Monday, June 29, 2009

More Haunting Sounds Of Phantom Guitars

An Outbreak Of Twangin' - Phantom Guitars Vol. 2
Shared by The Usual Suspects and ripped at 192
For An Outbreak of Twangin', the follow-up to 2008's Phantom Guitars, The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman has again assembled a couple dozen incredibly obscure and kitschy surf guitar gems. I am pleased to report that the influence of legendary paranoid reverb-monger/occultist/murderer Joe Meek looms large here.

Generally, the word "outbreak" is intimately intertwined with something negative (such as chlamydia), but this disc bucks that trend admirably. Most obviously, this is an extremely fun and consistently excellent album. Secondly, while most of the artists are British, there are many unexpected contributions from countries that are not traditionally associated with surf music (as well as a conspicuous absence of Americans). Finally, I have yet to be disappointed by any album that features bands dressed like vikings (the Saxons) or gladiators (Nero and The Gladiators).
The liner notes are quite entertaining and obviously required quite a bit of research on Salomon’s part. For example, several of the unknown and enigmatic bands included share names with other bands (The Boys, the Volcanos, The Rapiers, etc.), which must have been rather confusing. Also, some bands—such as Norway’s The Runestones and Ahab & The Wailers—still remain completely shrouded in mystery despite his best efforts. The fact that there is at least one man on earth tirelessly trying to unearth the history of Scandinavian surf bands makes me extremely happy. Incidentally, the band with the most bizarre story here are certainly Joe Meek protégés The Saxons, who later became The Tornadoes (because the actual Tornadoes broke up and Joe thought they were too popular to not replace). Also, their guitarist eventually wound up in an Israeli prog band.
It is hard to choose favorites, as Twangin’ is a fairly full-throttle beach blast from start to finish, but The Boys' “Polaris” is an exceedingly rocking gem in the traditional surf vein: deep, twanging guitars, twinkling piano, and a propulsive snare roll rhythm. Immediately afterwards, The Saints' “Husky Team” adheres to the same formula, but amplifies the intensity considerably with muscular stomping drums and occasional interludes of snare fills and party banter and hooting. I am always a big fan of tracks that feature sounds of people partying: I like to imagine that it means that the track was so infectious and amazing that the usually curmudgeonly engineer and bored session players had no choice but to erupt in spontaneous dancing and revelry. It would kill me to find out otherwise. Also of note, I believe "Husky Team" was recorded with Joe Meek (although Meek’s rabid passion for reverb and echo is everywhere on this album, whether he was involved or not).
“An Outbreak of Murder” by The Gordon Franks Orchestra is a bit of an aberration here, as it veers into noir-ish lounge music territory and is far more indebted to Martin Denny than The Ventures. However, several other tracks do diverge somewhat from surf into more rambunctious Duane Eddy territory (like the Ramblers' “Just for Chicks”) or betray a western or boogie-woogie influence.
Obviously, listening to 26 surf guitar instrumentals in one sitting invariably and rapidly starts to yield diminishing returns, but Saloman has done an amazing job with track selection. There are no weak or overexposed tracks on Outbreak at all; just fun, camp, and absurdity (the liner notes helpfully point out that this album is the next best thing having "a funfair in your own living room").

1. Django - The Cliffhangers
2. Polaris - The Boys
3. Husky Team - The Saints
4. Neb's Tune - Ahab & The Wailers
5. Red Dragon, The - The Blackjacks
6. Black Eyes - The Hearts
7. Jezebel - Rob E.G.
8. Desperadoes, The - The Eagles
9. Workout - Alan Caddy
10. Outbreak Of Murder, An - The Gordon Franks Orchestra
11. Saxon Warcry - The Saxons
12. Clearway - Judd Proctor
13. Ghost Train - Bert Weedon
14. Paella - The Sunspots
15. Mandrake - Mandrake
16. Train To Moscow - Dietrich Pregl/Teddy Vento
17. Temptation - Richard Harding
18. Polaris - The Volcanos
19. Jaywalker - Peter Jay/The Jaywalkers
20. Desperado - Jim Gunner
21. Bush Fire - The Cannons
22. Les Champions - Colorado
23. Just For Chicks - The Ramblers
24. Phantom Stage, The - The Rapiers
25. Exodus - The Runestones
26. Boots - Nero & The Gladiators


RonM said...

sounds great and you get extra points for including the word "chlamydia" in your review.

Brandonio! said...

Cool Beans Tru I've had Vol.1 for several months then I just found out from some cats over at SurfGuitar 101 that Vol.2 was now out,and shazam! I found it here.

Trustar said...

Glad to be of help B.