Listen Up: Wednesday, February 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Susan & the Surftones

The Originals (Acme Brothers Records)

By Matthew Smith

The Originals’ odes to hanging ten seem a hard sell. After all, we’re talking about a female-led band called Susan & the Surftones playing all-instrumental surf music.

For most, Jimi Hendrix’s “You’ll never hear surf again” line became prophecy when Brian Wilson switched his attention from daddy’s T-bird to Pet Sounds, and the credits rolled on Frankie and Annette’s final drive-in cheapie.

Then the darnedest thing happened — punk’s rebuking bloated rock and going back to the basics resuscitated the wavy, heavy instrumental genre, and it’s been riding the wave ever since.

As for instrumental surf, many purists consider the vocal-free stylings of the Ventures and their kind representative of “authentic” surf. The likes of Jan & Dean are perceived as mere makers of “beach” music. The diff, purists insist, is that real surf sends the listener into the ocean’s roiling thrust of danger and freedom. Beach music is hot dogs, hot rods, and ginchy teen froth. Sweet, but hardly evocative of Big Ideas.

A girl-helmed surf band is an oddity. The scene now, as then, remains largely the province of men. Susan Yasinski probably doesn’t care. She doesn’t have to — she can shred most male guitarists.

The Originals collects, duh, the band’s previous original compositions. From guitar echo to vox organ, the traditional sonics are here. Much of the disc sounds like it dates from 1963. Hip youngsters can dig the retro buzz while veterans of surf’s first wave can joyously flash back.

Fire up “Blue Hammer 99,” close your eyes, and shoot the curl. Check out the Sergio Leone western backdropped by a Pacific sunset on “Spaghetti Beach” or the quick, sly “Daytripper”-ish riff on “Tiki Kiki.”

The only real dog is “Deep Blue Goodbye,” which skates uncomfortably close to Kenny G territory. (Yet part-time bores can take heart: The Originals, unlike, say, anything by Enya, makes for perfect background music without making you feel like you’re a suburban twit.)


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