The Longhorn Devils Rock
Up until only last December, when the genres of surf revival and surf rock came up in conversation, I usually had little to add other than a few mutterings of the great name Dick Dale and a few assorted punk outfits. I liked the apparent complexity of the work and the interesting melodies they could ring out of the guitar, but I was more focused on my burgeoning jazz and classical collections.
That changed when the 2002 Christmas rolled along. It was my side of the family's turn to visit the other, so Christmas shopping needed to be done for my Canadian relatives, my male cousins being the most important since one is my age and the other is almost so. They are almost like friends.
Dan is the one my age and the one I had the hardest time deciding what to get. He's deeply into punk and had heard of Emo's all the way up there. He wanted some local music and I told him I'd do what I could. Of course, considering I go out so little, I realized I didn't have a good grasp of the local Austin music scene. Panic ensued.
One weekend I woke up from a sleepover and was possessed by one of those "get shit done" bugs, so I got up, brushed myself off, and drove out to 33º to examine their local music selection. I choose Thirtythree Degress over Waterloo Records because I prefer the more intimate listening environment to test-listen new CDs. Yeah, the single room they use pulls triplicate duty as salesfloor, front counter, and listening area, but the mood is usually (at least whenever I'm there) more reserved and attuned to listening. They also seem to have a much more eclectic selection, though that's just my uninformed superficial opinion.
Anway, I was digging around in the garage section and ran across an album called Spitfire Bar-Bee from a band named The Longhorn Devils.
Holy shit. You can't get anymore Austin than that! I thought. Who knows what these guys sound like? There's this hot chick on the cover and she's all 50's-classy - and there's a freakin' WWII-era prop plane right behind her complete with nasty shark mouth cowl painting!
I had no idea I was about to listen to instrumental surf rock. Dutch instrumental surf rock. And damn good Dutch instrumental surf rock, might I add. Further making the whole deal seem too cool to pass up, it turns out their label is based in Austin, but they are really from overseas. Considering punk's surf rock roots and the music I've heard Dan enjoy, I figured this was as close to dead-on as I was going to get.
But I wasn't sure if I wanted to give this disc to my cousin...there was only one copy and the lady behind the counter told me they only had a few of them. (!!!)
I ended up taking it over to him as his gift (which he enjoyed, BTW), but not after I burned as set of MP3s for myself. Once I listened to the music a few times, it was all downhill from there. Shortly thereafter I picked up Man or Astro-man?'s Made From Technetium and was finally introduced to the music I had heard so much about, though only through acclaim and not in any usefully descriptive musical way. I had thought they were some off-beat sci-fi outfit like a Pixies-esque White Zombie. Drop the White Zombie and replace it with the transposed themes of a grainy clip of Cold War-era USSR satellite video and Endless Summer and you're half the way there.
Listening to TLD is a much-welcome break from everything else in my collection. The insane picking and harmonics flowing from the midsection of "Shark Chase" that gracefully drifts into the last section, a piece who's jazziness is only surpassed by it's explosion back into surf energy at the end. "Clash of the Titans" starts out as if you are charging with the Brits into a vast unknown jungle safari and the adventure runs along smoothly until you run smack into a platoon of rough and vile pirate-smugglers who immediately give chase through the dense undergrowth only to be defeated Speed Racer-style by some moronic oversight. The lounge act feel of the opening to "Templar's Surf" is narcotic, growing in intensity until it levels off in a easygoing bridge which breaks down into several mini-sections that all have unique atmospheres to them, kinda like the Red Elvis's mindblowing "Surfing In Siberia."
It's a pity they only have the one album out.