Man or Astro-man led the charge of a new b-movie punk branch of instrumental surf. That reach extended globally but their crash-landing in Alabama left a radioactive fallout that spawned instro bands within a small radius for years to come. Kill Baby Kill (now The KBK) came along much later, but spilled out of the same crater and stuck around long enough to make an impact on many of us. When I spoke to Chad Shivers, organizer of Southern Surf Stomp, member of the Mystery Men? and...Read more
Here in New Orleans it’s carnival time. Nearly every night this week there are parades all over the city. Once you’ve been to enough of these parades, they lose a lot of their appeal, and as that happens your focus draws away from the flashy floats and the beads flying through the air and towards one of the most underappreciated facets of New Orleans culture: the high school marching bands. The New Orleans tradition of small brass ensembles have been slowly getting more of their due, but...Read more
The debut album of Los Surfistas Muertos wastes no time getting to business, launching into mean, buzzy guitars within five seconds -- delayed only by a “muahahaha”. This opener is just a surface-scratch of what’s inside, though, with even their other loud songs outclassing that level of noise.
When you first hear the guitars kick in on “Redacted” there’s definitely a little bit of a “whoa”, with the thickness of that distortion approaching noise-rock levels. That...Read more
Brazil truly seems like its own little world, a nation known for its cultural output, yet it always feels like it's not exactly put out there as much as the rest of the world peeks in. For Brazilian surf music, they have a champion advocating on their behalf: Reverb Brasil, headed by Leopoldo "Mocotó" Furtado. Reverb Brasil is to some extent a label, but mostly a platform to spread the word about Brazilian surf music. Reverb Tsunami is their most strident statement yet.
I think cartridge-based video games and surf music have a lot in common, having to impart feeling without the aid of vocals and having to do so with a very limited set of sounds available. Going even further than that, surf often tries to evoke a sense of danger and adventure, which is very familiar territory for video games. The themes that stand out in video games stand out because they're great: you're usually going to hear them on a loop, often for hours, so if you...Read more
This short debut EP from Llobarros gets a lot done. It starts out with a great, trashy trad surf song that will probably excite in the same way that The Wave Chargers have recently, moves into a guitar-exotica number that could fit right in on one of those Surfer's Mood compilations (or that Technicolor Paradise comp that Numero Group recently put out), then moves into a more progressive-styled nasty instro with fuzz guitar and some really growly bass, then another exotica-...Read more
JJ and Trash Dogs are the newest New Orleans surf band, I believe with only 4 shows so far, two of which I attended and somehow missed the band. Arg.
However, I've spoken to the other bands that played with them Friday night and everybody was pretty thrilled with what they heard, and there was a specific reason they cited: it's classic trad-styled surf, something that we in New Orleans have almost never had access too (trust me, I've been looking). Two guitars, bass,...Read more
Amphibian Man has emerged from its tadpole phase as a one-man bedroom project into a 3-piece band that performs live and does real band things like not release music every 2 months for free. First and foremost, I'm happy for them. Amphibian Man has been one of the biggest stand-outs in surf in recent years and I love that they're making money from it both from records and from people seeing them live. Wish it could be me but Ukraine's not too close.
Whereas previous albums seemed to...Read more
The Glasgow TIki Shakers have a unique sound that’s hard to pin down. They’ve never been about noise, power, cavernous reverb. They’ve got this staccato jumpy groove to them, feels relaxed and uneasy often at the same time. More tiki spirit than a lot of surf bands to don a hawaiian shirt, but way too surf to be even close to exotica. Honestly, I think I’m failing to describe it, but suffice it to say that even as they change forms from one song to next, it still feels in line with...Read more
Sometimes I worry that I lean a little too hard into the sound production quality of an album vs songwriting, but for a band with such apparent surf fanaticism as The Kilaueas it really does feel like it’s the missing piece. The guitar sounds so much bigger and deeper than their previous LP Waki Waki Woo, the reverb so wet and loud enough to fit their stage act.
The song-writing is in modern surf vein and they mostly stick to that -- no token spaghetti western, etc...Read more
X-Ray Vision as a technology is frequently thought of as gadgetry for means of espionage, and going by that definition it’s a surprisingly good fit for this band, blending spy tones with Astro-Man zip-zoop.
Central to this is the keyboards, swapping duty between swirling hammond-esque sounds and more futuristic electronic sounds and a few in-between. Sometimes in a fittingly spy manner, sometimes reminding me of their fellow frenchmen Les Tigres du Futur with a...Read more
A new Black Flamingos! Should we expect them to broaden their horizons? Or will they stick to their blue-noted sour surf sound? Yes!
Here in New Orleans today feels like the first true day of fall, a completely different air but that heat is still there if you sit still. Now is the right time for this record. Surf is usually such a bright summer sound, but Black Flamingos’ previous record Neon Boneyard felt like a fun day at Coney Island on a foggy...Read more
In 2014 the Del-Vipers came out of nowhere (technically Austin, TX) with the relentlessly charging Terror of the Del-Vipers, one of my favorite surf records of the 2010s. It's hard to believe it's only been 4 years since we've heard anything new from them, but Cannibal Safari is a welcome return. The opener "Cobra's Fang" is exactly the stuff from Terror, an aggressive first strike with pounding surf beat. "Kapu" is a bit more of a stomper, not quite...Read more
Trad surf records are some of the hardest ones to write about, or at least to write something unique. You have to grasp at the intangible or embellish something irrelevant into something meaningful. I've been listening to this album for a few weeks now and I've made no progress with those avenues.
This album doesn't show you anything new, doesn't do anything in an exceptional manner, it's just a collection of great surf songs. Even "Adrenal", which...Read more
Weird name, good band. Humanga Danga hail from Ghent, but I struggle to find much overt Fifty Foot Combo influence. Instead, their own stated influences of Space Cossacks and Langhorns sound just about right in the lead guitar tone: a good modern surf tone with a solid thunk to it and strong attack. It's helped out a lot but a very eager rhythm guitarist that's always punctuating the melody in interesting ways, sometimes making it hard to believe that there's just two guitars. These songs...Read more
Firewalkers has had a long road. The original plan was to have it released at the 2017 SurfGuitar101, and The Mystery Men? even played the album in its entirety, essentially treating it as an album release. However, it missed that date and instead they released a preview EP called Embers with some choice cuts from the album. So naturally it felt like it was just around the corner. A year later, they released a...Read more
Who would have thought that after 20 years of silence we’d see seminal instro acts of the 90s like Impala and The Bomboras rise from the grave? While I think surf is having a great year right now, it’s slowly changed since the 90’s, probably a little less traditional, or at least allowed a lot more instrumental music styles under its umbrella.
Perhaps that’s exactly why Impala is back. In the Late Hours is not a surf record. While it feels comfortably at home with their back...Read more
This music isn’t about commercial success, so just about everybody’s in it for fun. So it feels kind of wrong to judge a band by how much fun it sounds like they’re having, but damn if these guys don’t sound like they’re having a little more fun than the rest.
The Head Henchmen are a pretty traditional surf group and you’ll hear a lot of very familiar licks, but they have a great sense of why they’re used. The percussion is a huge...Read more
For those that got into surf somewhere after the 80’s and before bandcamp, compilations were key for exposure to more surf groups. That’s slowed down significantly, with only a handful of notable ones in the past few years (off the top of my head Brave New Surf and Monsters of Surf). Reverb Nation serves a dual purpose of commemorating a great lineup at the Surfguitar 101 convention (the tracks are mostly in the same sequence of the performances) and as a...Read more