interesting aspect of the entire album. With creative instrumental layering, recordings played backwards and playful children speaking, the end of the album stands completely apart from the body of work as a whole.
“The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City” is now streaming on all platforms.