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The Fuzziyama Surfers - Wild Echizen

The Fuzziyama Surfers - Wild Echizen

As global as the surf scene is today, I feel like we only get glimpses of what's happening in Japan. You hear about how tiny villages have "Ventures" bands, we know about eleki, Surf Coasters, and from what I hear it's a great place to tour playing surf music -- with all that in mind there must be more than the likes of The El Caminos, The Royal Fingers, Mach Kung Fu, 5.6.7.8's, Toni OK, Rat Holic, The Routes, Lulufin the Woohoo and Switch Trout. After all, those bands are all REALLY GOOD. Where are the mediocre Japanese surf bands?

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Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited - The Flawless Miss Drake

Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited - The Flawless Miss Drake

SSSU's unique blend of surf and lounge (for lack of better description) have been a beloved facet of the surf ecosystem for 25 years. However, though I think they never lost a step, their more recent efforts felt a little "library" (again, for lack of a better term). A little more genre-expansive, experimental, and a little less guitar. I always thought it was probably all they could do to keep from going stale, and they did it well.

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Les Agamemnonz - Amateurs

Les Agamemnonz - Amateurs

I'm hard-pressed to think of a current surf band that's as straight-up delightful as Les Agamemnonz. Their image is outwardly ridiculous, robed in colored tunics and barefoot, coupled with some of the most inventive stage antics and a simply joyful attitude when playing.

To be a goofball is not necessarily to be an idiot. Balancing this out are their strikingly thoughtful recordings. Amateurs in particular feels equal parts big and small, ambitious but humble, and I think they're even recognizing this with their album art, gigantic redwoods dwarving the band.

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Chung Kings - Presents Surf-o-Tica

Chung Kings - Presents Surf-o-Tica

It's kind of a given when doing a review that the band is, well, a band, and the album is an album. Truthfully I don't think I understand what Chung Kings are. Their facebook description is "Chung Kings is a moveable feast of like-minded musicians expressing its love for Lo-Fi Surf, Ethio-Jazz, Latin, Rhythm & Blues and Exotica." I'm not sure that really clarifies it much. They've described this album as a compilation, which explains the names of groups in parentheses.

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The Tremolo Beer Gut release You Can't Handle...

The Tremolo Beer Gut - You Can't Handle...

I feel like I've mentioned in past Gremmys something along the lines of "There weren't a lot of big releases this year" which had me wondering "What is a big release?". I mean, this is surf music, even Los Straitjackets are far from a household name. But this does feel like a big release year, with big releases from Les Agamemmnonz, Pollo Del Mar, Arno de Cea & the Clockwork Wizards, Surfer Joe, and of course these guys. They've hardly been dormant, with two LPs and two singles in the 2010s and I've managed to see them twice, but one LP was a live record and the other was covers (albeit most of them obscure enough to feel like originals). You Can't Handle the Tremolo Beer Gut is their first LP of originals since 2008.

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The Space Agency - The Celestial Sounds of The Space Agency

The Space Agency - The Celestial Sounds of The Space Agency

Though they've been dropping a few nice singles here and there, it's been 15 years since we've had an LP from the Space Agency, and they remain as special as ever. Somewhere underneath layers of fuzz and pedals is a pretty trad surf group with great dead-simple melodies that honestly could sound more 1962 than many groups if they felt like it. Give a listen to the least dressed song on this record "Alpaca Boogie" to catch a glimpse.

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The Bluebottles - Poolside with...

The Bluebottles - Poolside with...

The title "Poolside with" may seem somewhat generic, but it's actually a bit of a clue. The Bluebottles aren't out to capture the adrenaline rush of a monster wave, it's a lighthearted album full of party music. Even though opening track, though lively, features an acoustic guitar lead, aiming to greet with an active dance floor rather than an overwhelming salvo.

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The Coffin Daggers - Eleki Album

The Coffin Daggers - Eleki Album

The fourth LP from Coffin Daggers is perhaps a bigger turn than having a google-eyed bongo-playing demon on the cover: it's a cover record! Of eleki tunes! For those unacquainted, Eleki is a Japanese instrumental rock & roll music, highly Ventures influenced, typically with very sharp, staccato guitar tones. Admittedly, Eleki is a bit of a weak point in my instro knowledge -- I always kind of hoped I'd go to Japan and blindly buy anything that vaguely fit the bill and learn from there -- but generally good starting points are Takeshi Terauchi and Yuzo Kayama.

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