Spin The Dial; James Alex of Quiet Slang discusses his favorite alternative treatments of songs

James Alex, the frontman of Philadelphia’s fiery punk quartet Beach Slang has a new project that isn’t exactly new. Quiet Slang is a direct confrontation to the trembling walls of distortion that serve as Beach Slang’s raison d’etre. As the name implies, Alex is embracing minimalism, smothering the fuzz in favor of a cello, a piano, and his voice on the debut full length album Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, out May 18 on Polyvinyl Record Co. For the album, Alex and his cohorts dress some of Beach Slang’s predominant “hits” with more modest, although equally stunning garb.

Quiet Slang made its debut live appearance at SXSW earlier this year and has announced an extensive national spring tour (dates below). Offering fans many new chances to experience their captivating live show, the band will make stops in NYC, DC, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Philly and more.

Alex linked up with longtime co-producer Dave Downham for Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, who worked with him in bringing on cellist Dan Delaney and pianist Keith Giosa. Rounding out the crew were Stacey Downham, Matt Weber, Charlie Lowe and New Jersey quartet The Warhawks, who lent their voices to evoke what Alex describes as a “back alley choir.”

Though a new Beach Slang record is next up on Alex’s docket, he’s open to the possibility of more Quiet Slang. The project’s sophomore release, he notes, would contain original songs. Regardless of its future, however, he hopes the project can convey one simple thing: “Tenderness. I suppose that sounds overly simplified. But, still, it makes it no less sincere. Look, I’m trying to soften the world a little bit—there’s worse ways to be remembered.”

 Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Alex to get his top five favorite songs that have been given an alternative treatment.

“San Quentin”

At San Quentin [Live]

Johnny Cash

This thing is just ticking and inciting and an absolute riot maker. The energy in that room, the tension, the danger, the “what if?” Then, to finish and immediately play it again, yeah, that’s the stuff. Three chords and a sneer full of attitude.

“Here Comes A Regular” [Alternate Version]

Tim [Expanded Edition]

The Replacements

This is the version that made me fall in love with this song. It feels unguarded, unprotected. It feels sadder. Songs like this deserve that.

“Customer” [Alternate Take]

Sorry Ma, I Forgot To Take Out The Trash [Expanded Edition]

The Replacements

In Trouble Boys, I read this description of The Mats: “Yearning, rudeness, melody & defiance.” I think that’s framed pretty perfectly with this take. Dangerously snotty, utterly careless and hopelessly necessary.

“Takin’ A Ride”

For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986

The Replacements

This thing is two and a half minutes of fury. It’s hardly hangs on, you know? And Westerberg absolutely strangles the vocal. It’s like desperate theater or something. Does that make sense?

“Maps” [Acoustic Strings Version]

Fever To Tell

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The first time I heard, “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” I was gutted. It felt so raw and intimate and unapologetic. When I heard the acoustic version, the first thing I remember saying to myself, out loud, was, “how the fuck did this song get even more beautiful?”

Quiet Slang tour dates:

5/16: Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
5/17: Allston, MA @ Great Scott
5/18: Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
5/19: Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
6/11: Toronto, ON @ Drake Hotel
6/12: Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
6/14: Milwaukee, WI @ The Backroom at Colectivo Coffee
6/15: Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
6/16: Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
6/18: Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
6/21: Seattle, WA @ Barboza
6/22: Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
6/23: Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
6/25: San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
6/26: Los Angeles, CA @ The Moroccan Lounge
6/27: Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
6/29: San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
6/30: Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
7/2: Austin, TX @ Barracuda
7/3: Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
7/5: Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
7/6: Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
7/7: Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle – Back Room
7/8: Richmond, VA @ Chilton House