Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Mermen - At The Haunted Housedotdotdotdotdot
artworkThe first live album from San Francisco's leading envelope pushers, those psychedelic surfers, the Mermen. Very big and powerful psychedelic surf from the best band in the world. My two favorite musical things musical are Surf Music and Hawkwind, and this is the missing link between them. None of these tracks are from Summer Surf, and none are available elsewhere. Every track was recorded on Phil Dirt's Surf's Up! from three different in-studio performances over four years. Some were remixed at Phil's house, and others are direct from the 2-track masters just as they went over the air.
Picks: Pull Of The Moon, Honeybomb, Lonely Road, Casbah-America, Into The West - Be My Noir, My Black Bag, Gulch Of Spleens, Quiet Surf, The Whales Are Coming, And Boy Are They Pissed, Unknown, Splashing With The Mermaids, Penetration, Slo Mo HVO

Track by Track Review

Pull Of The Moon dotdotdotdotdot
Psychedelic Surf (Instrumental)

When the Mermen played at KFJC on January 29th of 1994, they had completed an inspired one-and-a-half hour set, and taken a thirty minute break. Coming back for more, Jim Thomas started making guitar noises, and Allen and Martyn just chimed in. They thought they weren't on air yet, and were hoping to come on with a barrage of unrelated noise. Naturally, the tape was already rolling. The intro quickly yields to the most monstrous performance of this eerie tune they've ever done. When I first heard them get into the middle part, the feedback made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It also brought KFJC's Reverend Dah Wave running in from the lobby exclaiming "I hope this is on tape..." This IS the Mermen... at their finest, intentionally paced to lull you into an alternate reality where surf and psych are one. At over twelve minutes, it couldn't be any more intense!

Honeybomb dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Among their earliest surf rages, this track lives up to it's name, being both an explosive number and leaving you all sticky when their through. High energy poundage for psycho surfers among you. Recorded January 29, 1994

Lonely Road dotdotdotdotdot
Driving Surf (Instrumental)

This tune is definitely image-evoking. When we were mixing this at my house, I told Jim that "Krill Slippin'" seemed like it was about a guy drivin' down the coast with the wind in his face, leaving a past and entering a future, both sad and hopeful. Jim said "That's AMAZING!" The song was originally called "Lonely Road," and had words. The lyrics were about just that - a guy leaving a relationship and driving into a new day. This is an infectious melodic tune of unequaled beauty. Recorded January 29, 1994

Casbah-America dotdotdotdotdot
Ripping Surf (Instrumental)

Back in 1988, someone gave Jim a tape of my show. Combined with his getting the Rhino compilation of Dick Dale's hits, Jim was inspired to write and record, and eventually form a band. On that tape were the Sentinals' "Latinia," Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers' "Quiet Surf," the Pyramids' "Penetration," the Vydells' "Unknown," and Sandy Nelson's "Casbah." All of these tunes remain in their set today, two being from the pen of Richie Podolor, "Quiet Surf" and "Casbah." The original is a pummeling shredder, and here, Jim has made it huge in his usual giant-sound way. He used a phrase from "America" as an intro-outro, and it works so well. One day, they should just do "America" complete. Recorded January 29, 1994

Into The West - Be My Noir dotdotdotdotdot
Environmental Surf (Instrumental)

Another pair of Jim's beautiful and air compositions, these two tracks are often segued together, and work really well as a couplet. The imagery is wasted on no one as you listen to this complete submersion into the psychedelic realm of the sea. Recorded January 29, 1994

My Black Bag dotdotdotdotdot
Accessory Surf (Instrumental)

When God asks... This song is one of their pounding assaulting tunes. It is one powerful performance. It's the same take as on Summer Surf, but with extra stuff at the end, and even better sound. It was recorded at Summer Surf I in July '94. The Mermen are San Francisco's leading exponent of psychedelic surf, pushing the envelope as far as possible. The lo-fi boys and trad worshipers hate 'em, and that's good. They have spurred many others to experiment with the surf idiom, bringing it back to real life. The Mermen are one of my very favorite bands ever.

Gulch Of Spleens dotdotdotdotdot
Surgical Surf (Instrumental)

Like "Krill Slippin'," Martyn was unsatisfied with simple names, and dubbed this beautiful melody and soundscape "Gulch Of Spleens" after the mythical beach of promise past where medical waste now adorns the sand and tiny feet of children. Recorded January 29, 1994

Quiet Surf dotdotdotdotdot
Shimmering Surf (Instrumental)

This is the other Richie Podolor tune the Mermen cover. Also known as "Samoa." It's a startlingly beautiful composition, almost written for Jim's style and grace. It shimmers. Moderately tempoed, the toms are grand and the vibrato is superb as it pulses, ping-ponging between the speakers perfectly. Recorded May 16, 1992 during the Month of Mayhem.

The Whales Are Coming, And Boy Are They Pissed dotdotdotdotdot
Massive Surf Medley (Instrumental)

It was a sad day in 1992 when the Mermen dropped this virtual history of surf from their set. A whole flock of high energy surf tunes strung together with a few twists and turns that simply ripped! Near the end, as Jim is changing guitars (always hard to tell, given the loops and effects), Martyn is holding down a nasty fast beat with Allen's pumping bass, and he's getting mighty tired. Jim is taking longer than usual, and it's Martyn you can hear shouting "Hurry Up!" What a great medley! "The Victor," "Latin'ia," "Miserlou," "Paint It Black," "Hava Nagila," and "America." Again, it's Martyn that renamed it. Recorded August 31, 1990.

Unknown dotdotdotdotdot
Classic Surf (Instrumental)

Among the most intense numbers from obscure sixties bands, the Vydells' "Unknown" is played out with energy and glorious sound. It's a infectious number anyway, and the boys make it shine! Recorded May 16, 1992 during the Month of Mayhem.

Splashing With The Mermaids dotdotdotdotdot
Playful Surf (Instrumental)

A beautiful light number with a film quality about it that oozes visions of frolicking in the waves with the mythical ladies of the deep. Recorded May 16, 1992 during the Month of Mayhem.

Penetration dotdotdotdotdot
Sexy Surf (Instrumental)

A high energy rendition of one of the great surf standards. This track delivers the goods in a way not heard on other covers, and gives it a fresh face. Recorded May 16, 1992 during the Month of Mayhem.

Slo Mo HVO dotdotdotdotdot
Pure Polynesian TV Detective Surf (Instrumental)

If you think you've heard everything that can be done with "Hawaii Five-0," think again. Jim slowed it way WAY down, and the tension that creates is awesome. The result of the reduced pace and his shimmering tones is simply stunning. Recorded May 16, 1992 during the Month of Mayhem.