“You have to understand that you’re all gonna die” James Alex of Philadelphia’s Beach Slang explains to 150 or so Glaswegians. It’s a Friday night, the tiny basement of Glasgow’s Hug & Pint is rammed, the lager is flowing, none more so than on the stage. “So while you’re here you might as well be alive.”
From the first bar of ‘Throwaways’ it’s clear tonight’s show is going to be something a little different. The entire show teeters on the brink of collapse in much the same way that Beach Slang teeter on the edge of pretty much every punk rock cliche you can imagine but they never fall off. None of this would work if there was any shred of doubt that James Alex is anything less than 100% committed to every word he slurs, every lyric rasped and every guitar chord struck. He’s here to bring emotion back to punk, to make people breathe it, to make them feel that they’re part of something special. “We’re here to punch you right in the heart.” Indeed.
There’s no need to wonder where the inspiration comes from, Beach Slang are the Replacements 30 years on and they’re making absolutely no apologies for that, it’s exactly who they want to be. They talk about them between songs and they cover ‘Bastards of Young’. Their own songs all follow the same formula, they sound big, honest, brash and glorious throughout. They seem to rattle through pretty much every song they’ve ever written and even grab an audience member to sing a Jawbreaker cover.
Between songs they’re equally engaging. They like to chat, both to the audience and each other. Alex, clearly drunk and quickly getting drunker, is the charismatic life and soul of the party. There’s hugs all round, constant laughs and a lot of screwing around. However, as the night goes on the gaps between songs get longer and longer, at least ten minutes on a couple of occasions and some folks at the back begin to lose interest and drift off. “If punk rock is anything it should be efficient” laughs a mate of mine. Efficient Beach Slang are not, if they do this at a festival set like Primavera Sound this summer they’ll get about 3 songs played.
Eventually they get to set closer ‘Ride the Wild Haze’ which is electric and the 80% of the audience that are still here provide a rapturous reception. Dozens of people yell every lyric back at them or simply take over the singing duties altogether. The shows will soon start to get bigger and the essence of Beach Slang will cause a lot of people to completely fall in love with them while others disregard them. Here’s my own cliche, I’m firmly in the first camp, happy to commit. Alex is right, we’re not here for very long, don’t worry about the bullshit, just enjoy it while you can.