1977 is the year of punk’s genesis, but it also endures as a signifier of authenticity brandished by listeners wishing for a return to those halcyon days of leather jackets, sneered upper lips, Sid Vicious on the street, and disco on the outs. Anyone who’s palled around an underground venue as a young adult might recall, with some reluctance, groups of uncouth youths self-described as 77ers looking to cause trouble, or at the very least, reaffirm all that’s dirty and fun about true punx living. (Like binge drinking, or knife crime.) The association is strange for Nude Beach, a three-piece rock band that’s more MC5 than the Misfits who have named their sophomore album 77 and produced a double album—the type of excess that the punks would’ve sneered at.
Their nostalgia is more broad than specific. Pitchfork’s Steven Hyden described 2011’s II as hitting those familiar bar band touch points of “mid-period Replacements, early Elvis Costello, all-eras Tom Petty,” and much of that has stayed true the second time around. You could add bands like Big Star, Cheap Trick, and the Buzzcocks, but why belabor the point? Bands like these are an inelastic good—as long as there are young men fueled by soft drugs and ennui, there will be songs that sound warmer with each depleted case of Keystone Light. The singing, which is handled by guitarist Chuck Betz and drummer Jimmy Shelton, has two modes, screamer and slacker, and works best in the former. Not that their musing about being stuck in neutral doesn’t evoke a certain wistful je ne sais quoi, but this “whatever’s good with me” attitude can get a little enervating. You’d rather hear someone explode.
Explode they do like “Yesterday” and “For a While” and “I Can’t Keep the Tears from Falling”, Betz’s guitar blaring brightly like an immaculately choreographed light display. “I Found You” is a particular standout—it’s the highway song War on Drugs would’ve written if their foot was mashed to the pedal. It sounds white hot, and obviously derivative, but it’s a good time. That’s where the band is most engaging, because their songwriting topics are blissfully generic; not that we all can’t empathize with the passing of time (“Time”) or the quest for love (“I Found You”), but the lyrics are rendered with such unspecific detail that they’re nearly anonymous. (Two exceptions: “The Witness”, which attempts to be conceptual, and the winsome “Geoffrey’s Tune”, a love song that appears to be sung toward another man, but could just as well be about a cat.) I mean: “It’s So Hard”, the eleventh track, is followed three songs later with “It’s So Hard to Love You”. Is there some thematic connective tissue? Well, sure, but Brecht it isn’t.
This would be less noticeable but for the fact that 77 is long; 18 tracks and 68 minutes, and you’d think that if a band insisted on staying around for so long they’d have more to say, or at least display more stylistic variation. Perhaps this is unfair; as they sing on “See My Way”, “It’s okay/ You don’t have to see my way.” (That’s an endearing feature here: Song titles that get right to the point.) And maybe it’s not always bad to want to have a good time without keeping your eye on the clock. Why begrudge their vibe? Their name, Nude Beach, refers to a place so casual that what was once erotic or salacious is cleaved of its politics or ideology. A place where it’s perfectly okay to just hang out, where everyone can have fun without too much trouble.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1w6Wsht