Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks - The Birdnest Yearsdotdotdotdotdot
artworkFifty tracks from one of the best kept secrets of guitar instrumentals, compiled from Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks releases for the Bird Nest label. If you've missed out, enjoy raw guitar and a driving beat with a healthy nod to Link Wray, and don't want tired lo-fi frat bands anymore, this is for you. Thank you Bird Nest!
Picks: Buzz Aldrin, Tigercharm, The Whip, Camelwalk, Surf Beat, Jack The Ripper, Hangin' One, Asiatic Flu, Thunder, Punchdrunks Drives A Dragster, Ghost Train, Long Ride, Ramblin' Reckless Hobo, Bird Bath, Have Guitar Will Travel, Ali Boom A Lay, Ramrod, Wipe Out, Safari, Genocide, Mustang, Hoss, Trigger Happy, Rumble Weed, 2000 Ib Bee, Dragster, Getaway, Thrilla In Manila, Aloha From Havana, Lex Luthor, The Fuzz, Les Adventures de Tintin, Theme From The Persuaders, Link's Voodoo, Spy vs Spy, Do The Punch, Garlic Chicken and Shots, Cecilia Ann, Stuck In Tunisia, I'm Branded, Gladys' Pills, Lothar Goes Berserk, Dope Safari In Casbah, Crossfire, Jungle Run, Drums Fell Off The Cliff, Lynxtail, Nightrider, Bo Diddley On A Catwalk, Comanche

Track by Track Review


Buzz Aldrin dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Intense weird tones thrust you into this assaultive fuzz and grind riff rocker in the Link Wray tradition. Very uncomfortable, and very cool.

Tigercharm dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Slow grinding a la Link Wray, with throbbing vibrato and dissonant tonality. Growls and howls permeate the darkness, adding horror film fear.

The Whip dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The Frantics' "The Whip" gets the extra grodie treatment, with growly sax lead and thick back alley tone.

Camelwalk dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Ah yes... The Saxons' mighty "Camel Walk" gets the Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks treatment, which means the tribal runway surf and sax groove gives way to a nastier grodier ax and sax assault. Very cool!

Surf Beat dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Dick Dale's incredibly primal "Surf Beat" trashed and thrashed. Unlike Robert Johnson's version with the Bottle Ups, this is less vibrato dependent and more chunk and grind dominated. Very mean.

Jack The Ripper dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

What self respecting guitar player has played "Jack The Ripper?" Link Wray and his Raymen made such a nasty record! These guys pay sincere respect to the Linkster, adding a garage edge and long leaning notes. Fine version.

Hangin' One dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

With a riff slightly similar to "Moon Dawg," the Ramblers' "Hangin' One" draws on a gnarly riff and a nasty sax to snarl at the moon and drive it home. Really cool. Nothing like the original texture wise. Way cool.

Asiatic Flu dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Punchdrunks rhythm guitarist Per Thorsell wrote this mean tune. It's a lot like many of the fifties riff rockers, yet is so much meaner and sports some nice changes. Rockin' rollin' alley cat thrash.

Thunder dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Bobby Fuller's "Thunder Reef" is dirtied, grodied, mashed and busted. Big time garage gnarl.

Punchdrunks Drives A Dragster dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Robert Johnson pushed this tight little riff to the max when he wrote it. Mean and rockin', the band powers through this with abandon. Similar to the sort of tune Eddie Angel loves so much, this is simple and direct, and quite infectious.

Ghost Train dotdotdotdot
Nasty Rock (Instrumental)

Another obscure instro, the Swanks' "Ghost Train" is taken from mere haunting to outright threatening, with a very nasty guitar and a ton of energy. What a monster.

Long Ride dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This train timer writhes on the rhythm of a military march, overpower all that come near. While a riff rocker, "Long Ride" is domineering and catchy.

Ramblin' Reckless Hobo dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A Pipeline-esq rhythm track, chunked with dark power, is fronted by long sustain and fuzz. Not melodic, but mighty dark and commanding.

Bird Bath dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Dal Winslow's interpretation of the Revels' "Church Key" gets nastier and grodier at the hands of Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks. Fast, furious, harsh, and par-tee targeted. Very mean.

Have Guitar Will Travel dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A bit of a Link Wray feel, a back woods lilt, and a nasty fuzz. Primitivo, with a cool riff!

Ali Boom A Lay dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Ultra nasty double picked lead tops overdrive rhythm chords and a "Miserlou"-like beat and structure. Nods to Dick Dale, roughness of the Hollywood Surfers, and the impeccable basic rock and roll of the Punchdrunks.

Ramrod dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Al Casey's seminal tune gets the raw power treatment. Rhythm is the watchword, and crude is the key to its success. Quite a rocker.

Wipe Out dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

The Surfaris' classic "Wipe Out" is taken to the frat party, thrashed and bashed, and all purities have been surgically removed. Pure unadulterated rock 'em sock 'em bashomatic music. Did I mention that it sounds LOUD?

Safari dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

A slow cymbal intro to tribal tom toms, and the gradual infusion of dirty guitar playing a sub-metal menace. The riff and swirl is like "Stranded In The Jungle," while the sound is pure jungle rot. Harsh, primitive, and unpretentious.

Genocide dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Link Wray's "Genocide" is almost as scary as the original. It's just so much dirtier that some of the drama is replaced with pure edge. The shimmering vibrato is very cool and raspy.

Mustang dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This previously unreleased Link Wray cover is not just cool, it's crunchy and grodie. Rich vibrato, military drums, suave bass... a very good track!

Hoss dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slow saucy saxophonist in the dangerous roadhouse Indian tradition. Very cool, and downright mean.

