Dick Dale used to boast about how he was the father of heavy metal. However you may feel about that, it is the first type of music I can think of that really focused on aggression. That's a seed that germinated through subsequent loud musics that refactored back into surf. And here we are, recognizing instro music that wants to be fast, loud, and hit hard. These are groups that may not be trying to emotionally move you, but hopefully can set you in motion physically.
I think this was a good year for aggressive surf music. I had a lot to choose from, a lot of hard decisions about making the cut, and a tough time choosing the winner. Eventually my guiding light was asking myself "what got me the most hyped?", and I think that worked well.
Beach Moonsters - Walk Like a Moonster
El Capitan and the Reluctant Sadists - The Satanic Surf Sounds of
El Capitan's 2012 record Death of a Tiki is a great one that might have flown under the radar, but hopefully that won't be the case here. It's not the loudest, fastest, heaviest, but they've summoned a great energetic bounce, Ghastly horror-surf vibes via satanic ritual angle, and strong surf songwriting senses. The result is a very special cursed hellspawn.
Cannibal Mosquitos - Surfin' Heroes Party
I feel like I say this every year, but no stereotype of France explains the fact that their surf bands are louder and more aggressive than anywhere else. Cannibal Mosquitos aren't out to make apocalypse music like, say, Arno de Cea, but are making wild, fun commotion. The rhythm section (recorded very well!) brings quite a thunderous sound to them, and the guitar often is going fast enough to not give you time to think -- just move!
Tiki Bombs - Primitive Surf Music
Tiki Bombs are an outwardly stupid band, and this is the category where that is welcome. Their album covers are crude sketches, they lead into their songs goofy voice-modulated clips, and that sounds just about right for their no-frills, fast-paced and loud songs. There are some great riffs here, like on the title track "Primitive Surf Music", but sometimes they're just making punk noise with surf guitar... and it's working surprisingly well. They had two albums this year, normally I'd force myself to choose one, but they're very similar, and at 5 euro apiece it really does feel like the best play is just to buy both and get 21 songs for 10.
The Atom Jacks - 100 Seconds
It's rare that this category doesn't mention Man... or Astro-Man? and this is one year where their influence was pretty minimal. But if that's your specific brand, I submit The Atom Jacks. It's not a perfect comparison -- their whole theme seems to lean more towards top secret weapons than sci-fi pulp, and there's little (if any?) clips to be found, but their sound is certainly the most likely here to mingle with Steve Albini. They like to hit with force, but much like their subject matter, their violence is carefully calculated and discrete.
And the Gremmy goes to...
Daikaiju - Phase 3
Daikaiju are perhaps the most active band flying the surf banner . They've been at it since 1999, and I would guess that they've played over 1000 shows (*ahem* "attacks") in the past ten years even with covid being a thing. And yet this is only their third full-length. And sure, some of these are familiar as previously released singles (though some have been rerecorded), but if we expect each "phase" of whatever they're building to to be a progression, this is indeed their most intense record yet. It's gargantuanly heavy, and cruising at unstoppable speed. There are pieces of prog in here, moments of metal, but there are also strong, emphatic statements of surf music.
As I said at the top, I tried to guide myself by how hyped I got, and anthems like "Gullwing Rides Again" made me feel like a planet conqueror. Sometimes you wonder if a band can live up to a their recordings. Go to a Daikaiju show and you'll likely feel the other way around. Phase 3 doesn't recreate the wild anything-can-happen action of a Daikaiju show, but armed with this record you can see the full picture. If a Daikaiju show can feel like a fight for your life, this record makes you feel like a fighter.
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