Photo: The Barfly
The Barfly, London
January 27 2016
Words: Linn Branson
With their having been gloriously reviewed earlier this week in Glasgow, tonight's first foray into London (or should that be takeover?) for a sold-out Barfly show, left expectations at fever pitch for Philly punks Beach Slang. We, the capital's arbiters of music taste don't let bands off easily: we were wanting to be treated to a 'big' moment, transfixed, moved to the heights and brought back down to earth - eventually - exclaiming we had just seen the new future of rock 'n' roll (part X). Remember those first London gigs by Parquet Courts and The Orwells where they totally owned the notoriously difficult London crowd? Well, we bloody wanted a Third Coming tonight. That okay with you, Beach Slang? Good. Now go for it.
And that they did. With barely room to breathe in a space packed shoulder-to-shoulder with bodies, they fired through what almost felt like their own personal party night. The group’s singer-guitarist James Alex is a man with the experience – at the age of 41 you can be sure he's been around the block a few times – enough to know how to work a room. Though so deftly done is his patter of sing a bit, joke a bit, tell a few stories and play to the gallery, that it all seems so perfectly random and artfully shambolic (such as the uproariously aborted ‘Too Late To Die Young’ where drummer JP Flexner and bassist Ed McNulty change roles) that you almost wonder if the patter has been as well-rehearsed as their long-awaited debut album, 'The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us', which materialised last autumn.
Though the set tonight perhaps in song count lasts slightly longer than the album's 30 minutes, it is padded with plenty of party style bonhomie, flowing as easily as the pints being swigged in abandonment, both on and off-stage by band and crowd alike.
"I know what cigarettes I like - the dirrrty kind!" Alex yelps with a lascivious grin, as he belts into ‘Dirty Cigarettes’, followed by ‘American Girls & French Kisses’, which turns up the heat in the front rows to sauna point as the crowd let rip. ‘Throwaways’, ‘Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas', ‘Too Late To Die Young’, and ‘Dirty Lights’ all keep the room on fire.
Joined by Senseless Things' Ben Harding they cover the latter's ‘Too Much Kissing’, it proves just one of many top set moments, along with The Replacements' 'Bastards Of Young' - a band whom Alex is much indebted to. A cover of early 90s American punk rockers Jawbreaker’s ‘Boxcar’ comes in the unruly extended finale, along with ‘Ride The Wild Haze’.
Without doubt, London loves Beach Slang, and Beach Slang seem to have enjoyed their brief sojourn this time around on British soil. At one point early on in the set, Alex, with broad smile, is given to comment that, "If the plane goes down on the way home, you'll know that James Alex died fucking happy!"
Beach Slang return to the UK in June. Go see 'em.