Surf rock can't help but be a bit ironic out of the context of the time and space that it was created. That is to say, in the 2000s and in the middle of the desert, the meaning just doesn't quite translate the way one might like. This doesn't, however, mean it can't provide a much-needed aural escape, to a land where rivers aren't dry dirt beds, and summer is a desirable season.
Thee Jaguar Sharks' self-titled debut album does just that. A wrinkle in time, it transports you straight to the coast, in a period when boy shorts were more popular than bikinis, and gas was under $1 a gallon. (Think of the beach-dancing scene in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.)
This instrumental record is a really enjoyable listen, made by people who seem to have a genuine love and admiration for the genre. Full of reverb, the tunes are laid back and danceable. While lighthearted and endearing, the riffs become somewhat repetitive at times, and it would be nice to hear a bit more variation. The production, though, is phenomenal. Everything from the overall sound, to the packaging, to the way the cymbals resonate is carefully crafted and could not have been made by someone who wasn't well versed in and has a deep respect for the surf sound.
Even the title of the band is an oceanic reference to Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The jaguar shark is an animal of questionable existence that eats the lead character's best friend.
And as if writing a surf rock album in the middle of the Sonoran Desert wasn't a bold enough move, it is available for download by "name your own price", á la Radiohead's In Rainbows. (It's also available for purchase on CD, for those of us old-fashioned folks who prefer a more physical medium.)
So while it may not be the most groundbreaking record of the past year, it's still a lot of fun for people whose only memory of the beach is a distant one, and whose sense of balance doesn't qualify them to roller skate, let alone surf. Just put the album on, close your eyes, start the fan, slather yourself with some sunscreen, light a coconut-scented candle, mix up a mai tai, and you could be on a glorious stay-cation.
Note: I am a guest contributor to "You Asked For It" while music editor Martin Cizmar is out of the country.
If you're a musician from the Phoenix area and would like to submit a CD for review, please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:
You Asked For It
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Phoenix, AZ 85032