When Beach Slang first began to make waves, their raw and distorted punk tunes proudly wore the influence of Replacements and Husker Du. Like these artists, James Alex always tempered the raw chaos of the distorted punk rock music with barely restrained melody. Fans desperate to take in as much Beach Slang as possible have already found stripped down versions of Beach Slang songs online and positive feedback likely helped to spur Alex’ exploration of the milder roots of these songs.
With such a small discography, it does feel slightly disappointing that there are no original songs on this release. Every song is a stripped-down version of an already released Beach Slang track. The good news is that Alex chose the tracks wisely, with a balanced selection from the group’s releases. The original version of Dirty Cigarettes was a driving alternative track, with plenty of feedback to punctuate the angst. The Quiet Slang version is a meandering, sombre track that draws the melancholy out of the lyrics. It is interesting to hear how the accompaniment can so drastically alter the tone of a song. Some tracks don’t deviate as much from their source, such as Too Late to Die Young, but the reworked version still warrants a listen.
While the removal of the punk aesthetic is jarring at first, the focus on beautiful melodies allows the listener to focus more intently on the lyrics. Where Alex sings about teenage angst, existentialism and messy relationships, the pretty melody created by piano and cello contrasts the rawness of his words. The concept sounds flawed, but somehow it works well. Listeners who crave the chaos of Alex’ previous releases may be turned off by the gentle turn here, but those who were attracted to the band for their lyrics should enjoy the new format.