I suppose it’s because of my Southern California roots, but the following are a few of my favorite things: Surf music. Punk. Experimentalism. Retro-irony. That said; leave it to an indie band from Birmingham, Alabama to throw all this together into one of the most delightful instrumental albums I’ve listened to in a long time.
The High-Fidelics’ self-titled debut rocks, grooves, experiments, kitsches, even lounges – and yet, it not only remains accessible but is certain to be highly enjoyable to even the average listener. Purist fans of Chantay’s or Dick Dale will be all over this, but so will coastal punkers or even artsy hipsters who frequent Capital Records’ Ultra-Lounge series.
From the get-go, the Fidelics’ music tosses you into the realm of surf-punk-dom, and displays the serious musicianship of the band. At every instrument, the playing is accomplished and infectiously juicy. The guitar work alone (by Edwin Cleverdon) grinds, staccatos, slides, reverberates, and tremolos, so that the listener remains in guessing mode while all the while getting hooked on memorable riffs. Add the other members’ no small contributions (these guys can PA-LAY) and the whole shreds all over the sum of the parts.
Space isn’t sufficient for this reviewer to even adequately highlight tracks, but here goes: “New Killer Ray” and “Dance of the Tiny Knives” lure the unsuspecting into a safari of experimental, yet intoxicating grooves. At this juncture, the listener happens onto the favorable discovery that the album gets progressively more interesting as it spins along. At each turn, one supposes the HFs have explored every shoreline of expression, but no, new caverns keep showing up. For example, you think you’ve waxed all elemental enjoyment, but then “Theme From Kismet” seems to launch you into a chase scene from Hawaii -Five- 0 – while at the same time you’re forced to contemplate how these seemingly non-related parts can mesh into such a terrific tune. Then there’s Spy Smasher, which guitar crunches and organ cheeses its way into unfathomable pleasures. It’s as if your Del-Tones record somehow mated with Smash-Mouth (or maybe very early B-52s) and gave birth to this beautiful freak. It’s fabulous. Triumphant, really.
As a whole, the album never feels redundant, is always engaging, and just the songs themselves entrance listeners as they venture from ocean side piers, to coastal drives in woodies, through punk garage shows, and into seaside lounges (“Mondo Rondo” even goes a little Latin). “Should we hit the point with our long-boards, or just hang out and salsa?” No matter. Either way, we’re having an exceptionally great time.
In all, this is a perfect album for anyone looking forward to summer – but know that with The High Fidelics, your summers might never be the same. Listen for yourself at: http://thehighfidelics.bandcamp.com
-Reviewed by Francis H for Indie Band Guru