Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surf Dude - Cool Surf Tunes From The Zonedot
artworkI hate stuff like this. Intentionally misleading releases from dishonest music factories. Everything that sucks about the music business can be summed up by this kind of garbage - everything except the majors' criminal bookkeeping systems. This is a reissue of a 1996 time-waster called Liquid Moonlight by Michael Clarke and Hawthorne. The CD art remains unchanged since its initial release. The two "bands" listed don't exist, and picking this up hoping for new tracks from any of the fine surfbands called the Stingrays will surely piss you off. Here's the review, exactly as it appeared under the original title.

Does this sound familiar? You pick up a CD that says Planet Surf - Rock The Wave at an unlikely department store. It has pictures of guitars and waves or island palms on the cover, but no pix of the artist, or the artist name is not evident, if there at all. Many track titles are endowed with Hawaiian locales, inappropriate use of surf or surf music terms or non-surf water-words, and the word surf appears in too many titles. You notice an overemphasis of the use of vintage equipment in recording? Back in the sixties, one of the nails in the coffin of surf was the release of numerous studio sessions of music that was an outsiders' interpretation of a sound that was obviously foreign to him, non-surf music with cute little surf titles. Here, two guys from Indianapolis who I gather generally create what I'd call pseudo-music for the parasite market and are connected to the label in some way, take the thinnest veil of surf and drag it over original music of no consequence to the surf music scene at all. They use a drum machine, synthesizer, and guitars to make a record. Almost no surf sound or feel at all, and little or no surf structures. The most telltale sign of lack of authenticity is the annoyingly under programmed and unrealistic drum machine sounds. I received email first inquiring about reviewing this disc. I was a bit suspicious from the email, but said sure, send it along. As surf, this is a complete fraud, right up there Liv & Let Liv... well, maybe not that far off. As instrumental rock, it is about as insincere as it comes. There is no band, and the electricity that can be achieved by first call studio players is totally absent. It sounds and feel concocted. The accompanying letter said it was going to be distributed via MacFruggals and others, and that ought to tell you everything you need to know. If you see this in your local market, run like hell strait home and gargle with plenty of Listerine. I'm sure Michael Clark will not appreciate this review, but this is exactly the sort of thing that killed surf 30 years ago, and it should not go without warning into the ears of the uninitiated.

Basically, this sucks musically and it's deceptive
Picks: The Barefoot Boys - Surfboard Dreams, Surf's Up, Magic Waves, Surfin' Sally, Tidal Wave, Ocean Mist, The Stingrays - Maui Mama, Sunburned, Jellyfish, Surf Dude, California Curls, Cowabunga

Track by Track Review


The Barefoot Boys - Surfboard Dreams dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

I think they only know one drum machine sequence... A pale imitation of a sanitized top forty backtrack... In fairness, there is a melody here, it just need to be actually played with some kind of feeling. Mere notes strung together, however perfectly, does not a surf song make.

The Barefoot Boys - Surf's Up dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Jeepers, what edge - just like on that old butter knife. Blues jammin' nothing happening space filler. I don't mean to be cruel, but when studio players in the middle of the continent issue mindless stuff that purports to be surf, I get a little grumpy. I suppose the title reference the guitar, or does it reference the lofty place you run out of air. It makes no difference, because it does justice to neither. This is pretty in a movie scene or "clean up on aisle 13" kind of way. Syrupy would be more like it.

The Barefoot Boys - Magic Waves dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Another blues progression with nothing to offer. On the other hand, you could use this as a test for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder = bored stiff). If you can focus on this, you don't have ADD. Then again, I lost my place about a minute into it... what was I doing?

The Barefoot Boys - Surfin' Sally dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Let's pretend we play sitar, know a really nice programmed tabla master, and lay down what is arguably a pretty nice backtrack, then forget to dub the lead. Too bad, it's the best thing here. Finishing it would have been a good idea.

The Barefoot Boys - Tidal Wave dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

They must mean waxed as in bikini line, or floors more likely. Another progression without a direction.

The Barefoot Boys - Ocean Mist dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

R&B for the faint at heart... no thanks.

The Stingrays - Maui Mama dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Tribal tom-toms, waves breaking, a relatively eighties corporate electro backdrop, and a guitar that is more Chuck Berry than surf. A minimal melody, and almost calliopic keys... it doesn't ever do anything, like a backtrack waiting for a vocal or lead. If MOR exotica for the eighties was the target, it might be really swell, but as surf music goes... it's about as authentic as the Red Jackets or Peter Hammill.

The Stingrays - Sunburned dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

While waiting in line at the 7-11, you might encounter this. Movie soundtrack backdrop mood music maybe, but surf... The complete lack of anything passing for a lead line relegates it to the "waiting in the elevator for a vocal" category. New age with a beat.

The Stingrays - Jellyfish dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Barely a progression, but definitely not melodic. Very tame guitar work. Completely without surf sensibilities.

The Stingrays - Surf Dude dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

The drum machine is beginning to get to me. This is more like some post-Crosby Byrds country wanna be without the soul of the winged ones. A backtrack for your chili party.

The Stingrays - California Curls dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

With a near-"California Girls" backtrack and country blues guitar, you have to ask if these guys have ever even heard surf music. Boring with a CAPITAL "B."

The Stingrays - Cowabunga dot
Drum Machine (Instrumental)

Listening to this track, I finally figured out where I've heard this kind of mung before. It was at all the faceless fairgrounds or boardwalk "California Music" events with the last living member of name-your-former-glory touring skeleton. You know the type, Hawaiian shirts, scrubbed faces, interchangeable personalities, all the Beach Boys / Jan and Dean / Fantastic Baggies ancient gold you could ask for. This is the longest 4 minutes I have ever spent!