Teenage Feelings is all about defiance.
Beach Slang’s second album certainly earns the award for Most Literal Album Title of the Year. A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is exactly what it says it is: a slew of punk rock anthems about the dramas that affect most angsty teenagers. The arrangements are loud, a bevy of kickdrums and squealing guitars. And frontman James Alex’s vocals frequently sound like he’s singing from the depths of a grungy basement, the effect making his wails seem at once primal and like the rallying cry of the alienated.
And while this album is meant for the disaffected youth, it doesn’t wallow in sadness. Teenage Feelings is all about defiance, as any good punk effort should be. In the very opening track, “Future Mixtape for the Art Kids,” Alex cries, “We’re not lost/ We are dying in style/ We’re not fucked/ We are fucking alive.” It’s a little heavy-handed, but it captures the essence of teenage punk: overdramatic but no less emotionally valid. The sentiment, if not the phrasing, is perhaps better fleshed out in “Atom Bomb” with the pointed, screamed chorus “I’m an atom bomb/ Tick, tick, ticking!” Rather than some announcement of impending doom, the line conveys more a sentiment of untapped potential. After all, Alex says “I’m too fucked up to burn out.” Teenage invincibility still prevails here, even in songs about pain, drugs and fatalism.
In their short lifespan as a band, Beach Slang have been compared to The Replacements plenty of times, but “Spin the Dial” truly captures the same spirit of The Replacements while nodding to “Alex Chilton” in its bright guitar (compared to the scuzz of most of these tracks) and the classic “Left of the Dial” with its title. But Beach Slang are much more than vivid throwbacks, as evidenced by Alex’s initial plea on “Future Mixtape for the Art Kids” to “Play it loud/ Play it fast/ Play me something that will always last.” “Art Damage,” though, truly lays out the band’s feelings on their hopes for a musical legacy. There’s very little subtlety to the lyrics “When I die/ Bury me in the clothes of my youth/ Throw my dust in the streets/ Where I got alive with you.” What’s clear is that, above all else, the band want to translate raw energy and the desire to belong into music. When a band writes songs with this much emotional fervor, it’s not surprising their fans are as loyal as they are.
That said, the fist-pumping on Teenage Feelings resorts to a lot of tired, overused imagery. Clichéd song titles like “Punks in a Disco Bar,” “Wasted Daze of Youth” and “Young Hearts” are simply precursors to tales of ex lovers and bored teens roaming the streets. These roughly drawn teenagers are referred to as “broken kids,” “dead-end kid” and “nothing kids.” And then there are Alex’s grand pronouncements meant to illustrate just how outcast these outcast kids are: “I’m garbage thoughts and dirty knees” (“Punks in a Disco Bar); “It made us saints of danger” (“Young Hearts”); “I was born at the bottom/ But I never belonged” (“Spin the Dial”). Beach Slang’s intention is to champion these raw, unfiltered feelings (not to be confused with “Hot Tramps” and the inscrutable lyric “I can’t love you raw enough”), but the clumsier attempts are just lucky to be saved by the album’s overall endearing messiness.