Beach Slang frontman James Alex is a musician, and person, for whom sincerity is everything. That comes across in the loud, adrenaline-fueled rock ‘n’ roll songs he writes for his band, tunes which draw winning comparisons to the charging fury of Japandroids and the heart-on-sleeve irascibility of The Replacements. but also in person, where he comes across as bereft of irony and full of optimism.
Unfortunately, Thursday’s show in Columbia will have the frontman playing a solo acoustic set, as the band recently jettisoned guitarist Ruben Gallego over sexual assault allegations. But Beach Slang’s strongest attribute is still Alex’s forthright commitment to emotional honesty.
What: Quiet Slang (Beach Slang frontman James Alex solo)
Where: New Brookland Tavern, 122 State St.
When: Thursday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m.
With: Bleached, Hunny
More: 803-791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com
“I think there's an importance to wearing your heart on your sleeve,” Alex says. “We kind of went through [as a music scene] enough of that jaded, guarded, almost embarrassed to be optimistic thing. It's time for — if that was a movement or an action, it's time for a reaction against that. I wrote this one line on the new record — ‘Bury your heart without apology’— you know? That's the feeling, man.”
That line is one of many shout-along quotables that mark each Beach Slang song. Alex’s subject matter remains almost unerringly consistent across the few EPs and two full-lengths the band has released, exulting in a youthful excess of emotion with Westerberg-ian romanticism that finds reprieve in loud and brash guitars tempered by power-pop melodies.
“We are not alone, we are not mistakes,” he bellows on “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas.” “Don’t whisper now, we’re allowed to be loud.”
Like Japandroids circa 2012, Beach Slang became critical favorites thanks to their full-throated reclamation of earnest, anthemic rock music, something Alex became keenly aware of as the group toured on last year’s The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. Nevertheless, he wrote the follow-up quickly while on tour earlier this spring, and A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings arrived last month as the perfect companion album, reveling in the ethos of the first album while stretching the band just enough to feel some forward progress.
“I tried to knock it off and not feel the pressure of that. The whole thing is just doing the thing that feels true and honest to me at the time, and not getting affected by the idea of falling short,” Alex explains. “I think what I did in my head was rewire the thinking to be, instead of feeling pressure, just feeling a responsibility to people who cared about the first record. I don't mean like labels or managers or stuff, I mean people who listen to rock 'n' roll and care about it. I think when I thought about it that way, all of a sudden it became like 'Yeah man, just do the thing you do. Sit down with your guitar and write rock songs.' And it burned some of what could have been pressure away.”
The album opens with another gem of thesis-driven songwriting as “Future Mixtape For the Art Kids” proclaims, “Play it loud, play it fast / Play me something that will always last / Play it soft, play it quiet / Play me something that might save my life,” but eventually moves into newer and more dissonant territory.
“We get Japandroids and the Mats and Jawbreaker stuff a lot, but I really love Brit-pop and shoegaze and that new wave stuff. That's sort of resting in me,” Alex points out. “I tried to write some things, with things like ‘Wasted Daze of Youth’ or ‘Perfect High,’ that almost tilt more shoegaze than punk. And I see Beach Slang moving in that direction. Hopefully I hinted at it enough on this record that when LP three comes out, maybe you'll see the movement and us starting to evolve a little bit [more].”
Sonically, as with his writing, Alex remains true to himself. The way he sees it, our time is too short to do anything less.
“We're all running around this place never knowing when life is gonna end,” he says. “I don't want to have taken my last breath with all of this stuff I wanted to say to people bottled up because I felt embarrassed of my feelings. So it's that, that it's okay to do it. There's an importance to that for me.”