Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Romans - You Only Live Oncedotdotdotdot
artworkI'm so glad this vintage eighties album has been reissued on CD. It may not look like a surf album, but it features some of the nicest tracks of the era. The Romans's sound is enduring and warm. There are 8 bonus tracks added, most of which are instros.

In some ways, the Romans were a supergroup of the punk scene, with Mikey Borens (Monitor) - guitar, Pat Delaney (Deadbeats) - sax, Juan Gomez (Human Hands) - guitar, Keith Mitchell (Mazy Star) - drums, and Michael Uhlenkott (Tikis) - bass.

The CD sports a thick booklet full of history and pictures.
Picks: Runway, Iron Cross, Shorebreak, Birdbrain, Nazarene, Blob, Motu Tapu, What Gives (Jan's Theme), You Only Live Once, Black, Birdbrain, Beebs and Jeebs, Footsteps, Moonlight, Chasm

Track by Track Review


Runway dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Runway" sports an infectious melody line, with an almost sparking sound, like the brighter moments for the Wedge, but with a more light hearted feel. This is just plain fun, and the melody strays with you long after the track is gone. Surf tones, glissandoes, and a snappy beat. A must have eighties surf instro track.

Iron Cross dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A little more on the downer side, "Iron Cross" features a chunky post-punk chunka rhythm and an ominous bad-day-at-Mavericks kinda feel. Hard driving and melodic, and powerful too.

Shorebreak dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an unusual track. It floats gently in and out in the "Shorebreak." It's infectious, and more than that, it holds your attention. The progression seesm to circle around, and the sound of the surf is everywhere. Fascinating.

Birdbrain dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Somewhat dissonant, a little off the beaten path, and just inside the walls of the asylum, "Bird Brain" portrays a slightly surf image of a can short of a six pack holiday. Unusual and intriguing.

Nazarene dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dramatic and sporting discordant tonality, "Nazarene" is menacing and tribal, tom tom laden and edgy like fingernails on the blackboard of life. Intense and rumbly.

Blob dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An eighties bouncy beat carries the "Blob" across the monitors with all the chunka chunka it can muster. Riffologically driven, with great drums and cool moody sax.

Motu Tapu dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

On the edge of the atoll, "Motu Tapu" drives for the lip without cutting back. Optimistic and spunky, with a sense of shortboard exhilaration. Action and adventure, fun in the sun.

What Gives (Jan's Theme) dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

On the jazzy side, "What Gives (Jan's Theme)" is a groover, a sax and guitar jammer with a slight funk and a watery edge. Slightly mean, on the cool side.

You Only Live Once dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Big thundering drums, menacing sax, angry bass, and driving guitars cut through the chop with abandon. The danger is clear, but so is the courage, or at least the disregard for the risk. Out front with fast shortboard action.

Black dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Alterno progressions bump under this very surfable instro with a long dark coast highway feel. The thumping' bass creates the top down cruising feel, and the angular guitars hint of looming outsiders. It reminds me a little of a gloomier version of the first DC incarnation of the Insect Surfers filtered through Agent Orange. Infectious and cool.

Birdbrain dotdotdotdot
Punk (Instrumental)

This demo version of "Birdbrain" cut in 1982 is significantly different from the released version. Much more dependent on dry chord chops, and much more about rhythm. The primal slow punkoidal nature of the track reminds me a little of the BTeam's "What Is This." A lot less surfy, but very cool.

Beebs and Jeebs dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A rhythm dominated surf instro with jazz lurking in a salt water soul. Dissonant and disturbing, yet playful and abbreviated.

Footsteps dotdotdotdot
Dockside Surf (Instrumental)

This is interesting! A kinda surf 'n' soul groove, a little detective walking bass, and some shallow whammy chords that are interrupted by dangerous sax inversions. It's a dark night on the docks, you're all alone, and suddenly, you know you shouldn't have come. Very groovy.

Moonlight dotdotdotdot
Surf Stroll (Instrumental)

"Moonlight" out back of the gym at the prom. That about sums it up. A playful stroll.

Chasm dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This early track was cut in '79. It's atmospheric and dangerous, like a futurist sewer scene. The relentless howl and the robot walk beat summon a bleak hopelessness.