When it was announced that John Reis (Night Marchers, Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes) was collaborating with The Blind Shake, it was expected that the combo would pack a punch. When it came out that the collaborative record was to be instrumental surf, even that made some sense—though the instrumental part is a bit surprising. But, as The Blind Shake recently confided, how many classic surf songs have vocals anyway?
Calling it Modern Surf Classics may be presumptuous, but this record blows away from the get go. Starting with “See Saw” it quickly established a firm base in traditional surf, but louder, more disjointed, and not so much riding of the wave, commanding and steering it. It’s a ripper that plays into wild and unexpected territory at times (especially when the sax kicks in), rides a mellow traditional groove at others, and is always consistent, yet varied as it cascades through 13 songs in 35 minutes.
The standouts on the record are “Kooks on the Face” and “Over the Falls,” and when the saxophone kicks into each of them, it takes a complementary but entirely new melody atop the existing focus. The songs have a beautiful chaos that crashes against the rocks but keeps on pushing along. There are a few vocals that whoop and holler their way onto the record, giving a little zesty exclamation to the music and throwing the rhythm into momentary disarray. The lack of vocals is rarely a negative, though it may come through a little in the more traditional numbers like “Dry Suit” or “The Lonely Sea Sweeper” which seem to mellow out the tone for a couple of minutes. They aren’t downers, just moments to catch some breath in between rippers. This record had high expectations and it delivers in full. 2015 is off to a strong start.
9.0 / 10
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