By Davis Blount
If there was any justice in this world, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would be putting out new games regularly, as they did throughout the early 2000s. While this is a general complaint that ought to be rectified, the injustice of no new Pro Skaters becomes even more apparent when listening to Beach Death, the rockers out of Salt Lake City. They deserve to enter the hallowed halls of a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater playlist, joined by rock greats of old, along with fellow members of the new generation of skate rock.
In the meantime, fans will have to curate their own playlists. Beach Death’s Spotify artist page puts it succinctly, when they state that the band’s music “pairs well with long drives and relearning how to kick flip.”
For road-trippers and kick flippers alike, Beach Death’s self-titled album came as an early Christmas surprise in 2020, a welcome spot of good news in a year that had so many unwelcome surprises. The 10-song album was a long time in the making, meant to originally be released nearly two years earlier.
That said, Beach Death felt like a useful exploration of the world at the time of its release, intended or not. While the album begins as a slightly familiar callback to the days when pop-punk was at its pop culture peak, the band shows a great deal of range as the album unfolds to listeners. Crashing cymbals and tempestuous drums give way to deliberate acoustic guitar and the rat-a-tat of lyrical flow, sometimes right on the heels of one another. The overall effect is one of great range, a signature sound that is hard to pin down. One part Vance Joy, two parts Rage Against the Machine, and a pinch of Atmosphere or Twenty-One Pilots may give listeners an inkling of the kind of experience that Beath Death has to offer, but no analogizing or comparison can truly encapsulate the sound and energy of the album itself.
The band’s skills are on full display in the album’s most complete song, “We Can Swim.” In it, the vocalist Ian Stewart’s trembling voice is heard over jangling electric guitar while he discusses the fine line between life and death. “I’m alive, but I could die, if I tried. A casualty, casually, classified.” The thought, that one could slip from this world as nothing more than a statistic, particularly in a COVID-ravaged world, is harrowing. The frailty of the singer’s voice gives way to stronger, more impassioned singing at the chorus break. It wasn’t fear in the voice, but barely contained rage: a burning desire to flip the h*ckin’ middle finger to powers outside of our control and survive just to prove that we can. As the song reminds listeners, the race goes on and we can all muster the strength to carry on:
We can swim, we can swim, we can swim, make it out alive.
We can swim until our arms are broken,
Shark infested ocean waters till we die.
Beach Death echoes the sentiment the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas first gave voice to over 70 years ago: “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Whether in a COVID-ravaged world or simply outliving our everyday demons, Beach Death’s “We Can Swim” gives listeners an anthemic reminder to keep on keepin’ on, even in the worst of times.
Beach Death stands on its own merit as a memorable album with songs for a variety of moods. While the future is bright for the band’s future endeavors, this writer would love to see an album that brings some of what the band has become most known for locally: Beachmas. In 2019, Beach Death kicked off what was intended to be an annual tradition, a live show made by family and friends, for family and friends. The idea of hosting a tight knit show in an already-intimate setting like Kilby Court makes for an unforgettable night. While Beachmas had to be axed in 2020, the event made its triumphant return in 2021. With an eye to the future, it would be fun to record a live track from the night so that fans everywhere can have a taste of the rollicking good night Beach Death puts on every year.
Maybe Beach Death won’t get their proper recognition, no matter how deserving. Maybe “We Can Swim” won’t take its rightful place on the next Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack. Regardless of what happens to the band’s music commercially, fans of Beach Death can give this talented group their flowers each and every year at Beachmas and be grateful they got in on one of music’s best kept secrets.
As it regards Beach Death’s impending burst of popularity, fans will likely identify with a comment on the band’s YouTube channel: “I simultaneously hope every human in the world hears this and no one but me does.” Even when Beach Death does eventually get picked up by the right circles, you can get in early and brag to friends about how you saw this frenetic band leave it all out on the stage one cold night at Kilby Court.
Make sure to follow Beach Death on Instagram. In addition to this album, their latest single, “New Boys,” is out now on Spotify. You can check out our favorite track from their debut, “We Can Swim,” below.