Slaughter Beach, Dog Explore the Depths of the Early Twenties Psyche on Welcome
The term “do it yourself” is dissected many ways within the context of modern emo. The mantra doesn’t necessarily extend to doing it all yourself, but for Jake Ewald, handling every aspect of creating a record is part disposition, part catharsis. As songwriter, performer, and producer extraordinaire of Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Welcome, Ewald finds himself in multiple dialogues, detailing the complications of maturity and familial and romantic relationships that shape early adulthood.
Like Springsteen, Ewald’s prose is intricate and his narrative detailed. Even in “Toronto Mug II,” a personal account of a trip to the dollar store creates a meaningful lens into the songwriter’s experience. “Mallrat Semi-Annual”, the opening track and revamped version from 2014’s Dawg EP, provides the listener’s first glimpse into the narrator’s inner dialogue. The lyrics switch between the third and first person perspective of the singer’s object of affection and himself, respectively, at a Halloween party. “She is the reason you’re here/So quit acting like you can’t see her staring at you,” Ewald croons in the first person, motivating himself to make the first move. Crafting brilliant similies, he continues, “Stop eating all the candy/The essence of a goddamn toddler/Sitting there picking at crumbs like a grave robber.” With such impressive originality, it’s worthy to note that a recurring theme of the album is the crippling experience of writer’s block. In the hook-laden, emo rocker, “Monsters”, Ewald delivers the lines, “I keep trying to outline a better life/But the pen’s run dry, yeah the pen’s run dry and the lines never come out right anyway.” As a whole, “Monsters” describes twenty-something growing pains that occur when loved ones begin to resemble nightmarish monsters feared during youth, remarked in the lines, “There are monsters everywhere I turn/In disguises my young self couldn’t discern/I see them now in my brother’s passing/I see them now in my father’s absence.”
“Jobs,” features a steady and delicate acoustic guitar progression and finds Ewald exploring his relationship with faith and how it plays into his own purpose, “There ain’t no purpose fightin’ holy wars for someone you’re not/And I think we’re better off believing in all ourselves, but that’s me.” Despite his affirmation in the importance of faith in oneself above faith in deities, Ewald pleas in the song’s refrain, “I don’t know how I can make me proud again/Teach me how I can make me proud again.” These lyrics are perhaps best attributed to the essence of emo in its purist form: the struggle for individuality juxtaposed against feelings of self-doubt in one’s own abilities.
Musically, Welcome explores both familiar and newer territory for Slaughter Beach, Dog and Jake Ewald alike. Amongst the steady driving and gentle emo melodies are tracks like “Drinks,” consisting of a twangy Country/Americana guitar lead and waltzy drum pattern. The song also features the return of Annie, a character first introduced in “Real Annie,” on Dawg. “But nothing is never easy between you and me/Annie you know that’s the way we are,” Ewald sings before transitioning into a heavy chord progression ending with an acoustic soliloquy. “Politics of Grooming,” centers around acoustic guitar picking paired with a percussive shaker and resembles Mountain Goats storytelling in lines like, “When you were younger and your mother started drinking/She would tuck you in and close your bedroom door/Then one night you sprung awake inside a turn and twisted dream and you ran downstairs to find her laying out across the floor.”
The album closer, “Essex Street,” rolls out with twinkly guitar riffs and splashy ride cymbal grooves that build up into heavy distortion and aggressive drum hits. The instrumental track best characterizes Welcome, even beside the plethora of lyrical storytelling consistent throughout the prior nine tracks. “Essex Street” seems to indicate the narrator has said all he has to say and bids farewell through permitting the music to speak for itself. As a whole, Jake Ewald’s self-described, “pasta strainer of a brain,” is exposed with intense honesty on Welcome, a conceptualization of the consequential early twenties experience of the emo renaissance man.