Back in my old college radio days, I’d regularly slip a few
surf music numbers, instrumentals primarily, in from time to time. Occasionally
I would do an hour or 2 hour surf music special, thanks to our great and vast
music library, harboring decades of the underappreciated genre. Some misguided souls
think that all surf music sounds alike, mainly those never exposed to the
copious surf bands throughout the ages. I find the sound of shimmer-y,
reverb-y, rubber-y guitars to be invigorating, stimulating and great driving
music, even if you aren’t in an open convertible flying down the PCH.
While in Chicago last October, my wife and I got tickets for
the Roky Erickson Halloween show at the Bottom Lounge, and as we were seated in
a booth in the front room, we struck up a conversation with some interesting
looking guys next to us with black leather jackets, one wearing a Dead Moon
tee-shirt. They were a band visiting from France and like us, pretty stoked to
see Roky. We exchanged info and when I checked them out on MySpace, I
discovered that they were actually a pretty kick-ass surf band. What I didn’t
discover until later, was the fact that they were in town to record their
second album at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini. For this effort, they
wanted the best guy to be at the production helm.
The resulting album is more fun than a barrel of sea monkeys
and you couldn’t have a more electrifying experience if you were strapped into
“Old Sparky.” They call their music Scientific Surf Rock, and about the only
thing that might betray it as not being from the ‘60s is the higher quality of
the recording and the ongoing theme of slipping in a few sound-bites from old
sci-fi films of raving mad-scientist dialog. The songs themselves vary in style
and tempo, for those apprehensive of surf-song monotony, with classic surf
riffs here and there, vocals on three songs and a Theremin thrown in for good
effect on “350°
Fahrenheit.” “Sun Projector” takes a detour into Calexico territory to my ears.
The whole mad scientist/sci-fi schtick may seem on the surface gimmicky, but
the music and playing are solid stuff, not to be denied, while avoiding clichés
and the monochromatism of what might pass for surf music. “Black Tiki
Procession” harkens back to the proto-surf song, “Miserlou” with its classic
Arabic folk melody. Speaking of Mr. Dale, “Point To Point” has some of his
classic surf moves, while “Well States” comes on heavier like Agent Orange’s
“Bite The Hand That Feeds.” “Microchip”
really revs things up with its full-throttle, balls-to-the-wall attack.
Who knows if the boys have ever waxed their sticks with Mr.
Zog’s Sex Wax, but over-all, a good album to hang 5 or 10 to, or just hang out
and couch surf to. (Extra points for the cool front and back cover art by Eric
to Point”, “Microchip.” BARRY ST. VITUS