Toe-tappin’, Twangin’, Pluckin’

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but, one lunchtime last August I found myself in the mighty Probe Records and on a whim bought an LP I had never heard of before who had a great name, on limited coloured vinyl on Suicide Squeeze Records.  Now this sometimes goes well, sometimes not so – rest assured dear reader it really worked out this time.  Welcome to Guantanamo Baywatch Desert Centre.

Guantanamo Baywatch Desert Centre 04

Guantanamo Baywatch clearly realized that there was an appalling dearth of bands out there making early 1960’s surf rock and decided there was no reason a gang of smartarsed punkers from Portland, OR* shouldn’t take up the reins.  Their one provision being that it all the tunes had to be simple enough for them to play whilst getting wasted on tour.  The result?

Obviously, we are dealing with a bunch of very serious musos with absolutely no sense of humour here.  Guantanamo Baywatch score big 1537 bonus points for the brilliant lines ‘The picture of allure / For any connoisseur’ which is perfect, especially when describing Mesa, AZ.

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Desert Centre is loaded with more instrumentals than vocal tracks, my favourite of which is the quite excellent ‘Witch Stomp’, which to someone of my vintage suggests a lost gem from a Tarantino soundtrack, way back when he was actually worthwhile.  Everything is set just right, the drums by Christopher Scott are particularly spot on played very gently and precisely by today’s standards and Chevelle Wiseman’s bass is often a thing of wonder.  Guitars twang as God intended – just listen to ‘Area 69′ for the best toe-tappin’ twangin’ and pluckin’ since Duane Eddy was on active duty.

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The closing instrumental. ‘The Australian’ is a bit of a ripper of a tune too, it is prefaced by a snipped called ‘(Aussie Dialogue)’ which appears to be a, totally uncredited, chunk of an old music hall act.  Dang! If only I knew an Australian record collector who could identify it for me.

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Desert Centre is a good time, drinking platter, it sounds particularly great in our unseasonably baking June over in my little corner of the world.  One of my very favourite cuts on here is a jaunty little track called ‘Video’ where frontman Jason Powell has something he wants to get off his chest;

I was in a video

That I didn’t want to

Now I’m in a video

That I don’t want to show to you

I did some things there

That I wasn’t proud of

Now I’m in a video

One that I don’t want to show to you

Quite frankly, I suspect the very worst; what would his folks say?!  Especially if this is anything to go by, I suspect chemicals may have been involved**, but fair play for trying to communicate it to us through the medium of dance:

This is a good, light-hearted LP, quite frankly with the world the way it is at the moment, I am finding that I need a lot more of these records.  I really do like the way Guantanamo Baywatch tread that fine line between having a ball but taking it seriously enough that they don’t send up the music too much, it isn’t an exercise in kitsch and that they never take the easy way out by just whacking up the volume and distortion to 11 and compromising the twang^.  If you’re looking for reference points I’d veer towards hoary old 1537 faves Man Or Astro-Man? and, more recently, a less-drugged Numerators.

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Basically, Desert Centre isn’t the mate you could talk to about your feelings when your woman done left you, but is the one who will take you out to get totally obliterated and tattooed by way of self-medication; you need one of those in your life.

862 Down.

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*world-renowned capital of surf rock – think the Kingsmen and the Ventures.

**brace yourself CB, there are graphic scenes of power tools being used on a melon – I know you like that sort of thing.

^‘may your twang never be compromised’ being a traditional Welsh farewell.  True story.

34 thoughts on “Toe-tappin’, Twangin’, Pluckin’

  1. I’m a bit handy so I spent the afternoon replacing the lagging on the pipes under the sink. It took a couple of hours. I listened to Guantanamo Baywatch the whole time. My daughter now has a 39 degree fever and the wife’s threatening to leave me. But it was worth it. You hit the very centre of the Slender Venn diagram with that one… And my hot water charges have never been lower!

    1. So are you a Man Or Astro-Man? fan too then?

      Bearing in mind your locale, did you celebrate Leicester City’s goal in the world cup noisily yesterday?

      1. Haven’t reached Man Or Astro-Man yet. I’m still surfing the crest of a Portland voodoo swamp wave.
        And yes, my prediction that England always win the World Cup when they have an enormous ruck with a South American team and also have a Leicester player in the side fell on deaf ears at first. But now, like a german squid, embittered Swedes are hanging on my every word… I suppose I could’ve just said “yes” couldn’t I?

  2. Wow! Great review.

    It’s really great when you pick up an album on instinct. And so nice when it turns out to be a enjoyable find. Great closing paragraph: “Basically, Desert Centre isn’t the mate you could talk to about your feelings when your woman done left you, but is the one who will take you out to get totally obliterated and tattooed by way of self-medication; you need one of those in your life.”

    1. Thank you very kindly Mr/Mrs/Dr/Reverend Zum (delete as applicable).

      I have bought so much rubbish this way too, I’m often taken in by a sweary track name or two – so it is much sweeter when it all pays off well.

  3. Lot of love for this in your comments…

    So… I’ll just mention that I basically live there now. Mesa is part of greater Phoenix, along with Tempe, Scottsdale, Glendale, Chandler, and a slew of others. I live just on the border between Scottsdale and Carefree, and I see that Video video landscape in every direction.

    1. Wow – you’ve made my day. I also love the idea of somewhere being named Carefree.

      But I need to know is it ‘The picture of allure / For any connoisseur’ ? Is Arizona truly the hotbed of surf rock that I have been led to believe it really is?

  4. Portland Oregon is the inland surf capital of the world. There has been an underground movement to change it’s nickname from Bridgetown to Surftown that is growing on the local news stations. I am going to ask my promoter friend about this band I think I need to see them.

    1. I’ve no idea if they’re still there, you might find them in Mesa,AZ now. Their previous LP had boobs on the cover too; always a sign of quality.

    1. It’s a couple of chaps banging on about kookaburras and other Aussie words, almost chanting them. Of course, they might not even be Australians.

  5. Surf rock with a truly outstanding name. I could get with this, man… like you say, it’s exactly the right thing for the mood.

  6. Guantanamo Baywatch makes me think of Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff running along the beach in slow motion, but in a burqa, orange jumpsuit and beard.
    That’s just where I’m going with that.

    1. In the last 5 years? a good 30%. I think they just have a house band out the back cranking out this stuff , press it up on coloured vinyl, workshop a good band name/track titles and flog it to me on a Monday. I bet the owners live in mansions and ride unicorns to work every day.

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