Quiet Slang – Everything Matters But No One Is Listening
If you're a huge fan of Beach Slang already, you'll likely find more than enough to love about these candlelit versions of some of the band's most popular songs
Beach Slang have always had the the tendency to sound a little over-earnest. With vocalist/guitarist James Alex's insatiable obsession with The Replacements among others clearly informing a lot of what he does, there is an apparent longing to present himself and the characters in his songs as perpetual underdogs. Pretty, tragic, John Hughes-ian weirdos and broken things stuck in small towns who can only live, love or create and whose drunk, reckless behaviour is the only salvation from the mundane reality of adult life. Which would be interesting, if it wasn't the subject of pretty much every single song.
To his credit though, Alex has often convincingly tapped into those twin veins of nostalgia and hopeless romanticism that coarse through the bodies of his idols to create some genuine bangers of his own (Filthy Luck, Punks in a Disco Bar, Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas for example) even if they do sound creepily close to the source material. However, with Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, his first record as Quiet Slang – a new project reimagining and reworking his own songs into softer, orchestral arrangements – it feels as though he's laying it on a bit thick. Thicker than usual in fact.
Alex's British inflections (he's from Pennsylvania) and hushed delivery sound like he's trying to inject so much more meaning and drama into his words than they really need, and it comes across a little disingenuous. But the main reason that doesn't work so well is because many of his songs and their lyrics are actually pretty decent on their own and don't need him to point out when and where to feel certain things. If he wasn't hamming it up all the time, you could believe these were real feelings and not just slogans.
However, while it would be easy to pan this as just another stop-gap novelty, there are plenty of times when these songs actually suit the format, almost to the point where you wonder if this is what Alex would have rather done from the beginning. The aforementioned Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas, for example, is one of the more rousing and instantly infectious Beach Slang songs and it actually works pretty well here with all the rough stuff planed off. It makes for a perfect opener and sets the tone for the album, largely because every song from here on in pretty much follows the same tone/format as the last. Comparatively, the songs of quicker pace or more fiddly riffs (such as Filthy Luck and Future Mixtape For the Art Kids) come across a little clumsy and jaunty, whereas slower songs such as Too Late To Die Young and Throwaways actually benefit from being allowed to breathe a little more, even if they do just sound like Paul Westerberg songs.
It's a bit of a confusing album to rate to be honest; if you're a huge fan of the band already, you'll likely find more than enough to love about these candlelit versions of some of the band's most popular songs. Given the nature of the format, it wouldn't be a recommended entry point for Beach Slang, but the chances are you'd find one or two songs here palatable enough to seek out more. If you're a Replacements fan you'll either think this fills the Westerberg-shaped hole in your life or you'll tear your hair out and curse at just how audaciously similar some of these songs are. Still, whatever side of the fence you might sit on, it's probably worth a listen to find out.
Listen to: Too Late To Die Young, Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas