Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Retroliners - Subway Surfingdotdotdot
artworkThe Retroliners have moved into moodier territory with this, their second release. There are some nice moments here, and several bonus live tracks that really show off the prowess of the band. The guitar tends to be pretty atmospheric, but not spacy. The structures and sounds are not traditional surf, yet there is the distinct feel of the genre. An interesting CD for adventurous surf fans, or rock instro fans without narrow limits.
Picks: Subway Surfing, Caught In The Undertow, El Toro Vencedor, Beta Wave, Space Needle Stomp, Hoboken Hitman, Past Curfew, Step Lively, Spies In The Palace, Andy Warhol, (theme from) The Sleuth, Chelsea Beat, Cat Walk, Bullet Train, Transylvania Twist, Monica, Lithium (interlude), Harlem Nocturne, Rock Lobster

Track by Track Review


Subway Surfing dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Subway Surfing" floats down the rails towards adventure. A little relentless, with an unusual beat and bass line, this track is just shy of warm, almost welcoming, yet the minor sadness comes through. The riffs are interesting, and the ringing chords nicely whammied.

Caught In The Undertow dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The main riff here is slightly middle eastern. The glissandoes a little rough, yet it tastes of salt spray and leisurely small wave action on a desolate beach. Nice track.

El Toro Vencedor dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Spanish dribbled double picking intro, then a simple riff hinting of sub-border cruising. A pleasant journey to the tacoria.

Beta Wave dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The main riff here is a reflection of "What'd I Say," but not a direct borrow. The melody line reminds me of the Evasions, but in an inverted way.

Space Needle Stomp dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Space Needle Stomp" is almost fluid, yet retains an air of unnatural action. A little unnerving, yet surfish and stormy.

Hoboken Hitman dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Hoboken Hitman" is a nicely arranged number with a simple riff and slightly eerie chord action. The riffs are off the beaten path for surf.

Past Curfew dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Vibrato slinkiness and a bit of Link Wray, but gentle and inviting. Maybe the best track here, "Past Curfew" is an simple and direct instrumental with a lubricated edge. maybe in the dockside mold of the fifties, it's quite endearing.

Step Lively dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Make nice with your shoes bouncing off the pavement, lads. Prancy and playful, and a little goofy, yet very enjoyable.

Spies In The Palace dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Those pesky spies are at it again, this time hiding in the pantry at the royal palace. A little repetitious, but also an enjoyable syncopated romp.

Andy Warhol dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

I can't quite see "Andy Warhol" when I listen to this, but that doesn't detract from the angular bounce and twang.

(theme from) The Sleuth dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Detectives and damsels in distress, lurkers under street lamps, and slinky moonlight drives. "(theme from) The Sleuth" is an enjoyable look into the PI world. Quite smooth and friendly.

Chelsea Beat dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Chelsea Beat" flows OK, but is not quite melodic. It sports a bit of low key drama, and some interesting moments.

Cat Walk dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slithering along the sidewalk on a wave of vibrato, "Cat Walk" is a cool smooth tune with a touch of the blues and a bit of sophistication.

Bullet Train dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

On the faster side, "Bullet Train" is based on traditional fifties guitar boogies, while using a different beat to keep it fresh. A hint of a railroad yard, and a bounce of chuck holes in the road of life. Pretty fun track.

Transylvania Twist dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This live track shows off the Retroliners' raw side, and sports more reverb surf sounds than the studio tracks here. While it's a little crude sound wise, the song is strong and the edge mean.

Monica dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Whammy and wiggles, lots of reverb, and moody riffs. "Monica" must be a sad lady of the sea. In some ways, this reminds me of the Mermen. Big, visual, dramatic, and quite memorable. The studio version on their first album is more delicate.

Lithium (interlude) dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A little slow, "Lithium (interlude)" is a nice bass filler while some one tunes up.

Harlem Nocturne dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Earl Hagen's magnificent "Harlem Nocturne" gets the big guitar treatment, with feedback and sustain, and a different darkness than the Viscounts. Vibrato and howls.

Rock Lobster dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Retroliners close the set with rousing instro treatment of "Rock Lobster." Howls, bass riffs, and no remorse. The guitar tone is so unlike the B-52's that it takes on a whole new feel.