For over 20 years, the lively but fidelity-challenged One Night in America was the only readily available evidence of the Plimsouls' status as one of America's best live bands during the 1980s, but it's our good fortune that Peter Case has taken to rummaging through his closet. In 2010, he unearthed Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal, which documented a hot Halloween night show at the Whiskey in 1981, and now Beach Town Confidential allows us to relive a 1983 Plimsouls gig at the Golden Bear club in Huntington Beach, California. While Everywhere at Once (released earlier the same year) dominates the set list, Plimsouls obsessives will be pleased to know some genuine rarities show up on Beach Town Confidential, including "Who's Gonna Break the Ice?" (a solo version by Case appeared on the soundtrack to the faulty teen comedy The Wild Life) and "Hobo" (a surf-ish instrumental that surfaced as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Everywhere at Once), and the band tears through a fistful of well-chosen covers, including Moby Grape's "Fall on You," the Flamin' Groovies' "Jumpin' in the Night" (with Keith Streng of the Fleshtones joining the 'Souls on guitar), and the Creation's "Making Time." The audio is crisp and captures the rowdy ambience of the packed house, but the real thrill of this album is hearing the Plimsouls at the top of their game. The band is ferociously tight and hits the songs hard without robbing them of their melodic grace, and Case's vocals are pure rock & roll fervor. And how many bands of this era could come up with songs as undeniable as "A Million Miles Away," "How Long Will It Take?," and "Shaky City"? You could argue that Beach Town Confidential doesn't tell us much about the Plimsouls that we don't already know, and that may be true, but few bands merged melody, force, and sheer belief as well as these guys did on a good night, and they were having a very good one when these tapes rolled. A thrill for longtime fans and a revelation for anyone who pegged the Plimsouls as just another L.A. power pop band.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming