Review Roundup for Bandcamp Friday

Hattori Hanzo Surf Experience

It's another Bandcamp Friday, which means bandcamp isn't taking a cut of sales on their platform and 100% of your money goes to the artists. If you've got money burning a hole in your pocket, today is a good day to spend it, and I'm here to help you decide what to spend it on. This isn't all of the surf music released on bandcamp in the past month, and there were good releases in the past month that weren't on bandcamp (and therefore not on this list) but these are some of the standouts.

Waves of Care

This is basically the sequel to the compilation Radical Waves, which was a compilation of recordings from the 2017 SurfGuitar 101 Convention engineered by Grammy-winning Mark Linnett. Waves of Care is selections from the 2018 convention plus a few bonus tracks from 2017 to round it out to a crammed 80 minutes. They sound fantastic, nearly studio, though some tracks benefit more than others from a uniform backline and engineer. For instance, Fascinating Creatures from the Deep turned a lot of heads that day, and they sound incredible,  and the Sentinals and PJ & the Galaxies tributes sound wonderful. However, Tremolo Beer Gut lose a bit of that harshness from their studio sound and end up surprisingly tame here. I remember thinking they were great in person, but I can't compare to a memory accurately. Each band gets two tracks, and most of these bands have more than two great tracks in their arsenal so inevitably some favorites are missing, but the ones that were included were all solid, and in many cases they landed right on my favorites. Interestingly, these are not in the order that they played that day, but it doesn't really matter upon listening.

I haven't mentioned the most important part: all proceeds of this go to the MusiCares foundation to benefit musicians struggling under COVID. $20 may seem steep for a digital download but you can think of it as a donation. You can also buy the CD version for the same price, or buy this and Radical Waves for 30 on .

The Insanitizers - Space Force

To those accustomed the standard loadout of surf hardware, The Insanitizers might sound a little insane. A lot of the effects that traditional surf groups might consider as novelty are happily employed by them, and perhaps moreso on their new space-themed album than ever. I like hearing this band going full nutso -- even if a sound has lost its initial impact, they get into occasional spots that make you think "what the hell was that?" And I think that's a good thing. Importantly, this is not a psych/experimental album sneaking into the surf tent; underneath the swirling haze is either surf guitar or at least guitar instrumentals structured for surf and aiming for a surf ear with clear melodic drive.

This is also a pretty good companion listen to the new record.

The Almighty Devildogs - Abducted! The Music of Man or Astro-Man?

Historically, surf (and in general early rock & roll) had a lot of musicians covering each others' songs on their albums, and if you buy a handful of first-wave surf records you'll likely have a few versions of Pipeline that aren't exactly full reinventions. Why not do the same for the most influential modern surf group? These are pretty faithful covers, but they do what's important: they sound loud and hit hard. It sometimes feels like you're just listening to MOAM with better recording equipment... but that is something I'd like to hear!

Hattori Hanzo Surf Experience - B​.​S​.​O. "El Verdugo de Red Rock" 1969

I've always liked this band with their brass complement that sounds kinda 3rd-wave ska-ish. I was curious to hear how they would approach a Western record, and I'm actually kind of relieved to find that they still mostly sound like themselves. Even though it clearly has Western angles to the songs, it's still loud and exuberant. Not so much music for showdowns, campfires and riding into the sunset, plenty of music for the cavalry riding in. That's what they're suited to, and they do a great job with it.

Peopleperson - Whoah!

This faceless fellow started with a surf-kinda EP in September of last year, and has since succombed to us with 3 EPs that are pretty comfortably modern surf music. The title suggests a slight spaghetti Western influence, but he's certainly not strict. I really like the track "Soggy Burger" but they're all solid.

Rev Hank - El Camino de los Muertos

More Western stuff! Most of these came out pretty quickly after Morricone's death, close enough that I think it's coincidence for these, but I'd recommend investing now in Western instrumentals for the coming months. Rev Hank/Urban Surf Kings have never been particularly quiet, but Rev Hank has been pretty busy lately, with Ukexotic in December and a 7" in May before this. In fact, as I type this, Urban Surf Kings have just dropped on bandcamp.
Of all the Western material mentioned, this is probably the one least stuck in the surf world. Still very guitar-centric, but more sparse and ragged, and with a bit more orchestral backing (audibly not real orchestra, but nobody should be getting an orchestra together at the moment anyway). I'm assuming this isn't a soundtrack for a real movie, which is kind of fun because you can build one in reverse -- rather than soundtracking a film, imagine a film from the soundtrack. He's even got some great sub-minute tracks as if tailored for a certain scene. I love hearing these more earnest takes on Western soundtracks, they're harder to find than you might expect.

Exotico Paradisio - Jungle Feast

While you have bands like and Tikiyaki Orchestra creating modern exotica with reverence to Les Baxter and the like, Exotico Paradisio do it with a bit less of a straight face. Guitar is very prominent and with a ragged tone, kitschy voice-overs are sprinkled throughout, and there's a little more of an experimental and atmospheric vibe to it. Name your price too, might as well indulge.

Draculina - Strip Trip to Miracle Cove

Sitting somewhere between exotica (it's got vibes!) and horror surf, Draculina includes members of Messer Chups, Coffin Wheels and Larry Mullins who's been in enough high-profile bands to It's a pretty chilled-out record that grows with more listens.

Wave Electric - Surfin' Naviglio

Debut EP from Milan, Italy. Solid loud & fun surf with a touch of punk tempo and edge to it. All three tracks are fun!

The Jet Jaguars - Death Chase

Trad surf that happens to ALSO be from Milan, Italy! They've got a good bounce to them when they want to be fun, and they're pretty when they want to slow down.

The Vibrajets - Gold Foil Fever

The Vibrajets have a vintage sound, though not explicitly surf with more of a mod party vibe and guitar that actually sounds kinda Southern to me (Travis Wammack, Lonnie Mack etc). It's a bonafide rumpshaker.

Dynowaves - Big Sun

This just came out this morning and I haven't really given it a good and proper listen, but their take on surf has a bit of scronk and noise to it that stood out to me.


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