by Scott Postulo
VANCOUVER – Desert Station, Arizona is a rest area along the I-10 that is apparently “a good place to piss and smoke.” Good enough to name an album after, anyway. Portland surf rock band Guantanamo Baywatch has done just that with their recent release, citing that the name “seemed to embody the vibe of the album.” It’s not really your typical surf rock inspiration, but then, Guantanamo Baywatch is not really your typical surf rock band.
Since their formation in 2009, Guantanamo Baywatch has been dishing out albums of classic surf rock mixed with up-tempo garage rock songs, and the new album, Desert Station, continues that tradition while benefiting from a boost in production quality.
In regards to the tighter production, guitarist/vocalist Jason Powell explains, “We got sick of not being able to hear the words and drums on our old albums. So we had the guys at Living Room Recordings in Atlanta, who actually know how to record stuff, do it.” While their early lo-fi albums had a lot of charm, the band is definitely showing maturity with their desire to develop their sound.
Half of the songs on the new album are solid Dick Dale-inspired instrumental freak-outs, while the other half reveal the band’s more diverse influences. “We all really love rock ‘n’ roll oldies and country oldies,” says drummer Chris Scott. “Usually in the van we have some kind of oldies playing. We really enjoy listening to Johnny Burnett, Motown, George Jones, Irma Thomas… You know stuff like that.”
The track “Neglect” showcases the aforementioned Motown love, featuring smooth background vocals and a tight groove from bassist Chevelle Wiseman. The highlight of the album is the single, “Mesa, AZ,” which is an undeniably fun garage rock tune, bringing to mind the Black Lips in their prime. The only place where the production seems maybe a bit too slick is on the grungy chorus of “Blame Myself,” though the song itself is far from a misfire.
With an already frenetic live show, the influx of these new songs is sure to keep the energy high. When asked about their set list these days, Powell says that it’s “pretty much all the new stuff, and then old shit that people call out at the shows. There isn’t really a set list; kids just start shouting out songs. It’s a fun way to do it.” The band is in the midst of a North American tour right now, so you can join in on the fun at your respective local music venue. Those are usually pretty good places to piss and smoke as well.
Guantanamo Baywatch perform at the Cobalt (Vancouver) on November 17 with support from locals Dopey’s Robe, Bored Décor and Rambling Derelicts.Bored Décor, Dopey’s Robe, Guantanamo Baywatch, rambling derelicts, The Cobalt