There are some genres that evolve and change over time; rock and roll became less reliant on the blues, hip-hop eschewed break beats, jazz went modal. But surf rock is till surf rock. Sure, the distortion might be a little louder, the keyboards slightly different, and the subject matter slightly more mature, but if you played Desert Center for someone in 1963, they would instantly recognize it for what it is: a damn fine surf rock record.
Despite the kitschy name, Guantanamo Baywatch are a seriously talented band, thrashing their way through instrumental guitar showcases and nailing the girl-obsessed ballads with equal aplomb. The album is sequenced instrumental -> vocal -> instrumental -> vocal, which breaks up the record nicely, and doesn’t get the listener too bogged down in one or the other. The band leans into some of the cliche within their genre in a really fun way, such as embracing the Halloween/spooky aspects of surf rock, of which I can’t really place an origin. Is “The Monster Mash” surf? I don’t know, but “Witch Stomp” certainly is, with its untitled, spoken interlude leading into it fully embracing the creepy.
Among the ballads are the forlorn “Blame Myself” and “Neglect,” both of which have timeless messages of regret and treating your partner well, and both songs probably wouldn’t, lyrically, be out of place in the past 50 years, though some of the language does lean a little retro. “Video” is perhaps the only song that really reflects the culture of 2017, and even then, it wouldn’t have felt out of place 30 years ago.
The record features 9 songs and 2 sampled/spoken interludes, and is done is 30 short minutes. It flies by, similar to how summers, especially when young and carefree, seem to be over before they start. The thumping drums, growling bass, and twangy, vibrant guitars are a time warp to a simpler time, and put sunshine in your head, whether you want it or not. Clearly a perfect addition to a summer cook out playlist, this might also be an antidote for the mid-winter blues in a few months.
Brian Salvatore lives in New Jersey, and is the senior editor of Multiversity Comics (www.multiversitycomics.com) and a writer/podcaster at Amazin' Avenue (www.amazinavenue.com). When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, your Beatles hot takes, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).