Slaughter Beach, Dog – a band name that invites impressions of slacker surfer dudes responding to a question as to where they are going – quietly produced one of the stand out albums of 2018. Birdie was an infectious commingling of rock, pop, indie, and folk, principally driven by Jake Ewald, formerly of Modern Baseball. (The story goes that Slaughter Beach, Dog began life as a side project, Modern Baseball being something of a Sebadoh, in that Ewald shared song writing duties with childhood friend Brendan Lukens – and then Modern Baseball went on an extended hiatus (“Let’s not call it a break-up,” Ewald is reported as saying) and, it appears Slaughter Beach, Dog has shifted ever so slightly from solo side project to the main thing that Ewald does.)
Where Birdie was a largely solo affair, this time he has drafted in some help with the addition of bassist Ian Farmer (Modern Baseball), Nick Harris (All Dogs) and Zack Robbins (Superheaven). Much of what was charming about Birdie is apparent too: there are low-key indie strummers with sweet laidback vocal musings courtesy of Ewald (see opener ‘One Down’ which sees him getting loaded and coming home late at night, ‘Dogs’ which has a short story quality and yet somehow rings with a simple truthfulness and ‘Anything’, which closes out the album and is the pop sing equivalent of a smashing kiss) and there are chunky indie-stompers (‘Good Ones, for instance, or ‘Tangerine’ or ‘Heart Attack’, all of which more than justify the price of admission).
But. But. How I hate to write that but. You get the sense that, new band members in tow, Slaughter Beach, Dog are trying a few new things out this time (when we’d go as far to say that they haven’t quite refined their sound). So you have a few misshapen things that can’t quite work out what they want to do with themselves: ‘Black Oak’, a six-minute plus swing at recreating a Slint mood, and ‘Petersburg’ with all of the hurdy-gurdy vocal nonsense, we’re looking firmly at you. Ah you might say, though, two duff (ish) tracks on a 10 song album aint so bad. You’re right. But those songs come slap bang in the middle and really jerk the pacing. And it means, when you place Safe & Also No Fear against Birdie it comes up ever so slightly wanting.
So check out Birdie. Go. Now. Check it out. Listen to ‘Gold and Green’ and ‘Pretty Okay’ and ‘Fish Fry’ a couple hundred times. Then (you can skip thanking us – you’re already welcome) come check out Safe & Also No Fear wearing your best slightly forgiving hat in order not to be too bothered by the mis-steps.
Words by Pete Wild