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 afternoon in late November -- ready for fun but with a different atmosphere than the one you normally associate. There are some records that feel perfect for the end of summer. Speedway is between those. A record for summer excitement extending past where it belongs, defiantly clashing with the pervasive cooler atmosphere. Jumping in the ocean for a swim when it’s too cold. Rallying to dance your hardest when the crowd is settling their bar tab.
The title track opening song is a great preview of the record on the whole, starting on a nearly somber note before picking up its knees and getting louder, thicker and more enthusiastic with every second and surprising with a complete change in guitar tone with only a quarter left to the song.
The big change here is guitar, jumping between new styles from song to song and even within songs. Those jazzy minor key touches were a big differentiator for Black Flamingos, and they always find a way back in there, but I’m also loving the new boldness, from the fuzzy moments to the Duane Eddy twangin’ (see moments of “Chicken Wire”). Seeing these guys at the Surfguitar101 Convention, I loved guitarist Robbie Butkowski’s showmanship and I’m not surprised at all that he had these in him -- if anything they come closer to matching what I saw.
The big knockout for me actually features a different guitarist: some nasty fuzz guitar from Chris Barfield of the Huntington Cads on Swan Lake. It’s an awesome version of the song, with Chris and Robbie sounding kinda competitive and with the busting drumset and bouncing bassline egging them on.
I also love the next track after that, a really cool take on “Experiment in Terror”. It’s a song that seems like a no-brainer for them, but Robbie adds in cute little keyboard flourishes and some interesting guitar effects that really highlight the experimental idea of the song. Definitely not a straight-ahead take.
“Kali Ma” is another track worth noting. I know that their drummer Vincent, co-owner of Hi-Tide Recordings, is certainly open to tiki mingling with the surf scene, so it’s kind of funny that it took their third release for such a low-key surf band to finally embrace some exotica leanings. Maybe they only let it happen since they balance it out with wild guitar songs like “Okinawa”.
Play Speedway and Other Hits is a band with an uncomfortable sound pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, and I think it absolutely worked for them. It’s fresh from song to song, stands out on one listen and stays fun for more.
Grab it from Hi-Tide or Bandcamp