JJ & the Trash Dogs - Donde Estas

JJ & the Trash Dogs - Donde Estas

I've heard of surf bands springing from many genres. PLENTY of punk-influenced surf bands, some from a jazz background, but I think traditional New Orleans style jazz is a first. 80% of JJ and the Trash Dogs are also members of Tuba Skinny, one of the most well-loved groups from that scene.

However, this is not trad jazz surf. I don't know what that would sound like, but I'm open to it. Perhaps the way the two bands most inform each other is their attention to detail in replicating the sounds of their forebears. I would even go so far as to say that they're the most traditional surf band that has ever sprung from New Orleans. From what I can tell, surf didn't do much here in the 60's, and though we've had a pretty steady stream of surf groups since the 90's, most have done surf their own way. I can't remember who said this, but when I arrived too late to a Trash Dogs show, a member of another surf group reported "They're the real deal."

How trad is it? I tried and failed to think of a yo mamma style joke to dodge a pointless question like that. There are thousands of surf bands and "what is trad?" is an impossible question to answer when so many 60's acts were being inventive and when nobody can agree on whether the Ventures are a surf band. The important thing is that the songs have simple structures with memorable riffs, the guitar has a nice and plump reverbed twang to it, it's generally very upbeat, and there's some killer sax on it. In fact, I want to just reiterate that one: that sax player in particular is spot on, playing the instrument like time stopped before the 70's.

I have two favorite tracks on here. First is the title track, "Donde Estas" which is actually pretty unassuming at first, with an almost lonely riff that picks up when the keys join in. In general, the keys are probably the least traditional ingredient here, a little more warped than your standard farfisa garage rock usage, but I think that's fun. That leads into a vocal recording, which heightens even further into a great sax break and a chant of "Donde Estas". After the buildup, it truly does feel gratifying.

My other favorite is a bit of a change-up, the latin-flavored "The Mighty Anchor". The sax takes lead, but when the guitar chimes in for the chorus it sounds great. It's a simple song, but I was whistling it for the rest of the day.

Of course, I'm highlighting some of the oddballs when there's some pretty great straightforward surf. The opener "Goin Down" and especially the closing track "The Deep End" are standouts for that I think, as well as a pretty faithful cover of Conrad & the Hurricanes' "Hurricane".

My hometown bias is strong here, but I really think this is a great one. They keep their own identity while staying faithful to the genre, and each song feels fresh from one to the other. When interviewing them the other night, they seemed very cognizant of the risk of burning out their audience -- they don't play out often, and they kept it at a short & sweet 8 tracks. As somebody that has listened to these much more than most albums while preparing to interview and to write this review (not to mention for the radio show), no burnout here. I find myself appreciating it more with each listen.

Bandcamp only at the moment and according to them, not likely to change anytime soon.

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