Release Date 12/24/2020
(Lame-O Records) SubModern, AAA
Jake Ewald started Slaughter Beach, Dog as an outlet for characters. Feeling restless in his main band at the time, Modern Baseball — whose songs required visceral emotional transparency — he created the fictional town of Slaughter Beach and populated it with people who were down-on-their-luck and complicated, earnest and trying. The characters were often inspired by Ewald’s own experiences or the experiences of people he knew, but the freedom to mess with the details allowed his characters to take on a painful clarity.
With Slaughter Beach, Dog’s third album, Ewald deepens his repertoire of fake people whose hearts beat all too hard. Safe And Also No Fear is like a good short story collection, where you can glean enough personal details about the writer to get an idea of their point-of-view, but the focus is on other people and how they can be reflective of the world as a whole. Ewald has become a master of character sketches, intimations of reality that feel more real than life itself.
You get the sense that occasionally, or maybe more often than not, Ewald is singing about potential different versions of himself that time may have borne out: an alternate reality where he never played music, never was in a popular band, was just a regular guy living and working and struggling in Philadelphia. A drunk, a dissatisfied writer, an addict — someone who is just trying to get by. There’s also the feeling that he still might become these people, that life is too long and impossible to predict. “You were five and you were 10 and you were 19/ One day you’ll be 84,” he sings on the final song of the album. “With your sister, you would talk about growing old/ You’re not talking anymore.”
By focusing on different characters, Ewald is able to highlight all of these possibilities, and nothing can be summed up neatly or concisely or with any conviction. Its last lines are about finding a personal connection among the vastness of the world, that one-to-one contact that makes the life move forward for just a few more minutes: “Anything you want to know, you can find out/ Any place you want to see/ I can promise I will be a friend to you/ If you will be a friend to me.”
At the Moonbase, the fourth full-length album from Slaughter Beach, Dog, is a return to form for Philadelphia bandleader Jake Ewald. Written and recorded alone at home and at The Metal Shop, Ewald’s East Kensington recording studio, the album tracks an exercise in solitary production not unlike Slaughter Beach, Dog’s 2016 debut Welcome or 2017’s Motorcycle.JPG. On the heels of 2019’s Safe and Also No Fear, Ewald’s latest offering brings expanded arrangements and sharpened storytelling as he taps into salad days over slacker rock (“Do You Understand”), the dark grooves of seedy city life (“Song for Oscars”), and even a barroom-piano-driven “escapade through the great American bedroom” (“A Modern Lay”). At the Moonbase arrives December 24th on Lame-O Records.