Having grown up on 60’s surf rock as a child (ironically, from the landlocked state of Oklahoma), I developed a love for not only the Beach Boys, but also the instrumental stylings of Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Chantays and others like them. So when offered the chance to review a new surf rock compilation, I jumped at the chance.
As the title suggests, FleaHab Sober Living Environment Benefit Compilation is a benefit compilation for a recovery home for those struggling with addictions. While that alone makes it worthy of your consideration for purchase, what we really want to know is what is the music like? Am I going to want to listen to it? Fortunately, I can give you a clear and resounding “Yes!” 16 tracks from 16 different artists, most of which this reviewer was unfamiliar with, save for one. Dystopian Futures offer the closing track “Tsunami Deathray.” I had only recently become acquainted with their recent EP of mostly hardcore punk, available through Zap Records (also home of 2 Minute Minor). The other 15 artists were entirely unknown to me previously, and play a wide range of traditional surf sounds, hot rod as well as contemporary surf rock and some hints at punk, though not overtly.
While it would be nearly impossible to highlight each artist, what follows is a brief rundown of a few highlights. Frankie and the Pool Boys play a traditional rock and roll fueled by hot rod speed and extra-tight musicianship (including some really interesting chord sequences!), while Los Twangers (possibly my favorite on the album) remind me a little more of Link Wray or Duane Eddy but with the sonics of contemporary groups like Men or Astroman or the Halibuts. Gnarly Men slow things down and recall classic acts like Santo and Jonny, or some of the Ventures’ slower material. The Madeira’s guitar tones had me salivating for more and recalled The Surfaris, while the AmpFibians mix in spaghetti western sounds into their surf runs. What a great track! Reverb-heavy A-Frame probably come the closest to the classic Dick Dale tone, though it’s hard for anyone to reach his level of virtuosity. Cross-check’s simplicity and catchiness remind me of the Marketts, and once again have a killer guitar tone!
With only one exception all the songs are fully instrumental (with a tiny few spoken word parts), so there are no vocal tunes a la Beach Boys or Jan & Dean, and no lyrics to sing along to or meditate on. The only exception is the surf-punk offering from Dystopian Futures. Nonetheless, this is a really fun compilation to listen to for a very worthy cause!