Nude Beach: II

This album is full of unfussy rock and roll that immediately brings to mind names like Tom Petty and Social Distortion. The downside of that comparison is that the majority of rock-oriented listeners have been hearing this kind of stuff extensively for the last 30 years.

Nude Beach


Label: Fat Possum
US Release Date: 2012-08-14
UK Release Date: Import

Nude Beach is one of those bands that's been living in Brooklyn for a few years and making a name for themselves around New York City, one assumes. Up until now they've been proudly DIY, self-releasing cassettes and vinyl records and the like. But they've signed with Fat Possum Records and, weirdly, II is going to be the first thing that almost anyone has heard from the band. As introductions go, it's a good one.

This album is full of unfussy rock and roll that immediately brings to mind names like Tom Petty and Social Distortion. The songs are hard-charging but not too fast while simultaneously jangly but not saccharine. II's third track, "Some Kinda Love", exemplifies this style. Drummer Ryan Naideau chugs along on hi-hat eighth notes and dutifully hits the snare on beats two and four while guitarist/singer Chuck Betz sings at the top of his lungs. When Betz hits the shout-along chorus, "'Cause, baby / Some kinda love could bring me baaack!!", it's hard not to smile. What keeps Nude Beach from leaning too far into punk or sliding over into pop is its contrasts. A punk song would pair the drums with slashing distorted guitar chords, and Nude Beach opts for chiming, open-sounding picked riffs instead. A pop song would have the chorus be a catchy sing along, but Betz is shouting instead.

Even the album's slower moments find this balance. Would-be ballad "You Make It So Easy" has some subtle background atmospherics (Steel drum? Marimba? Keyboards? It's tough to tell) but the band just can't lay back far enough to make it gentle. Jimmy Shelton's bassline is a bit too active and Betz's guitar a bit too rough, and it comes off sounding like a slow rocker instead. "Don't Have to Try" comes closest, sounding for all the world like a '50s love song with its 6/8 time and organ accompaniment. But Nude Beach isn't going to stay that still for long, so the back half of the song finds them rocking out pretty loudly.

While Betz's throaty vocals dominate II, there are a handful of songs where Naideau takes over the singing, and it gives the band a nice change of pace. His slightly nasal tone doesn't really register on the album's opener "Radio", but it's very effective when he pops up again mid-album. When combined with Betz's preference for jangly guitar lines, Naideau's voice really makes the Tom Petty comparison snap into place on the easygoing "Keep it Cool." And when he belts it out on "Love Can't Wait", an album highlight, it almost sounds like a lost early '90s Petty b-side.

If there's a problem with II, it's that nothing much stands out. Sure, "Some Kind of Love" and "Love Can't Wait" are clearly the album's best songs. But because Nude Beach is such a straight-ahead rock band, there isn't much that's distinctive about them. It's like rock and roll comfort food. It's easy to listen to and appropriately fun and catchy. Everything here is good, but nothing is great. The downside of the Tom Petty and Social D comparisons is that the majority of rock-oriented music listeners in North America have been hearing this kind of stuff extensively for the last 30 years. As solid as this album is, without better hooks or more interesting guitar playing or something, I worry that Nude Beach is fated to be perpetual, inoffensive background music.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.