What do I mean by most rad? I mean albums that rule by speed, power, and strength. Surf was the first true musical home of the adrenaline junkie and there are still plenty that carry that torch. I'm not saying meloday has no place here, but this is music to be FELT, not heard. I don't always refer to this sub-style as rad, but it rhymed with trad.
Making a decision here was driving me absolutely nuts. Both because that's the effect these songs have on you, but because it was incredibly hard to pick a winner. So here's my decision for tonight. It may change later in my head immediately after I write it, but it's set in stone here. But most importantly, these are all absolutely incredible records.
El Ray - The Evil Mermaid
Look, I'll be honest this one doesn't belong here. I held it out of the Modern Surf honorable mentions because I remembered all those great hard-hitting tracks it had. Truth is, the rest of them aren't really going for "rad". But they're all SO GOOD! And those "rad" tracks are exactly the sort of stuff I love El Ray for. Absolutely frantic organ playing on "Justin Case", and I love the Dead Kennedy's nod that is "El Raynia Uber Alles". The Finale "Double Penetration" is a genious mix up of Penetration and I'm Branded that really nails the slow swagger.
Die Krabben - Welcome to Surf Trash Island
I really love the vibe these kiwis have going here. Sure, the instrumentals are wild, loose, and unhinged just how I want them to be, but they're punctuated by drunken seashore-hermit chants. Makes for a surprisingly unique and well-rounded listen, just wish there was more of it!
Johnny Carbonaras - Johnny Carbonaras
This stray Bandcamp find was so unassuming when it found its way into my collection. It was hard to even tell that it was an instrumental record. I mean, what conclusions can you draw from that cover? I love it and all, but I have no idea what to make of it. As more and more songs crept into my radio show and every time I found myself liking it more than I thought I had, I knew I'd found a diamond in the rough. Man... or Astro-Man comparisons are bound to happen here, but can we all freely admit that there's no shame in that at all? I wanna hear zonked-out guitar flying every which way and Johnny Carbonaras delivers!
The Protons - Out of Phase
Out of Phase comes right out of the gate with a roaring monster riff that warms you up to the record instantly. Those blows keep pounding for roughly the first quarter of the record, then knock you with a few more surprises as you go. Again, hard not to hear a little Astro-influence in the guitar tone, but it works. It works really well, in fact! Unfortunately I hear these guys have already called it a day, but they certainly left on a good note.
The Del-Vipers - Terror of the Del-Vipers
Over in Austin the drippy-wet sounds of surf don't quite match the landscape or lifestyle, but these dry, ragged, sometimes twangin' sounds do just right. This record is just so damn consistent. It's always fast, always loud, and just sounds like so much fun. The drums are tremendous and raucous, and the guitars don't take a break.
AND THE MOSTEST RADDEST INSTRO RECORD OF 2014 IS....
The Irradiates - Revenge of the Plants
Well damn, it's no fun having a band win two of these awards (they already got one for Best Album Art). The truth is though, when I sat down and listened to these all in a big stew, The Irradiates had the ones that stuck in my head the most. And if anything, this was the one the others would have to beat right from the start; The Irradiates were the next incarnation of Hawaii Samurai, both some of the wildest groups on the planet. Then with this record they gained Arno De Cea, who I will boldly say is as as good if not better than any other instro/surf guitarist alive today*. By arithmetic alone, that makes this an album of immeasurable superlatives.
So here's another .PNG file to add to their collection
*Not saying it's necessarily a better record, but if you really want to hear Arno play some out-of-this-world stuff, I'd recommend you pick up some Antena Tres.