Some people tell me I overly romanticize rock & roll. That I have too much of a dreamer head. I’ve never apologized for that. Nah, not even once.
I’ve always been fairly uncertain of James Snyder’s age. I’ve also never been as embarrassed about inquiring about someone’s age on the handful of times I’ve had the opportunity. It’s still fairly difficult to guess, though ‘late-thirties’ is a decent try if you spite Los Campesinos! and do the math(s). He played on every Weston full-length record, some would argue taking control of that band’s direction by the end of the century. From what I understand, he joined in 1992 or so and sang some and co-wrote several songs on their debut LP “A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion,” which dropped in 1994. So, even if he joined the band at 15 (completely feasible), he would still be 38 now, which is also feasible in spite of his perpetual boyish charisma.
I really hope he never reads this bullshit.
Anyway, when Weston reunited in 2008 to play a handful of reunion jaunts (during which I saw them twice; I believe I had missed them during their initial run, though I did manage to see an ex-Weston Lehigh Valley band called Digger once or twice for some reason), they generated some interest in reissues of their quintessentially “nineties” 1990’s output. It didn’t happen, given how non-existent or shitty their relationships are with the labels which released their music back then. The second-to-last album, “Back to Mono,” never even officially came out in the United States, but in Japan. The internet wasn’t mature enough at that point to pick up the slack on it, so a lot of first-wave Weston fans didn’t have easy access. The last album, the James-dominated “The Massed Albert Sounds,” actually came out on Mojo Recordings in 2000, a subsidiary of Universal during that “we’re so clever and invincible! pass the baby’s blood, please! what’s an internet?” period for major labels trying to capitalize on the waning post-Nirvana public acceptance of anything that weirdos might play on their skip-free Discmen (Discmans?) while running Bay to Breakers.
James Alexander doesn’t get nearly enough credit due him for being a one-man ambassador for this magical imaginary many hold of the 90’s. He played on or wrote so many of the songs that, in a way, defined a generation of melancholy white suburban kids in sweater vests and bowl cuts. Dan Ozzi even argued, on the 18th birthday of Got Beat Up,, that it was truly the ultimate ‘high school’ album to those aforementioned. And believe him, because our generation is really, really into this type of shit, especially those of us who weren’t quite cool enough to experience this from anywhere other than the fringes.
What’s remarkable about Snyder is that, in a matter of days, Beach Slang is going to release a record that will very likely shake the pop-rock underworld and sit atop many “best of 2015” lists. Critics are going to commend the effortless nostalgic chemistry in his songs, inevitably mentioning his poppity-punk pedigree with some type of snide condescension. But no matter. That is just the business that James has been in for decades now; reminding us that you can encapsulate cherished memories of the past (no matter how joyful or traumatic) without clinging to it, and perhaps even more impressively, that awkward is forever.
Now it would be hilarious if I found out that he’s like, fifty.