Veteran songwriter James Alex built his band Beach Slang from teenage nostalgia and wonder-struck earnestness, wrapping heart-on-sleeve sentiments in hooks borrowed directly from the Replacements. Alex would be the first to admit an obsession with the 'Mats, and he channeled their rugged blue collar pop into his own idealistic and catchy albums. Loud guitars, racing heartbeats, and youthful excitement encapsulated the best Beach Slang moments, and third album Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City pushes those elements even further. If the nods to the Replacements weren't enough before, the ante is upped considerably with the addition of their original bassist Tommy Stinson as a new member. Stinson's authentic pedigree and feel add to tunes already deeply indebted to his old band like the rowdy shuffle of "Let It Ride" or anthemic album standout "Tommy in the 80s." With a barrage of synth melodies and wistful lyrics about lively city streets on a Saturday night, "Tommy in the 80s" offers the best combination of Beach Slang's emotional signifiers and high-energy power pop production. The acoustic guitars and strings of "Nobody Say Nothing" recall the same subdued territory Alex explored as Quiet Slang, a project that found him reworking songs with stripped-down arrangements. When not working in wide-eyed pop, Alex's songwriting goes in the direction of sleazy hard rockers. Slithery tunes like "Stiff" or "Born to Raise Hell" feel out of place surrounded by airy two-chord blasters like "Kicking Over Bottles." Beach Slang toed the line on earlier albums with their Replacements-worship, but Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City pushes them over that line. Choruses, riffs and harmonies sound familiar because they're cribbed straight from some of the Replacements' best-known songs. The genuine sweetness and naivete that made this bald-faced theft more forgivable on earlier albums is harder to find here, leaving songs that are catchy enough but ultimately feel like hollow impersonations of someone else's work.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas