Surf Guitar Greats
One Dozen Surf-Rock Instrumentals
If you are looking for a good compilation of recent surf rock bands, this is it! Featuring Finnish surfers Laika & the Cosmonauts, along with five American bands, this disc pounds its way through each track with plenty of genuine surf feel, that strange mixture of sun, fun, excitement as well as minor-key mystery and isolation that is instantly communicated by warm, twangy, reverberating guitars. There’s not a loser among the bunch.
Laika, et al, cover the Mission Impossible theme and Dick Dale’s hit “Miserlou” as well as providing a lovely original. With a thin and icy tone from the north and a flawless and energetic rhythm, these Scandinavians prove that dreams of riding a large, glassy swell are not limited to those living in lower latitudes. The only other band providing three cuts is the masked quartet that is probably the premier guitar instrumental band today, the Nashville-based Los Straitjackets. If you want an introduction to their sweet, uplifting twang and telepathic groove without shelling out for their two CDs, check them out here.
Los Angeles mod surfers The Halibuts provide two huge sounding instrumentals with more of a jamming feel and complexity than most surf, but with all of the recklessness. Guitar-head Teisco Del Rey also gives over two, one of which is a great surf version of “The Barber of Seville” or whatever the hell that opera is called. His backup band is gargantuan, and he can play the fastest double-picked slide (a surf cliche, e.g. “Pipeline”) that I have ever heard. Dick Dale needn’t worry though, Del Rey would have to feed his piercing tone some diet supplements to take on the king of tremolo.
Rounding it out are Simon Chardiet with a punkish number called “Surf the Wild Gowanus,” which is as low tech as it is high art, and the Tailgators with a cover of “Tico Tico.” Hailing from Texas, they manage, with the same snappy Fender sound that everyone else uses, to get a new (to me) feel that has something of chili peppers and blues as much as it does surf. So cool! Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140; http://www.rounder.com