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CD REVIEW: Aqualads' Treasures



THE DEAL: Fourth full-length from Charlotte surf rock vets finds the pocket.

THE GOOD: "You'll never hear surf music again," Jimi Hendrix said just a couple of years before choking to death on his own vomit in yet another tragic misreading. We have, of course, heard plenty of surf music after the first wave pioneered by Dick Dale, the Lively Ones, the Bel-Airs, the Ventures, and other late-'50s/early-'60s acts. There was a mini-revival in the early '80s and a much bigger one in the '90s — inspired by Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and embracing bands as diverse as Los Straitjackets and Man Or Astroman — during which the local Aqualads initially formed. Now in its 15th season, the Aqualads shifted rosters through its early years and over the course of its three previous full-lengths, but Treasures — recorded by Southern Culture on the Skids' Rick Miller — showcases this now-steady outfit's chops in a variety of the style's tropes: Single-note Hot Rod flurries ("Snake Eyes"), Spaghetti Western dramatics ("El Boracho"), sinister big wave-noir ("Washout"), middle Eastern exotica ("Whirling Dervish"), and islands-flavored sunset ballads ("Crystal Cove"). The real pleasure here is the interplay between guitarists Jeremy DeHart and Greg Walsh, whose Fenders coil around each other like a Caduceus, and the lock-step rhythms of bassist Jimmy King and drummer Darrell Ussery (your arms get exhausted listening to his press rolls).

THE BAD: Surf music has a limited palette, so aside from new (vintage) melodies, there's nothing groundbreaking here. But must we always break new ground? No, we mustn't.

THE VERDICT: You will hear surf music again, and it will be pretty goddamn tasty.

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