Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Urban Surf Kings - Retro-Sonicdotdotdotdotdot
artworkRetro-Sonic is subtitled 15 Years Of twang, which says it all. This is a career spanning collection of tracks from Nova Scotia's superb Urban Surf Kings. It includes many previously unissued tracks, as well as gems from prior releases. This is an essential release. I may be a bit biased, being both a fan, and having had the privilege of mastering this collection. Those who buy Retro-Sonic directly through Reverb Ranch also get a bonus mp3 album of live material called Monday Night Surf Club, reviewed separately here.
Picks: Breaker Shake, Attack Of The 50 Foot Bikinis, We 3 Urban Surf Kings, Kookie's Comb, Guy Caballero, Danelectro Twist, Brickton Flats, AMG, El Toro, Twister, Seven Faces of Dr. Surf, Giant Cow, Go Go Island, Man From Adano, Oh No! It's Xmastime Again, Huron Carol, 7 Veils a Go Go, Radarmen From The Moon, Muchos Diablos, Wigwam, Moguls, Do The Earl, Twist And Twang

Track by Track Review


Breaker Shake dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Long glissandos bring on a solid surf instro. Shouts from the band, a great combination of rich tone and bass rumble, and driving drums make "Breaker Shake" a powerhouse.

Attack Of The 50 Foot Bikinis dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Moderate pacing and a great melody line with flow in moody grit along a foggy shore line. The tall ones of the title lurk just over the cliff. The Urban Surf Kings seem sad that they are not closer. Slightly Mediterranean, but mostly surf.

We 3 Urban Surf Kings dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

As you might guess from the title, this is a surf treatment of "We Three Kings." Splendid fun with twang and reverb in tow. It's a very cool track, among the punchiest and most rockin' of the surf versions out there. Sure to make Santa surf!

Kookie's Comb dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Countrified simplicity of the sort Eddie Angel might twang out with Guitar Party, but with a bit of low-E picking. This tracks rocks!

Guy Caballero dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Guy Caballero" is a Torpedoes-like tune with very cool big guitar picking. Big twang and a beefy delivery. Very genuine!

Danelectro Twist dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Danelectro Twist" is a stomp with drive. Its melody is well rounded and original, and the delivery consistently strong. A traditional surf beat and grumbly bass back a big guitar.

Brickton Flats dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Throbbing tremolo powers over an augmented classic surf beat and thunder bass. A bit Link Wray-ish, "Brickton Flats" has plenty to engage you with its strong trio sound. Splendid.

AMG dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A fine circular bass line, sax squonks, perfectly driven drums, and a real rock riff. "AMG" suggests the fifties, lives in the now, and jams with charm.

El Toro dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Heavy double picked power surf, with major drive and low-E growl. Flying glissandos, shouts of joy, and chants of "El Toro." This is one solid driving surf instro, very high on energy.

Twister dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Fast driving Link Wray inspired twango, thundering drums and bass, and jammin' fast paced guitar.

Seven Faces of Dr. Surf dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Opening like "Miserlou," this excellent track flows like an untamed river meeting the shorebreak, turbulent and powerful. Twang and whammy, great double picking, and rock solid power. Very cool track! "Seven Faces of Dr. Surf" has stood up well over the decade since it was recorded.

Giant Cow dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Great drums and big guitar twang. A very nice melody. The ska bridge is just superb. Fiery, powerful, and not a bit like you'd expect from its title - no cows or cowboys imagery. "Giant Cow" is a very cool song.

Go Go Island dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Oog-gah" chants open this dark baritone twanger. Great drums, cool ringing chords, a great dribbling break, tuff glissandos... what, you need more?

Man From Adano dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Stereo chords and guitar lines wash up on a summer beach where the tourist stands in awe of the curl. Happy, prancing, country sweet, surf rhythmic, and very fun. I can't say I've heard quite this blend of country and surf sounds. More than just different, "Man From Adano" is a splendidly infectious track.

Oh No! It's Xmastime Again dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Christmas cheer floods from the reverb, with rockin' drums and an engaging bass line. The stereo ping-pong piano(?) verse and the Hawaiianesq slide add interest. "Oh No! It's Xmastime Again" is a fine instro for your holly-daze.

Huron Carol dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Huron Carol" is a very cool instro, with great surf sound and structure, and glorious sound. The "Penetration" beat, a great melody, and an infectious production. The ska bit in the middle is a nice touch. This is entirely cool!

7 Veils a Go Go dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This live recording of "7 Veils a Go Go" rocks. Its Middle Eastern oasis scenes leak from every corner. Loud, hard driving, and inspired. The choppy break counters the desert air with a mechanized urban feel. Great percussion counters the guitar lines. Very cool.

Radarmen From The Moon dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The dramatic guitar and tom tom opening leads to a shredder of intensity. Not very melodic, but huge and commanding. The whammy chords add even more emotional edge. Wow.

Muchos Diablos dotdotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Surf (Instrumental)

"Muchos Diablos" is a rousing romp through western surf. Its melody is rich and infectious. The compelling nature of the melody is met by the warmth of the break, which dips into very low note territory. Then, the muted verse ensues, and you totally hooked. Great for a ride along the mighty Colorado or along that cliff overlooking the curl.

Wigwam dotdotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Surf (Instrumental)

Grand muted reverb opens "Wigwam," a song with a deluxe galloping beat and surf whammy chords. It engages you, delights you, and sure does work well on a topdown drive. Very cool guitar work throughout, along with glissandos and drama. Very visual!

Moguls dotdotdotdot
Surf Xmas (Instrumental)

This is a splashy and fun track, with an infectious riff and great drums. The chemistry here is powerful. this is one of those tracks where you realize the importance of the bass, which provides the foundation for the guitar and drums to rage against. I love the drums!

Do The Earl dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Big twang charm with a splashy melody suggesting the Mediterranean. "Do The Earl" is a happy instro with rich tone. Rockin', jammin, and loud!

Twist And Twang dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A great melody riff, big guitar tremolo, and a very strong backtrack. "Twist And Twang" suggest Duane Eddy with reverb via its tremolo throb. It's much punchier than Eddy ever played, and that certainly tells the tale of where he went wrong.