Waves of Nostalgia Roll On
The Ottawa Sun, 20 Nov 2007.
By Allan Wigney
Quoth Jimi Hendrix, "You'll never hear surf music again."
What say you to that, Reverb Syndicate bassist Jeff Welch?
"Wow, Jimi really dropped the ball on that one."
It must have seemed a safe prediction 40 years ago. It was the Summer of Love and for guitarists tight, twangy, two-minute tunes were out; long, meandering, self-absorbed solos very much in. And, like rock 'n' roll, supposedly here to stay.
But, like the intrepid hero at the heart of The Reverb Syndicate's latest soundtrack to an imaginary spy film, surf music should never be counted out for long.
"I don't really know a lot of people that absolutely dislike it," is the strongly worded endorsement of the genre offered by Reverb Syndicate guitarist Mike Bradford. "People seem to at least relate to it on some level. It'll never go away.
"It's interesting because it's not mainstream so it's not widely appreciated by tons of people. But the people that do love it, love it a lot."
That point has been driven home to the local quartet during the 15 months since the release of a spunky debut CD, Operation: Jet Set. Surf-music aficionados from New York and Toronto have tracked the band down to play festivals with other, like-minded instrumental combos.
Now, with the release of Sputnik A-Go-Go, a second collection of original instrumentals plus one vocal number--if collective cries from bandmates Welch, Bradford, Mike Rifkin and James Rossiter of "Lunar attack!" qualify as a vocal--the action and intrigue continue, as the old-school East-West battle is transported into outer space.
Or so the song titles and artwork suggest. It is a collection of instrumentals, after all. And there are no immediate plans to pen an accompanying script for the corresponding spy film.
"If you go track by track, you can sort of know the plot," Bradford suggests. "I think it worked out pretty well."
Musically, Sputnik A-Go-Go worked out very well indeed. And if listeners might at times lose the plot--or at least wonder how Senor Esquivel figures into matters--they will likely be too busy doing the twist or the pony to dwell on such confusion.
Surf music will do that. Always has. More so even than, say, Purple Haze.
Not that Ottawa's spy-fi darlings are entirely comfortable with the 'surf' tag.
"When you get a MySpace page it says, 'What genre are you?' and you reluctantly click, 'Surf,'" Bradford says sheepishly. "But it's amazing the number of people who find you randomly. That's how a promoter in New York found us. That's how the Toronto thing happened."
But as far as his and his fellow veteran players' credentials in the surf-music arena are concerned, "If somebody shouted out, 'Play Pipeline!' at a show, we could probably just about do it ... but there would be a lot of watching each other to get through it."
(c) 2007 The Ottawa Sun