The water’s warm, the surf is up, and it’s time for some new surf rock music! You can’t get by on Dick Dale and Mountain Dew forever. Madrid quartet Phonocaptors brings the summer fun to its debut album, a follow-up to last year’s Mutant Safari EP. This is really good beach music, even if you don’t surf; it’s bound to make quite a few mix tapes for old Jeeps.
Surf music is known to borrow from related genres. Phonocaptors does this with style, plundering from prog, go-go, and spaghetti soundtracks. Such cross-breeding makes for an enormous amount of fun, perhaps best exemplified by the Carnivàle sample in “John Virgin” and the shouted chants of “Guateque” in “Schizophrenic Guateque on the Bloody Beach”. Sure, Guateque is a Columbian town, but Carnivàle is an American show, so let’s just call this an international album. “Guateque” also includes a crowd-pleasing keyboard scale, a simple trick but an effective one. “The Dark Surf Returns” showcases the guitar early with a start and stop line, the bass late with an 8-note breakdown that pushes the pauses even further, and the drums throughout. Whenever one instrument is highlighted on any track, the entire project benefits.
The energy level is high from beginning to end, although the best tracks are frontloaded. The only questionable aspect is an over-reliance on the f-bomb (sampled in “Children of the Swamp” and found in the title of “Reefucker”) and pot (sampled in “Walking” and found in the title of “Marihuana Sótano Maldito”). Yes, surfers get high and swear a lot, but a good band should not have to rely on such references in order to score with the cool kids. Better to be known for the truly cool artwork (bravo, Miguetelo!), the green vinyl, the tight musicianship, the garage sensibility, and the raw rock. But for pure fun this summer, this is the one to get.