Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beachmasters: Self-titled (1988)

Kleen Kut Records

So, why do a post about surf music now? Well, it is the summer and didja know that what's called surf rock really had more roots in Lebanese Mid-East music than in California frat boy basements and East Carolina shag carpets? Case in point: son of a Lebanese immigrant, Dick Dale, who in the 50's was doing rock and roll before he conjured up surf rock by mixing up Link Wray-style instrumentals with 50's rock and roll beat and his reverby Fender guitar/amp. Wikipedia says about Dale's influences:
"He was a surfer himself and sought to transfer the excitement and adrenaline of the sport through his guitar playing. He often drew on his Lebanese heritage, incorporating modal tonalities and instruments such as finger cymbals and reeds. Many surf bands that followed him incorporated Eastern influences, as well as Dale's generous use of reverb."
So, since Lebanon is in the news again, why not surf music (and please no comments like "Sayyed Can't Surf")?

Beachmasters were actually a Boston band and I'm not sure any of them ever got on a surf board and if they did, they'd probably look kinda funny - they mostly looked like variations on that thin pale kid from the movie Christine -- but they were sure doing surf music when it wasn't hip. It had been 20 years since Hendrix slayed surf music and it would be several more before Quentin Tarantino single-handedly made surf music safe again for hipsters by putting "Miserlou" on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. I remember sitting in the theater listening to this during the closing credits and shushing my brother and his friend. But even surf is "out", it will always be cool. What other genre of rock can you wear Ray-bans to and not be either considered a junkie or totally dork?

Members were "Boston garage punk royalty" and played back up for GG Allin, were in the Mighty Ions, Hopelessly Obscure, Underachievers, Unnatural Axe, Lyres, Afrika Korps and even the original punkers The Gizmos (and yeah, I know the latter two weren't Boston bands).

Most notable in the line-up is drummer (and producer) Ken Kaiser (Afrika Korps/Korps, Gizmos, and uh, Slickee Boys, etc.) who also wrote the majority of the songs - mostly instrumentals showcasing his steady drumming. Surf music is very cool for drummers: great backbeats and lots of tom work. "Surfin' Ayatollah" is a prime example of Dick Dale's Middle Eastern influence, although its probably less authentic and more an example of modern Orientalism - but what they hey, it rocks - so what about the gong. He only gets wussy with the "Surfers' Prayer" -- the one review of the album I found on the web calls it cheesy but it's kinda sweet, man. His approach is clearly more reverential of both 1st wave (Dick Dale) and second wave (Surfaris, Ventures) California surf music than most of the other punkers who incorporated surf (later subsumed in post-punk bands like Boston's Pixies and The Breeders). Dale's "Wedge" is more than competently covered here - nuttin' to be embarassed about on this solid cut.

The other songwriters - Mighty Ions' Bob MacKenzie and Carl Twomey's songs are more surf-punk - although not as viscious as the Dead Kennedys and Butthole Surfers or as hardcore as Agent Orange. Think more B-52s -- and how can you not when MacKenzie's voice is so like Fred Schneider. At any rate, their tongues are more firmly placed in cheek (the Mighty Ions were one of the first wrestling rock bands) - leading to funny lyrics and song titles ("Hangin' 10 With Henrietta") at least but missing the heartfelt love of Kaiser's tunes. "Surfin' After School" is a standout among the Twomey-MacKenzie cuts mainly due to the ripping guitar work by what I assume is Mackenzie

Beautiful sound, by the way, from undersung hero of Fort Apache Studios, Sean Slade (who later worked with Sebadoh, Juliana Hatfield and, oh yeah, Radiohead).

Band line-up (my best guess at the people behind the aliases - corrections and additions welcome):
  • Dash Riptide (Ken Kaiser) - Drums
  • Rex Reverb -(Bob MacKenzie) - lead Guitar
  • Lance Hollywood (???) - guitar
  • Troy Masters (Carl Twomey) - Bass
  • Buddy Love (Tom White) - Vox Organ
Discography note:
Beachmasters also had a single ("Don't Surf Alone" b/w "Out of Limits/Penetration") but I think this is their only album

Ken Kaiser as boss surfer drummer Dash Riptide



Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections- Ken Kaiser was the guitarist in the Beachmasters (Rex Reverb). He did play drums in other bands such as Moose and the Mudbugs. Bob MacKenzie was Dash Riptide and played the drums. Carl Twomey was Lance Hollywood and played rhythm guitar and sang a bunch. Tommy White, guitarist from Unnatural Axe played bass as Troy Masters.
And I'm Joe Tucker who played keys on the album under the cheesy moniker of Buddy Love. I also sang lead on The Surfer's Prayer.
Later after Tommy left the group, I switched to bass and our friend Elizabeth Steen joined the group as keyboardist Sue Nami. She later went on to great success as a member of Natalie Merchant's band. Thanks for the nifty review!

Jim H said...

Thanks for the corrections and additional info. I had to make inferences to come up with that line-up and figure out who was singing what.

Anonymous said...

haha this is awesome. my dad was in this band (Bob MacKenzie aka Dash Riptide). I love that you put that picture from the back of the album up! hahaha