In a recent interview with Nude Beach, Vice’s Tony Rettman asked the Brooklyn rockers a simple question: “If your parents or someone similarly clueless like myself asked what Nude Beach sounds like, where would you categorize yourselves?” Singer-guitarist Chuck Betz and drummer-vocalist Ryan Naideau both gave fairly impalpable answers. Naideau called it an “annoying question” and said they were “stuck somewhere between punk, power pop, and rock,” while Betz could hardly answer, stating that he was “clueless as to what these classifications even mean.” Some clarity, perhaps: Nude Beach is strictly timeless rock ‘n’ roll.
Now, if you’re a vinyl enthusiast who happens to even dabble in rock ‘n’ roll, you’ve probably at some point in time owned (or thought of owning) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes, Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True, The Replacements’ Let It Be, or Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak. These are literally timeless records, worthy of a spin or two at any time of the day, at any point of the week, and amidst any sort of emotional state, whether it’s a momentary snapshot of bliss or a flair-up of insert your own self-diagnosed mental conditions here. They’re innately designed to connect with the pathos of the human spirit, and consequently, they become life preservers, aural parties, and sometimes everything you have in life.
There’s a lot of that in Nude Beach’s II, a record that’s so traditional and dusty it almost feels gimmicky. It’s not. Similar to landmark albums in the early aughts (e.g. The Strokes’ Is This It, The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells), Nude Beach echoes the past without drooling in the rearview mirror. The album’s overall genetic code has strands of DNA from Costello, Petty, or Paul Westerberg, but who gives a shit. Those are strong influences to carry, and the flannel-wearing Brooklynites run well with them.
“Walkin’ On My Street” dances around mid-’70s rhythms, “Cathedral Echoes” gets sloppy but never stains past its napkins, and “Don’t Have to Try” traces Westerberg’s early morning footsteps from “Sixteen Blue”. There’s a sense of brutish innocence on II, and it’s all in Betz’s delivery. Right from the get-go, amidst the immediacy of the fast wheelin’ “Radio”, the soulful crooner marries his vocal tones with the melodies, as if to say, “Yeah, this was all meant to be.” No kidding. Even when he’s blatantly ripping off the vocal melody of Petty’s “Learning to Fly”, as he does on “Love Can’t Wait”, it all feels so goddamn natural.
But that’s what makes a good rock record. It’s never about the hooks or the melodies, or even the lyrics — it’s about the soul. It’s about that feeling you get when you listen again and again and just swear you can taste the copper. It hearkens back to that timeless quality, to the special kind of rock ‘n’ roll that’s neither tied to a decade nor defined by one. Judging strictly from II, Nude Beach are within arm’s reach of that unique spirit, and prove to have enough chutzpah to carve out a timeless record. They only need to start on a cleaner piece of paper, not one with penciled-in ideas of yesteryear. It should be easy for them; after all, they’ve only just picked up the pencil.
Essential Tracks: “Radio”, “Don’t Have to Try”, and “Cathedral Echoes”