LIVE: Beach Slang/Cassels, Scala, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

It might be easy to label the Philadelphia’s Beach Slang as “scuzzy/fuzzy/sloppy punk” and fawn them off as a band who “do that sound well”. You could, but it would take away all the charm and lovability that James Alex and co bring to the table.

Despite having to kick out a guitarist, see a drummer leave of his own accord and nearly breaking up altogether on stage, 2016’s ‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings’ was a fantastic sophomore record for the group. The rescheduled London date is given further traction as Beach Slang’s UK distributor Big Scary Monsters provides them a space to perform an acoustic set at their pop up store in Hackney.

Oxfordshire’s Cassels are added onto the bill a few hours before they’re meant to go on stage, a sentiment that the two-piece find rather surreal. Alongside Jim Beck’s fuzzy tinged guitar lines and Loz Beck’s furiously tight drumming, comes a real sense of twee and honesty with their social commentary in their songs.

Even when bum notes are hit or a drum stick gets broken midway through a song, the beck brothers battle on through.  In-between songs their deadpan stage banter about food shopping and stage altercations is charming to say the least.  Closing on their antihero anthem ‘Hating Is Easy’ feels like a given with those familiar with Cassels by now, but it really showcases how much they’ve nailed their sound down to a tee.

“We are Beach Slang, and we are here to punch you in the heart”, declares James Alex as he windmill strums the opening chord into ‘Punks At A Disco Bar’. At their core Beach Slang are a powerhouse of rock & roll bravado that bring sentimentality that you didn’t even know was there. Audience members at the front tustle around and diligently finger point along and yet even with a push pit amalgamating in the centre it all feels very inclusive and non threatening. It’s almost as if the atmosphere of a friendship laden weekend house show has been brought on a bigger scale to the reasonably sized London venue.

As is customary with Beach Slang, Alex has no problem with bridging the barrier between the audience and the stage, bringing a participant with him to play lead guitar for ‘Warpaint’. It’s not perfect of course, but as Alex points out: “Hey, if you wanted to hear us play perfectly, you could have stayed home and listened to the records instead’. With other bands a sentiment like that might seem a bit standoffish, but here it just feels heartfelt and all the more reason to see them live.

Of course, no Beach Slang set would be perfect without a few covers. Embodying their heroes, a rendition of ‘Alex Chilton’ by The Replacements goes down a treat, as well as bringing yet more people on stage for The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.

Ending on ‘Young & Alive’ once again the Philly indie rascals manage to tug at our heartstrings and leave us yearning for more. There’s a real sense of carefree innocence at their shows and tonight is no exception.  “The night is alive, it’s loud and I’m drunk’ from ‘Noisy Heaven’ sums up everything great about tonight’s weirdo punk offerings from Beach Slang.