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Review: Beach Slang, 'A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings'

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Beach Slang, <em>A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings</em>.
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Beach Slang, A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings.

Sometimes album titles really do say it all: A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings, the second full-length album by the Philly rock band Beach Slang, pulls off exactly what it promises. A spiritual descendent of The Replacements — as well as a sonic cousin to bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Japandroids, who share its gift for dramatic pronouncements about life, death and rock 'n' roll — Beach Slang rattles the rafters with grace, power and concision. It's likely no accident that A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings clocks in at almost exactly 30 minutes.

These are songs by and for the alienated, out-of-place, searching and otherwise disconnected — subjects referenced in song titles like "Punks In A Disco Bar," "Young Hearts" and "Future Mixtape For The Art Kids" — and each pocket anthem is clearly the work of a band that knows its rock 'n' roll history. It's not just in the echoes of the Replacements song "Alex Chilton" that reverberate through "Spin The Dial," though that particular reference point is hard to miss. It's also in the way singer James Alex channels singers like Bruce Springsteen, who understand rock's ability to echo and amplify youth's heady cocktail of hurt, hope, fear, fatalism, first love and loss of innocence — what you might call "teenage feelings."

"I'm an atom bomb, tick-tick-ticking," Alex warns in "Atom Bomb," packing an awful lot of portent into a simple shout-along chorus. But for all its bluntness, A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings aims for something raw and too rare: a sense of real connection with a crowd that hangs on James Alex's every word. It's one thing — a great thing — to rock out. It's another to attempt something as exposed and sincere as rocking out while also aiming to inspire.

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Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)