Trigger Happy dotdotdotdot
Punk (Instrumental)

Not far removed from the Bottle Ups, Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks deliver a vibrato savvy theme with twang and charm. The unusual riffs are offset by throbbing vibrato and a spunky rhythm section (of course). Very cool track!

Rumble Weed dotdotdotdot
Punk (Instrumental)

With "Runnin' Scared" drama and dribbling edge, Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks bring cowboy rhythms to the rhythm section, and use simple and rather infectious riffs. It's amazing just how cool minimal can be. Excellent!

2000 Ib Bee dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Yikes! What a nasty cover of this venerable old tune. Totally dirty, almost filthy. Mega fuzz, boss attack, and heavy back alley thunder. It pummels you into submission.

Dragster dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a powerhouse cover of Johnny Fortune's thumpin' monster "Dragster." Fast, thrashy, edgy, grodie, and just too cool!

Getaway dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Growing from a howling into a thundering menace with surf guitar, "Getaway" is fluid and powerful, and hard driving. Very big track, with intense whammy and biting tone. Excellent.

Thrilla In Manila dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Huge thundering rock 'n' roll with a hint of dangerous surf twang. This monster needs no protection... while not exactly melodic, it rings with major power, and is augmented by a fine sax break. Like a bad day at Waimea.

Aloha From Havana dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Throbbing raw guitar behind a surf riff with reverb. Big twang and driving drums. The melodic lead and the dark tones combine to create a gray stormy day epic. Quite cool.

Lex Luthor dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A little tweaky, introduced by threats from Lex Luthor, and riffed into an uneasy house of danger. Big sustain, cool effects, and a sci-fi kinda weirdness. The Theremin is a very cool touch.

The Fuzz dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Link Wray's rhythmic reverberator is all fuzzed out and made extra threatening. Thick and dangerous.

Les Adventures de Tintin dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Film score-ish, adventurous, surfy, and quite unusual. Very good double picking over a churning rhythm guitar. Spacy, splashy, and pretty scary.

Theme From The Persuaders dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

John Barry's "Theme From The Persuaders" is even more dramatic in a dissonant setting. Dark and ominous.

Link's Voodoo dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks' original tribute to the Linkster. In the right groove, dirty, nasty, sustained, ratchety, and dark. Yup, that's Link!

Spy vs Spy dotdotdotdot
Surf Spy (Instrumental)

Original spy sounds, intense surf, dangerous trench coats, and weird sounds from Jonas Johasson. Rhythmic, grindy, and very cool to say the least.

Do The Punch dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A kinda Swedish "The Crusher," but with way fewer lyrics and a stilted grinding chord thrash. Must be way fun live.

Garlic Chicken and Shots dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Grinding classic chicken boppin' rock 'n' roll. Ostensibly a tribute to the Olsson Brothers, "Garlic Chicken and Shots" goes just where you'd expect, and makes you glad it does.

Cecilia Ann dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It's interesting to see that they covered the Surftones original instead of the more familiar Pixies version. Nastier that the original, but quite reverent. Whammy, twang, reverb, and great drums.

Stuck In Tunisia dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Middle eastern themes, speedy power, caravans on the run, infidels in danger. Thundering drums and throbbing bass, and dangerous guitars.

I'm Branded dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Link Wray's nasty tune gets grodier and meaner despite the use of double picked reverbed guitar. Pure trash for the curl.

Gladys' Pills dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Gladys' Pills" is a pretty unusual track. Double picked lead riffs, fuzzed rhythm, pumping bass, and metronomic drums. Dissonant, disturbed, storm surf rage. Yikes!

Lothar Goes Berserk dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tribal drums pummel the silence, and the thrashing guitars grind up the night. Not melodic, but grindy and powerful. Some pretty cool effects and strange sounds.

Dope Safari In Casbah dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A journey through the middle east for dangerous purposes. This delicate and almost ambient track speaks softly of oasis palms and burdened camels. Bedouin bargain for the hidden cargo. Very nice track.

Crossfire dotdotdotdot
Nasty Rock (Instrumental)

Johnny and the Hurricanes' "Crossfire" is previously unreleased. The raw sax lead is very nasty, and against the raw guitar, thundering bass, and pounding drums, it takes on a whole new feel. Very mean.

Jungle Run dotdotdot
Nasty Rock (Instrumental)

Ringing chords, vocalized bird calls, tribal drums, raw edge, deliberate pacing... "Jungle Run" is just plain tuff. Cool for sure.

Drums Fell Off The Cliff dotdotdotdotdot
Nasty Surf (Instrumental)

With an intro countdown added, Robert Johnson and Punchdrunks absolutely pummel Ronnie Kaye and the Saints' "Drums Fell Off A Cliff." All of the quirk and plunk are replaced with big guitar edge and punishing rhythm. A truly refreshing treatment of a great surf obscuro.

Lynxtail dotdotdotdotdot
Nasty Surf (Instrumental)

Los Straitjackets' gnarly Link Wray inspired "Lynxtail" is almost godlike in its Linkness. Thick, raw, and primal!

Nightrider dotdotdotdot
Nasty Surf (Instrumental)

Dick Dale's "Nightrider" is amped up with raw guitar and sax. The double picked distortion guitar is quite tuff, and the nasty sax gives it even more oomph. Yikes!

Bo Diddley On A Catwalk dotdotdotdot
Nasty Surf (Instrumental)

The classic Bo Diddley beat and throbbing vibrato guitar creating a coarse tribal monster. "Bo Diddley On A Catwalk" is simply a primal rock instro masterwork. Sparse and grating, and taking no prisoners.

Comanche dotdotdot
Nasty Surf (Instrumental)

Everybody and his mother have covered Link Wray's garage romper. Few have captured the power, with most opting merely for frat band crudeness. Excellent.