October 20, 2017 Beach Slang – We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags (EP Review)
When Beach Slang charged onto the scene in 2014 with the release of two killer EPs, the band became known for their hazy guitar riffs, crashing drums, and heartfelt lyrics. The Philadelphia, PA, quartet have since put out two LPs, 2015’s The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us and 2016’s A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, both of which expand on that fuzzy Rock sound Beach Slang have become known for.
However, Vocalist/Guitarist James Alex has decided to strip away that sound and soften it on Beach Slang’s latest EP, We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags. This new project, appropriately called Quiet Slang, turns down the volume and replaces those wild guitars with thoughtful pianos and cello. This EP, released October 20th, shifts the focus to Alex’s tender lyrics on two re-imagined Beach Slang tracks and covers classics by Big Star and The Replacements.
First up is a new spin on the opener of A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings. “Future Mixtape for the Art Kids” begins with Alex singing, “Play it loud, play it fast,” yet this new version does neither. However, Alex’s lyrics are tender and sweet, well-suited to the plugging piano and cello that drive this new version. The spotlight now shines on Alex’s vampiric vocals and while the lyrics remain the same as the original, the shift in sound also acts like a shift in narrative.
Where the Beach Slang version is played loud and fast and tells the story of a wild night, the Quiet Slang version is like a daytime drive with the windows rolled down. The same can be said of “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas,” originally heard on The Things We Do…., now featuring thoughtful cello and softer vocals from Alex than ever heard before. The bright piano calls to mind a sunny day, and the song now seems even more hopeful than its louder counterpart.
Following those originals are covers of The Replacements classic “Androgynous” and everyone’s favorite Big Star slow dance, “Thirteen.” Both pay fitting tribute to their sources, but the “Androgynous” cover seems extra special in light of recent political events. While not especially different from the original, Alex’s vocals are a fitting call back to Paul Westerberg’s and the plucky piano keeps the song’s character alive.
There is plenty to like about this Quiet Slang project, especially for those who are already Beach Slang fans. This new EP shows another side to Alex’s songwriting abilities, and thankfully he has stated that more Quiet Slang is on the way. For its thoughtful re-interpretations, CrypticRock gives We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags 4.5 out of 5 stars.